01.05.2017 — (this link will take you to the original whole article that that includes 'Somewhere becoming sea') Review
Chris Dobrowolski: Washed Up Car-go Hull 2017 UK City of Culture -@The Deep, Hull by Derek Horton
A short walk around the dock from Humber Street Gallery, across the footbridge at the confluence of the River Hull and the River Humber, things are more cheerful, but no less thought provoking. Three very ordinary hatchback cars, scattered amongst the others in the car park of The Deep, Hull’s aquarium tourist attraction, could easily be missed without the tell-tale sign of variously bemused and captivated visitors peering through their windows. The cars form the three separate but related parts of Chris Dobrowolski’s Washed Up Car-go (2017). Each is filled with sand, pebbles and washed-up tideline detritus to windscreen height, creating a in-car beach where a reproduction painting is partially buried. A short film is projected on the reverse of each painting, with a classical music soundtrack from the operatic works of Carl Orff, both triggered by motion sensors as you approach the car.
The childhood experience of holding a conch shell to your ear to hear the sound of the sea is wittily subverted by using conch shells to conceal the loudspeakers through which the music is amplified. A toy version of each car sits on the beach that fills the real car and the films are beamed from tiny projectors under the sand via a periscopic mirror on the underside of each toy cars’ raised hatchback. Such playful ingenuity is evident in much of Dobrowolski’s previous work, but the metaphorical subtleties of the films’ narratives and the art historical references of the paintings against which we see them, introduce new levels of sophistication to his exploration of real and imagined journeys.
The screens are small and the big skies of the flat Humberside coast create reflections in the car windows that can make the films difficult to see. Holding your hand against the glass to compensate and peering intently through somehow intensifies the experience though, and such attentive looking is rewarded by the multi-layered narratives it reveals. A miniature makeshift raft bears as its cargo a small reproduction of Géricault’s ‘Raft of the Medusa’ (1818-19), floating calmly at first on the River Humber, which is suddenly overcome by waves and capsized. The reference to media images of the perilous journeys of refugees is overt, but is then undercut by the comedy of the raft being winched ashore by a rope and the gradual revelation that this is by means of the rope being wound around an oar attached to the slowly rotating wheel of a car, the same car that you are now peering through the windows of to watch the scene unfold.
In the second car, the film shows a model of a Chinese shipping container floating under the Humber Bridge. It runs aground and is revealed to be full of a cargo of plastic and rubber toys, sea creatures of all sorts. The biblical story of Jonah comes to mind as we briefly see a knife in Dobrowolski’s hand slicing open the belly of a (rubber toy) whale from which a toy car emerges. Again, it is the very toy car that contains the miniature projector and the mirror through which you are watching the film, on the reverse of a reproduction of Rubens’ ‘The Union of Earth and Water’ (1618), showing a boy blowing into a conch shell, mimicking the music emerging from the conch shells in the car. The third car contains a small copy of Herbert James Draper’s ‘Ulysses and the Sirens’ (1909), a painting found in Hull’s Ferens Art Gallery. Its reverse is the screen for a film featuring three of Dobrowolski’s sirens, washed-up Barbie dolls on the banks of the Humber. The dolls have all-seeing minicam heads and have become mermaids, their legs disappeared inside real fish tails. The wit and ingenuity Dobrowolski brings to all his work are very evident in Washed Up Car-go, but this playfulness does nothing to detract from the seriousness of his concern with marine pollution, consumerism and the dangers of a globalised economy.
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