The sculptural work Shipbuilding is a submarine frame consisting of wire on a metal base. The purpose is to dramatically change its form: the five meters of wire – pulp cane and aromatic Indian darshan incense powder – that were needed to make it will be lit, causing the artwork to go up in smoke. As the hours go by and the fire continues, the skeleton shrinks until only ashes, pearls and joints are left behind on the metal plate. A new submarine can be built.
The artwork is based on the song with the same title, written by Elvis Costello (lyrics) and Clive Langer (music). It criticizes the dichotomy of the Falkland War in 1982. On the one hand the arms industry created work and prosperity, especially in shipbuilding. At the same time there was the human toll: the certain death of so many men and women sent to the war.
The issue is very much alive today. Symbolically the submarine perishes, with numerous casualties as a result. The pearls, signs of wealth, fall in the ashes and are there for the next bountyhunter who wants to have a go. The metal plate refers to the dock wit its scaffolding, the deep blue colour to the depth of the waters. How low can we sink?
In 2018 the artist lit the submarines and filmed the process, which took 18 hours and 43 minutes in total. The video clip above is a timelapse of an exhibition proposal with one flat screen. The video clip below is an exhibition proposal with six flat screens.