Exodus Maps of the Karl Marx's diaries. Chapter I : Shipwreck Beach 2017, Lisbon
Shipwreck Beach is a sound installation using field recordings of ship horns on analogue tape loops. With a a single tape loop and several magnetic heads, a score of overlapping ship horns is activated in different places of the tape loop creating a ghostly sonic image.
In Santiago Beach, municipality of the Cacuaco in Angola lies a wrecked cargo ship named Karl Marx. This beach, where maritime currents pull boats towards this long strip of land, where hundreds of boats are stranded, is where past meets the present and where the story of these hundreds of boats is intertwined with the History of the Colonization, the Decolonisation and Civil War in Angola.
Awesome and Awful
text by Brenda Tempelaars courtesy: De Fabriek, Eindhoven, NL
A white man carrying a camera bag poses in front of a large shipwreck. He is dressed in shorts, polo shirt,and baseball cap. The setting is cinematic, like a backdrop for a Hollywood film. But the man on Shipwreck Beach is one of only a handful of tourists who visit Angola. Visas are notoriously difficult to obtain. He has found the final resting place for the dozens of ships spread widely across this elusive sandy stretch of the southern Atlantic Ocean. On his trip down this old iron lane, the man uncovers the many legends surrounding the origin of these wrecks.
The man is clearly enjoying himself, despite these weighty reminders of the recent civil war. Later, on Instagram, he will post of his unique experience, "Awesome and awful at the same time." But in this moment of mixed emotions, the width of the grin on his face reveals that “awesome” most certainly has the upper hand.
On one of the rusting hulls in large faded letters appears the name Karl Marx. The idea of Marx washing up among wreckage so fascinated Portuguese artist Ana Guedes (1981) that she devoted the whole of her residency at De Fabriek to researching the sound of broken dreams. From this exploration, she developed a sound installation in which the acoustics of old wood are used to revive historical scores, providing a poetical journey through the past.
In an earlier work, Untitled Records, Guedes also uses sound to play with history. Using double-armed turntables, Guedes mixes a selection of pop music from albums in her family’s collection acquired during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s in Angola, Portugal, and Canada. The dates and signatures on the records refer to their date of purchase and are references not only to the geographical movement of her family, but also to the large-scale displacement that took place during the period.
In her work at De Fabriek, Guedes uses pieces of fishing lure as an instrument for telling stories about fishing in Angola. The bait is composed of tiny little resonance-boxes that contain legends. A horn recalls the great confidence the sailors aboard the Karl Marx must have felt as they raised anchor and set their course for communism. This is one of the many clues Guedes provides in the exhibition space to suggest that the history of Shipwreck Beach is much more complicated than the man pictured has given it credit for being.
Guedes uses sound as a mean for approaching history without altering it. Whereas images, for example, are much more fixed to the scene they represent, sound seems to take possession of a room and fill the in-between spaces. As in a musical piece, this installation seeks to bring together divergent fragments of memory, tying together threads of the personal and the collective. This affinity with the knot is emphasized by the artist's preference for analogue techniques. The result is an installation that sounds like a room full of chatting people in which words whispered in viciousness have been drowned out by a benevolent rumble.
But should you take on this role of entertained spectator, it becomes all the more awkward to shamelessly enjoy the effect of the mysterious rumblings. It points me towards one of my biggest fears being a white Western woman, which is to be the man in the photograph.
courtesy: De Fabriek, Eindhoven, NL