Sunday, 9 June 2013


(c) artist Mixed media
Approx. 21.35 m long, 3.15 m wide, 110 cm deep

HAUSER & WIRTH, 23 Saville Row 
until July 27

 What does the vat contain that is not in the river?
What does the room encompass that is not in the city?

This world is the vat, and the heart the running stream,

this world the room, and the heart the city of wonders.
(From The Sufi Path of Love  by the 13C Persian poet  Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī)

What is a traditional fishing boat from Kerala , India -  measuring over 20 metres - doing straddling the length of the gallery? It looks a bit tipsy, unstable. Stormy weather out there. Lying on the ground it would have been beached, defeated.
(c) the artist.
Subodh Gupta remarks that it's crammed with 'one person's entire essence': cooking pots and pans, chairs, beds, an old radio suitcases, fishing nets and on old bicycle.It reminds me of Song Dong's Waste Not Want Not (Blog 150), a collection of over 10,000 used household objects displayed on the floor of the Barbican. But that was a means of enabling artefacts to provide the viewer with a family narrative: memories made flesh, even turned into a snapshot of Chinese history.

Here the link with the poet Rumi  marks the idea of microcosm: an entire universe contained within a human soul. The boat is no mere piece of transport for getting you from one place to another. The contents are crammed and pushed together, bound with ropes. For the moment they lie there useless. They have come from somewhere and are on the move. They remind us of sustenance, livelihood, even survival.

This artwork is placed in one of the most expensive and glamorous parts of London. It reminds me of the magic of freighters described in a very different poem  which tens of thousands of British school children learnt by heart decades ago.There's even a reference to cheap tin trays.

CARGOES by John Masefield
Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir,
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
With a cargo of ivory,
And apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.

Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack,
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,
With a cargo of Tyne coal,
Road-rails, pig-lead,
Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays. 

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