Boy On The Beach – 57th Venice Biennale
Boy On The Beach
240cm x 300cm x 4200cm
57th Venice Biennale May 2017
The simple use of inflatables refers to the boats flooded, with hundreds of lost souls, set adrift in the seas towards Italy and similar crossing points from North Africa as well as the idea of a temporary inflated emergency room. It is a direct response to the ever-expanding social problems that grow from the war in Syria, refugees and questions of personal morality in emergency situations.
This work is born out of my feelings of inadequacy to understand the distance one person might chose or be forced to travel in the need to survive. Sadly it starts with the image of the young Syrian boy on a Turkish beach, my inadequacy to find a true position of empathy due to lack of real peril in my own life and a distain for images like these that set up hierarchies of suffering trying to prick my conscience. In this soul searching I have taken this opportunity to return to the ideas of reconstruction, working to re-find a comparative childhood space to build relations. It is an ongoing experience developing through memory and discussions with people and groups who may help to inform. As an continuing generative project it will use Aspex Gallery’s outreach groups in Portsmouth through “Generator” and “Boîte-en-Valise” at the 57th Venice Biennale as a way to extend the way we might open up discussion on refugee migration, empathy towards displaced peoples and how we react as individuals to an increasingly unstable global movement of populations.
The inflatable yellow bubble is a reconstruction of a memory of a childhood day on the beach, recalled as if threw the artifice of sunglasses, affectedly bright and full of wonder. The figures are hydro-formed silhouettes of the artist’s adopted son reduced in scale to the age when they first met; his last day of being three and the age of the boy on the beach when he died. It is an exercise in finding empathy, searching for experiences that might give some insight into the terror that accompanies the stories of refugees, remembered moments of getting lost in a cinema and memories of seeing vulnerability in a newly adopted son.