From their roots in land art to their current engagement with environmental issues, the artists in this book use the sea as their medium.
In the 1975 performance In Search of the Miraculous, Dutch artist Bas Jan Ader was lost at sea on his way across the North Atlantic. After studying this piece in 2006, Parrish Art Museum curator Andrea Grover began a decade of research on site-specific artworks on water—a venture that culminated in the innovative exhibition, programming, and publication Radical Seafaring. This project traces patterns from 1960s and 1970s land art and conceptualism to recent works of “offshore art” that strive for direct engagement with natural environments under the threat of climate change.
With more than 100 maps, drawings, and photographs that illustrate a rich variety of models, sculptures, vessels, journeys, and actions around the world, Radical Seafaring gathers 25 artists into four themes. In “Exploration,” works by Bas Jan Ader, Chris Burden, and others center on process and experience. “Liberation” investigates power and activism. “Fieldwork” follows lines of research through works such as The Waterpod Project (2009), in which Mary Mattingly developed an environmentally conscious live/work space on an industrial barge and traveled New York’s waterways, stopping to hold community events at sites such as Brooklyn Bridge Park. “Speculation” finds alternative worlds in larger-scale architectural proposals like Buckminster Fuller’s 1960s Triton City and Ant Farm’s 1970s Dolphin Embassy. Essays by Dumbadze, Archibald, and Gauthier deepen the consideration of art history, exploration history, and recent practice.
Grover’s editorial and curatorial approach is to incorporate the voices of artists and historians; the program also includes off-site commissions and boat trips. In short, her curation reflects the multimedia, cross-disciplinary nature of the content. Radical Seafaring demonstrates the relevance of the thinking of this era to the present and outlines a movement in response to current environmental and social issues while developing a strong historical and thematic framework that invites future additions.