Aloft from Alow

Aloft from Alow (Grasp), 2012

Solo show and performances (2012)
at Kai Middendorff Galerie, Frankfurt

This work is inspired by Herman Melville’s book Billy Budd, Sailor. In the key scene of the novel, the protagonist, a sailor, is falsely accused of a crime. In his shocked desperation to defend himself verbally, he stutters, makes strange gurgling sounds, and fails. Presented are found slides from the 1950s, drawings of bankrupt airline logos and sounds. I liked the idea of using airline logos, which often carried an idealised understanding of the future in which we find our dreams through air travel. Similarly, the outdated medium-format slides present ship, harbour, and urban scenes that are faded and degraded through time.

Billy Budd is a good-natured, perhaps naive, young man who usually works high up on the masts. The view from above across to the horizon allows him a sense of idealism and trust. Down below in the ship, he faces injustice by a false accusation and can only reply at the limits of language—through his fist, thereby killing the officer. He must die for his crime, but sailors then celebrate his life through songs. The oral tradition, moving through air with a life of its own, finally becomes fixed in print at a harbour in a kind of unchangeable death. The novel is often considered to have a deeply political stance, in which oppression and authoritarianism ultimately give way to resistance. Language is closely linked here to violence.

It also exists as a performance using an overhead projector.

Special thanks to Kai Middendorff.

My thanks to Elli Ferriol and Achim
Lengerer for their initial invitation to
provide an experimental version of
the performance at Frankfurt University
of Music and Performing Arts in April 2012.

Aloft from Alow video

Four slide images:

 Aloft from Alow (No.14)   Fine art pigment print, 20 x 20 cm 
 Aloft from Alow (No. 2)   Fine art pigment print, 20 x 20 cm 
 Aloft from Alow (No. 13)   Fine art pigment print, 20 x 20 cm 
 Aloft from Alow (No. 3)   Fine art pigment print, 20 x 20 cm