Tag Archives: tourism

Mikhail Karikis, SeaWomen (2012)

seawomen

The baddest gang on the planet don’t ride Harleys out into the California desert. They ride mopeds around a South Korean island and dive for octopus in the choppy North Pacific.

Bad-meaning-good is maybe not the word, but the sea-women are certainly tough cookies. Aged between 60 and 90, they explode all your preconceptions about gender and growing old.

From the age of eight they have been trained for a female only profession: collecting seafood and wild pearls from around the coast of the island of Jeju. Men, it should be said, need not apply.

That’s because the sea-women benefit from a) womanly fat distribution (useful in cold water) and b) a tax break under Confucian law. The law fails to recognise the labour of Korean women.

For a moment, let us set aside the problem of a Western artist conducting a study on yet another remote tribe. (Can someone explain if this film does the sea-women a disservice?)

It is surely in fact a great service to women from around the world. And dare it be said, not just women, but anyone with reservations about growing old. In this film, old women rule.

And when they peel off the wetsuits and masks, the hats and floral slippers come out and you realise they come from the same planet as the grandmothers you encounter riding the bus.

Karikis is as interested in sound as he is in film. His starting point for this 27 minute, two-channel tribute to the sea-women is the whale-like whistle they make while at work on the waves.

This siren song is part of the fabric of the installation, along with rolling thunder and a beautiful folk tune which the women would sing while rowing. All blend into the natural context of the island.

Jeju is now a tourist destination, and quick to see which way the wind blew, the sea-women sent their daughters (and, one can only hope, sons) to the university to study tourism.

That could be why they co-operated. Karikis may have been a tourist when he first visited and his film is great PR for an island which the children of the sea-women will one day inherit.

SeaWomen can be seen in the Founders’ Room, Brighton Dome until December 1. It is part of the 2015 Earsthetic Festival.

Yto Barrada, Faux départ (2015)

barrada

Both artworks and fossils can be forged. That’s the alliance revealed in a new film by Barrada which takes an artistic look at the forgery of prehistoric life forms.

The forgery takes place in eastern Morocco between the Atlas Mountains and the Sahara Desert. This region was once the bed of a pre-Cambrian ocean, so real fossils do exist here.

But some have realised it might be easier to fake a trilobite or two, to fabricate rather than excavate. Most of the tour parties who come this way won’t know any better.

Not even the viewer of this slow moving film can be sure what unfolds before the innocent eye. Rough hands, dental instruments, craft skills, strange unctions; all is seen in mystifying close up.

Sometimes the fossil is merely pimped up and polished. Other times it appears moulded or cut out from scratch, with disregard for the hopes and dreams of the passing tourists.

The scenario reminds me of the souk in Marrakech, stuffed with all those craft objects one would hope to find in such a far flung mall. Rumour has it that most of the goods come from China.

In both cases, money or rather economic necessity has undermined the so-called real. Just at the point where authenticity is most desired, it is subverted and traded on in bad faith.

There is an art to this. And Barrada implies that we can barely pick apart the true from the false; so that goes for geological artefacts; craft objects; and, yes of course, art.

In 2013 the Swiss Fine Art Expert Insitute (FAEI) claimed that between 70 and 90 percent of the art which it comes to assess, is misattributed or false. Or faux, to borrow from the title of this film.

But when the very roots of our existence; the beginnings of life on earth; the organisms from which we descend; when these are also faux, we are faced with a very unsettling scenario.

The desert is beyond the reach of the forces of order and the fossils themselves predate laws of trade. So there is something eternal about these dusty workshops of deception.

Faux départ formed part of show Faux Guide at PACE London between 26 June and 8 August 2015.