“Radical Seafaring”

Radical Seafaring is a multidisciplinary exhibition, publication, and program initiative that will include two-dimensional works, sculptural objects, vessels, models, film and video, off-site commissions, and boat trips around East End waterways.

Under the direction of Andrea Grover, Century Arts Foundation Curator of Special Projects, the exhibition features twenty-five artists with works that range from artist-made vessels, to documentation of creative expeditions, to speculative designs for alternative communities on the water. The exhibition begins with conceptual and performance art of the 1960s and 70s and extends to recent phenomenological research and site-specific works that involve relocating the studio, the laboratory, or the performance space to the water. The increasing number of works created on the water by contemporary artists in the last decade is approaching the critical mass of a movement like Land art, only at sea.

The exhibition is divided into four themes: Exploration (the quest for new experiences, the ineffable, and living in an exhilarated state), Liberation (self-reliance, freedom from terrestrial social contracts, the desire to shape one’s world, and Utopian impulses), Fieldwork (hands-on, methodological intelligence gathering about the environment, such as an artist laboratory at sea), and Speculation (waterways as a tabula rasa on which other realities can be built).

The phenomenological works in Radical Seafaring represent a new form of expression that is especially powerful and timely as climatologists anticipate the effects of rising sea levels, changes in weather patterns, and the impact on coastal zones—especially when one considers that half the world’s population lives within 200 miles of a sea coast. The artists featured in Radical Seafaring figure prominently at the center of a universal and yet contemporary inquiry: how do we live in a natural world from which we are detached not only physically but emotionally and intellectually. These artists apply direct engagement strategies that remove this distance and reignite a sensual, heuristic, and watchful understanding of the water.

The notion of the artist’s studio in the world rather than separated from is descended from art movements like land, environmental, and conceptual art since the 1960s with forebears like Gordon Matta-Clark, Dennis Oppenheim, and Robert Smithson. The artists in Radical Seafaring are a continuation of these interdisciplinary, collaborative, and site-specific approaches. By narrowing this vast area of inquiry to projects on the water, Radical Seafaring provides focus and clarity to widespread creative strategies that embrace the world outside.

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