Through a Blur of Migratory Birds, Photographer Sankar Sridhar Captures the Rituals of the Yamuna River
When Dehli-based photographer Sankar Sridhar visits the Yamuna River in winter, he observes hundreds of gulls, terns, and other birds as they flock to the Ganges tributary that flows through the Indian city. Despite the river’s inability to maintain a thriving ecosystem in that stretch, the avians are spurred by site fidelity as they migrate each year, a ritualistic act Sridhar recently captured in a series titled Long Live the River.
Because the tributary attracts such an influx of avians, it’s also a site of religiosity and legend. People travel to the water to feed the birds, an act thought to bring good karma, and disperse offerings for their loved ones who’ve died. “My approach to documenting life along a small stretch of this river was driven by the deep connection of rivers and life and divinity in Hindu texts, mythology, and legend. The fact that the Yamuna is considered the only river with the power to grant immortality to humans seemed an irony that could not be overlooked,” the photographer says.
Fifteen drains of untreated wastewater from household, municipal, and industrial sources flow into the tributary, saturating it with chemicals, pesticides, heavy metals, and garbage that eliminate aquatic life. However, Sridhar notes that in 2017, officials recorded 24 bird species residing in the river’s wetlands. “This finding came as a surprise, given the greatly degraded water quality of the Yamuna,” he says.
Using a low shutter speed, Sridhar captures the annual rituals through clouds of Dehli’s thick smog, blurring the flying creatures as they swoop over the water. The obscured visitors mar clear shots of boats and the horizons as they appear to linger above the water in shadowy flocks. “I aimed to impart a surreal touch to the images by using the boats as the fabled transport into the afterlife while flight-paths of the birds as metaphors —as much for the souls of the dead as the mad chaos in our world that blinds us to the damage we do to the environment,” he says. “Throughout, though, the river remains a giver of life, despite having the life sucked out of her.”
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Tucked into the estuary of the River Adur in the coastal town of Shoreham-on-Sea in Sussex, England is a row of houseboats in dazzlingly slapdash designs and bustling with the creative energy of its residents. One such person is Hamish McKenzie, an older man with swirls of gray hair shaved into his short beard and a laid-back attitude that comes from spending most of his days living inside of a docked boat. McKenzie owns seven of the uniquely designed vessels that line the riverbank, which include a renovated boat ambulance topped with a black and white checkered public bus and an airplane nose that caps off the bow.
McKenzie explains to Great Big Story that he had been searching for a nose cone for quite some time, and finally ran across one in a farmyard down the way from his houseboats. This ingenuity speaks to the freedom McKenzie and the other owners have while crafting their homes, which include microwaves as mailboxes and giant tractor wheels as windows. “I can safely say that there is no two identical,” explains McKenzie. “To a large degree, they exhibit the character of the people who live on them.”
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New York City’s historic Fireboat John J. Harvey has been transformed into a dazzling display of red and white marbling in a new piece by artist Tauba Auerbach (previously). Flow Separation is a co-commission by the Public Art Fund and 14-18 NOW, a UK arts program created for the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. For the new piece Auerbach used the visual language of early 20th-century dazzle camouflage, a technique invented by British painter Norman Wilkinson during WWI to distort a ship’s form and confuse enemies who might be tracking its direction or speed.
Auerbach was also inspired by the pattern created by a wake when an object moves through water, which is referenced in the work’s title. The ship flies a flag that diagrams “flow separation,” a phenomenon that occurs when areas of fluid in a wake move backwards and create eddies. To imitate this form for the design of the boat she floated inks on a fluid bath and transferred this process to paper.
For the last four years, 14-18 NOW has commissioned four artists to create Dazzle Ships in the UK, including Carlos Cruz-Diez, Tobias Rehberger, Ciara Phillips, and Sir Peter Blake. Auerbach’s vessel will be the last work in the series, and the first boat to appear in the U.S. The ship will be available for free trips through September 23, 2018, and on view through May 12, 2019. You can visit the boat at Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 6 until August 12, 2018, at Hudson River Park’s Pier 25 from August 13 to September 23, 2018, and at Hudson River Park’s Pier 66a from September 24, 2018 to May 12, 2019. You can find more information about tickets and locations on the Public Art Fund’s website.
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Last year collaborative artists Claudius Schulze and Maciej Markowicz launched the aptly named project [2BOATS] — a duo of water-bound vessels that the pair steered from Hamburg to Amsterdam’s Unseen Photo Fair and Paris Photo over the course of several months. Both boats serve as traveling studios for the artists, however with vastly different functions. Schulze’s handmade houseboat (with outdoor disco ball and hammock) doubles as a hub for creative workshops and discussions, while Markowicz’s studio is also a fully functioning camera obscura.
Schulze and Markowicz plan to end their journey at the Hamburg Triennale of Photography, which opens on June 7th, 2018. You can keep up with Schulze’s explorations on Instagram at @claudiusschulze, Markowicz’s large-scale camera obscura at @obscurabus, and read about previous events visited by the two photographically-centered boats on the [2BOATS] blog.
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This past April a massive 80-foot steel kraken was purposefully sunk into the Caribbean Sea on top of a decorated WW2 ship. The former Navy fuel barge and its monstrous passenger were placed underwater in order to jumpstart a new coral ecosystem, while also serving as a cutting-edge education center for marine researchers and local students from the surrounding British Virgin Islands. The project is titled the BVI Art Reef, and aims to use sculptures like the porous kraken as a base to grow transplanted coral.
The Kodiak Queen, formerly a Navy fuel barge named the YO-44, was discovered by British photographer Owen Buggy approximately two and a half years ago on the island of Tortola. Instead of letting the historic vessel get picked apart for scrap metal, Buggy approached former boss Sir Richard Branson about collaborating on a restorative art installation. Together with nonprofit Unite B.V.I., artist group Secret Samurai Productions, social justice entrepreneurial group Maverick1000, and ocean education nonprofit Beneath the Waves, the project was established as both an eco-friendly art installation, and a philanthropic measure to rehabilitate native marine species.
“It’s envisioned that within just a short space of time the ship and artwork will attract a myriad of sea creatures,” said Clive Petrovic who consults on the environmental impact of the BVI Art Reef. “Everything from corals to sea sponges, sharks and turtles will live on, in, and around the wreck. The ship will become valuable for future research by scientists and local students alike.”
To sink the massive ship, the project sought the help of the Commercial Dive Services who safely submerged the vessel off the coast of the island Virgin Gorda. It was the first time the ship had been in the water for nearly 17 years, and was lead to its final resting place by a bevy of boats and helicopters.
Filmmaker Rob Sorrenti filmed both the construction and sinking of the kraken and its ship. The full-length documentary is currently in post-production, with an estimated release early next year. You can watch a clip from the upcoming film below. For information on visiting the BVI Art Reef, and to learn more about its educational programs, visit the project’s website and Facebook.
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The newest installation by Chiharu Shiota (previously here and here) is composed of nearly 300,000 yards of white yarn, woven to encapsulate the center, ground floor, and ten windows of Le Bon Marché. The exhibition, titled Where are we going?, will feature 150 boats within the French department store’s center, and the ground-floor exhibition will house a giant threaded wave that visitors are encouraged to walk through. Despite boats being a common theme in Shiota’s work, this installation will mark the first time she has used white yarn, previously creating installations with only black or red thread.
The title of the exhibition, Where are we going?, refers to the mysterious destinations that pinpoint each of our individual and collective lives. Therefore the boats in this installation represent vessels sailing towards unknown locations, the works expressing both a sense of poetry and a sense of unease over what is to come.
“I am struck by the multiplicity of interactions that we experience every day, by their connections with the past and the future,” said Shiota in an interview with Le Bon Marché. “The creation of this indecipherable mesh and its plasticity are a mystery, just like our brain, the universe, and of course, life. I have no answers, only questions. These questions are the foundations of my work.”
Last year Le Bon Marché organized a large exhibition of Ai WeiWei's work which featured a 65-foot bamboo and silk dragon in the store’s atrium. Shiota’s Where are we going? will be displayed at Le Bon Marché through February 18, 2017. (via Fubiz)
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