Maarten Vanden Eynde

The sea. The sea moves constantly, waves break on the shore ad infinitum. The sea has always been a special place for poets, sailors, explorers and renegades from all countries. It is our horizon, and sometimes it is our burial ground. It has inspired a host of myths and legends and for centuries has continued to inspire artists.

The Life Aquatic explores Man’s ambivalent relationship with the sea, at once a setting for fantasies, rituals and tales, as well as a place of discovery and glorious victories, but also for fights that are often lost against the immensity of the ocean. From Moby Dick to Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, from William Turner’s seascapes to Odilon Redon’s symbolist engravings, the sea has for centuries inspired artists. If contemporary artists still explore this heme, it is probably insofar as it is a fitting metaphor for our relationship with the contemporary world. The sea (and how we use it) symbolises our relationship with both nature with nature and its representation, and with the excesses of capitalism, north/south relations and the disastrous effects of pollution and overproduction on the biosphere and the diversity of species. The sea is not just a horizon, it is also a boundary that starving or persecuted individuals attempt to cross by any means, and the beach becomes at times a burial ground, where the dreams of migrants from all countries run aground.

The Life Aquatic exhibition, behind its deliberately appealing title, explores all of these paradoxes. The title is borrowed from the eponymous film by American director Wes Anderson who was himself inspired by the life of Commandant Cousteau. At once tender, ironic and cynical, the film describes the adventures of the vessel Calypso and Commandant Cousteau, whose adventures spurred the imagination of a whole generation and established in the collective imagination images and representations of a continent that was largely unknown at the time.

The exhibition starts with a variety of works that focus on the observation of marine phenomena, between melancholic observation and fascination for this natural element (Jochen Lempert, Shimabuku, Dove Allouche) and explores how our huge expanses of water are inexhaustible sources of fiction (Simon Faithfull). However, this imagery also results from a cultural construction that gives away our relationship with knowledge and perspective (Laurent Le Deunff, Aurélien Froment, David Renaud). Significantly many of the artists in the exhibition come from countries where political and/or ecological issues connected to the sea are emerging: from Japan to Brazil and from Chile to Colombia, the sea and its confluences are at the heart of human, commemorative and political conflicts brought to the forefront by these artists.

Exhibition

The Life Aquatic

Opening: 24/03/2017
Open: 25/03/2017 - 18/06/2017
Location: MRAC Musée régional d’art contemporain, 146 avenue de la plage, 34 410 Sérignan, France
Curator: Sandra Patron

With: Dove Allouche, Marcos Avila Forero, Hicham Berrada, Simon Faithfull, Aurélien Froment, Piero Gilardi, Maria Laet, Laurent Le Deunff, Ellen Gallagher, Jochen Lempert, Mehdi Melhaoui, Enrique Ramirez, David Renaud, Allan Sekula, Shimabuku, Maarten Vanden Eynde, Hannah Wilke.

The Life Aquatic explores Man’s ambivalent relationship with the sea, at once a setting for fantasies, rituals and tales, as well as a place of discovery and glorious victories, but also for fights that are often lost against the immensity of the ocean.