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The Dance of the drowned

Life jackets, life belt, foghorn, audio, flashing lights

Variable dimensions


I discovered the life preservers and foghorn used in this installation while cleaning out my grandmother’s house in Belle-Île-en-Mer, an island off the coast of Brittany. Intrigued by these objects, I asked my grandmother where they had come from, but she no longer remembered.

And so, as I often do with my work, I began to construct my own story. I remembered childhood tales of the great storm that blew my grandfather’s boat, Le Dragon, out to sea along with so many others on the island. The life preservers began to appear to me as relics of that storm, as detritus washed up on the shores, their purpose unfulfilled. I thought of my grandmother, leaving this place forever, which was her home for so long. And I thought of all the immigrants who had left their homes too, sailing in overcrowded ships, only to drown on their way to a better life.

The life preservers in this installation shape in relief a danse macabre. The departed are absent; only the objects of their unfulfilled salvation remain. And the song that accompanies this dance is the tragic solitary note of the foghorn. Played once every ten minutes, it sounds, rather than a festive song, a funeral dirge. It is a warning gone unheeded or simply come too late.

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