Migrant Memorial

Dear Sir or Madem

How this hyper-light shrink-wrap boat, ‘migrant remembrance’, art project came together is complicated and is in no way easy for me to explain in words. I could go on for a long time, but I will try and keep it brief and only include the present and recent narrative. For some reason I wanted to use shrink-wrap in a sculpture, I had liked its translucent nature, masking the real view of what lay behind it. I liked its vulnerability, its guaranteed destruction by UV light, but this also made it ugly to me, a vulgar and wasteful material destined to pollute the oceans or at best to be burnt as biodiesel. It also represents a mask of reality, a disposable material for wrapping consumer products that in the end dissatisfy, and only provide temporary appeasement to unfulfilled human dreams.

Having had some sculptural forms in mind and themes to explore with the use of shrink-wrap a request came to me to provide a workshop at a children's science festival, ‘Bang Goes the Borders’, here in the Scottish Borders. After some pondering on what to do I returned to my favourite subject of boats, and proposed to build a boat on the day of the festival with the help of the children and their parents, and invite an audience at the end of the festival day to witness the boat crossing the nearby River Tweed. I wanted to demystify both the designing and building of boats from scratch and use very cheap and readily available materials: willow sticks, string and shrink wrap, to sow the seed in young minds that boatbuilding is accessible to all.

In preparation for the science festival workshop I started by building a very small boat, made-to-measure for my son, with his help in the summer holidays. Following this successful experiment I began designing and making the prototype, one week before the festival for a larger two-man version. While alone in my workshop for a week, using the basic and rustic materials of string and willow sticks and the contrasting modern material of shrink-wrap to build my modern coracle; I could not help thinking of the migrants leaving their ancient cultures in North Africa with hopes of a better future in our deeply contrasting modern culture of Europe. I became increasingly unsettled and upset at the fragile and desperate nature of the migrants crossing the Mediterranean in ill-equipped vessels and at the suffering and needless loss of life incurred. As I made the boat I could not ignore its visual symbolic resonance with this tragic situation.

Having delivered the science festival workshop the boat had limited further use but with my annual commitment to participate in the Visual Arts Scotland open exhibition, and a habit of showing boats as pieces of art, the destiny of this fragile vessel to symbolize the migrant crisis was set. As well as entering this boat in the Visual Arts Scotland open exhibition at the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh, as a memorial to the lost at sea migrants, I would like to take the opportunity to raise donations for the Migrant Offshore Aid Station that helps to prevent this tragic loss of life. I would also like to attach to the inside of the vessel, four thousand rag-ribbons to represent the estimated loss of life to this crisis in the past year. I would like also to invite visitors to the exhibition, to bring with them a prepared rag of their own or one provided to attach to the inside of the boat and in doing so, share a moment of reflection for the migrants.

Thank you very much


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