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art:i:curate artist Blue Curry's S.S.s installation in 'Unsettled Landscapes'

art:i:curate artist Blue Curry's S.S.s installation in 'Unsettled Landscapes'
A postcard featuring Fort Fincastle's historic flagpole

art:i:curate artist Blue Curry’s installation ‘S.S.s’, is featured in SITE Santa Fe’s biennial exhibition ‘Unsettled Landscapes’. The exhibition, featuring the work of artists from Nunavut to Tierra del Fuego, and the countries in between, opened in July 2014. ‘Unsettled Landscapes’ examines the "urgencies, political conditions and historical narratives that inform the work of contemporary artists across the Americas". Each work in the show responds to three themes: landscape, territory, and trade.


Curry’s installation is in three parts, creating a conversation between the locales of Nassau, Bahamas and Santa Fe, New Mexico by appropriating commonplace objects of tourism—cruise ships and beach towels— and re-contextualizing them as sculptural objects. They are enlisted in a conversation about the history of declaring and seizing territory—geographic, economic and conceptual. Over the course of the exhibition, the towels, transformed into flags, are deployed on a flagpole in front of SITE signaling the arrivals and departures of cruise ships in Nassau’s harbor, which are also projected via live-stream into SITE’s gallery.


Known primarily for his installation works that broach cultural and historical themes, Curry channelled his childhood memories of a tourism-saturated downtown Nassau to create this installation for ‘Unsettled Landscapes’. Curry noted the port's shifting shape each time one of the cruise ships arrived or left, and drew on his knowledge of Fort Fincastle and its historical flagpole, which served in the past as an effective communication method for the port, Nassau's residents and incoming ships. 


Curry told The Nassau Guardian (TNG): "I started by remembering how, as a boy, the cruise ships would come into Nassau Harbour and how dramatic the difference was between just walking around kind of two-story or four-story buildings, and suddenly something the size of a cruise ship comes in and creates this new city," he said. "I'd often see the cruise ship port as a sculpture, because, if you look at the ships, on no two days, does that combination of ships in the port look exactly the same. So I would see it as sculpture and the combinations of the ships coming in, the way they dock and the formations they make, as a sculpture."


"That was at a time when you could look to the top of that hill and see the flagpole. People did commonly know what the flags stood for, so they knew what was going on in Nassau Harbour," said the artist. "Time progressed and flagpoles became obsolescent. Beyond that, the downtown port became predominantly a port for cruise liners, so it served no more purpose. At one moment that flagpole would have been so important, and it has no relevance at all now."


The artist recreated a signal mast outside of the SITE Santa Fe gallery, in a new spin on the flagpole at Fort Fincastle. Curry highlights the impact of The Bahamas' largest industry on its landscape with a pole of nondescript, patterned beach towels fashioned into flags. Each flag represents one of the 40 cruise lines expected to arrive in Nassau Harbour for the duration of 'Unsettled Landscapes'. Inside the SITE Santa Fe gallery, the installation is complemented by a projected broadcast of the live streaming from the video camera situated in Nassau and shelves of meticulously folded flags representing the ships that are not currently in Nassau Harbour.


The gallery staff raises and lowers the flags, according to the cruise ship schedules, when ships are in the port of Nassau. One sculpture in Nassau activates another in Santa Fe, and therefore just like cruise ships, it is constantly changing. The beach towels used as flags symbolize “a means of conquest.” Curry told the TNG, “If only for a day, when tourists go to the beach, they throw these towels down, and they can occupy a beach for a day. This sort of taking over of space that tourists do on a daily basis maybe doesn't affect us, but maybe psychologically it does, as a very small act of conquest. I'm interested in the beach towel as a material that you can use to possess a piece of land, a piece of the beach, if only for a day."


View more artworks by Blue Curry


Blue Curry's installation outside SITE Santa Fe's gallery



The Unsettled Landscape exhibition will be on display until January 2015. For further information on the exhibition, click here


Images via The Nassau Guardian (courtesy the artist) 

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