Exhibition retells classic tale for an age of ecological crisis

Zubenelgenubi: The Price to be Paid, a film by Serena Korda, 2019

An epic maritime poem is the inspiration for a major exhibition of international art in Plymouth.

Mariner: a painted ship upon a painted ocean takes as its starting point one of the most influential poems in the English language, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834). It is delivered by The Arts Institute at the University and The Box, Plymouth.  

The exhibition showcases a series of new commissions and artworks that consider the contemporary resonance of the poem, including Zubenelgenubi, a new film by Serena Korda; a bespoke installation by Mary Evans, which draws on historical artefacts held at The Box, Plymouth; new sculptural works by Grace Schwindt; a new multi-sensory installation of the Raft of Medusa by Lucy and Jorge Orta and special contributions from Ellen Gallagher and Edgar Cleijne and Linder Sterling.

Featured alongside are selected artworks by Nicola Bealing, Justin Brice Guariglia, Vija Celmins, Angela Cockayne, Tacita Dean, Naomi Frears, Nadav Kander, Joe Lyward and Richard Wentworth.

Mariner is The Arts Institute’s first national touring exhibition. Following the Plymouth show, it will be on display in The Andrew Brownsword Gallery, University of Bath (24 January–21 March 2020), and John Hansard Gallery, University of Southampton (2 May–4 July 2020).

During its time in Plymouth, the work on display is to be contextualised with a series of talks by experts from the University and its Marine Institute: pioneering microplastics researcher and Professor of Marine Biology Richard Thompson OBE; Professor Dafydd Moore, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities; Professor of Marine Zoology John Spicer; Founder of the Displacement Studies Research Network, Associate Professor of Spatial Practice Sana Murrani; and Artistic Director of The Arts Institute Dr Sarah Chapman.

Raft of Medusa by Lucy and Jorge Orta. Credit Jonty Wilde and Studio Orta

Renowned poet Philip Gross will talk about how the sea has featured in and influenced his work, and there will be a screening of the documentary Leviathan introduced by Professor Phillip Hoare from the University of Southampton, as well as a roundtable discussion led by Dr Chapman on how the poem might be understood in these times of ecological crises.

Mariner: a painted ship upon a painted ocean is curated by Dr Chapman and is a key milestone in the relationship between the University and The Box, Plymouth ahead of the latter opening in spring 2020.

Dr Chapman said:

“Inspired by language and rich visual metaphor, Mariner connects the past with the present to retell an epic tale for the 21st century. Our exploration is informed by the latest research into marine science and marine pollution, the movement and migration of peoples across the seas, hidden postcolonial histories and human vulnerability and isolation.

“The work chosen for the exhibition and our programme of associated events will reframe a classic narrative, and give a new perspective to an urgent ecological message.”

 Nicola Moyle, Head of Heritage, Art and Film at The Box, Plymouth said:

“The Mariner exhibition is a long-held ambition of Dr Chapman and The Arts Institute, and we are really pleased to be working with them on a show which brings the historic and the contemporary together through a fantastic range of artists and artworks and a really thought-provoking event programme.”

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Informed by research expertise and through collaborations with partners across the city, including The Box, The Arts Institute welcomes audiences of all ages and backgrounds throughout the year to experience a high quality programme of arts. Join us for:

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Photo credit: David Batchelor, Festival, 2006. Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London. © the artist.

Architectural visuals courtesy of Atkins