Exploring timely notions of migration, dispossession and national borders, The Sea is the Limit at York Art Gallery brings together 11 international practitioners who question ideas of nationalism, free movement and the contrast between inclusion and exclusion. The works – at once personal and universal – draw on both historical and contemporary narratives, poignantly demonstrating the ongoing nature of a global situation through audio-visual experiences, interactive installations, drawings, paintings and sculpture.
Demonstrating the importance of the exhibition, contemporary artist and curator of the show Varvara Shavrova (USSR/Ireland/UK) notes: “What makes The Sea is the Limit a unique exhibition is the fact that each participating artist has been engaging with migration, immigration, dispossession and rootlessness for some years… Another strength lies in the fact that most participating artists, including myself, are migrants.”
Using the sea as a symbolic yet physical margin, the exhibition is set apart from media depictions of the crisis. As contributing artist Vanessa Vozzo (Italy) explains, the ocean acts as “a boundary where everything disappears, a real border, but also a representation of the limit that separates life from death, from solitude, from void.”
Further investigating these ideas, British practitioner Susan Stockwell’s Sail Away comprises a series of small boats fabricated from paper currency, stamps, tickets and maps. Evoking ideas of transition and escape whilst commenting on imperial trading networks and political histories, Sail Painting, a monumental site-specific piece, brings the scale of these systems into the gallery space.
Other notable pieces include Serbian artist Vladimir Miladinović’s contribution, which engages with media manipulation and the reinterpretation of history. By exploring forensics, political and ethical identification and the presentation of war crimes, his practice creates an arena that raises questions about contemporary conflict and propaganda.
Comparably, Shavrova’s work is based on the Irish media portrayal of the migrant crisis, and comprises 37 drawings displayed as a loop projection. Whilst watching the video, visitors are encouraged to use a series of unique wearable blankets, which represent a deeply human desire to connect with the familiar. Halil Altindere (Turkey) takes a similar approach, focusing on marginalisation and resistance whilst providing relief. Approaching these challenges as global rather than local, Altindere’s collaborative pieces engage with individuals from around the world, offering an alternate sanctuary in the form of his piece, Space Refugee. Other featured artists include Nidhal Chamekh (Tunisia/ France), Taus Makhacheva (Dagestan/Russia), Shahram Entekhabi (Iran/Germany), Brian Maguire (Ireland), Mohammed Sami (Iraq/ UK) and Nick Ellwood (UK).
Until 2 September. Find out more here.
1. Halil Altindere – Journey to Mars (2016) – Image Courtesy of the artist and PİLOT Gallery, Istanbul