Con­tem­plat­ing the naval

Ju­lia Weiner vis­its two ex­hi­bi­tions by Jewish artists with a mar­itime theme

The Jewish Chronicle - - Arts & Books -


Queen’s House, Lon­don SE 10


Na­tional Mar­itime Mu­seum, Lon­don SE10

THE NA­TIONAL Mar­itime Mu­seum in Green­wich, South-East Lon­don, is not be the ob­vi­ous place to find con­tem­po­rary art. But the mu­seum reg­u­larly com­mis­sions new work and two cel­e­brated Jewish artists cur­rently have pieces on dis­play.

Paris-based artist Es­ther Shalev-Gerz has cre­ated an in­stal­la­tion in the Great Hall of the his­toric Queen’s House, which is next door to the mu­seum and houses its col­lec­tion of mar­itime art.

It con­sists of three el­e­ments. On op­po­site sides of the hall, speak­ers play two mur­mured sound­tracks in which peo­ple who work in the build­ing speak about its his­tory and their ex­pe­ri­ences there. On the other side of the hall, two screens project images of the peo­ple speak­ing.

Gerz is fas­ci­nated by the hall’s miss­ing ceil­ing paint­ings, which were re­moved in the 18th cen­tury and showed the fe­male fig­ure of Peace sur­rounded by 23 other women rep­re­sent­ing arts and sci­ences. To re­place them, she has cre­ated com­puter-gen­er­ated images of women that she par­tic­u­larly ad­mires. Pho­to­graphs of all 24 are on dis­play.

Sadly, the in­stal­la­tion does not quite work. It is dif­fi­cult to hear the sound- tracks be­cause they play si­mul­ta­ne­ously and the room echoes. This is a pity, be­cause the sto­ries help fur­ther an un­der­stand­ing of the build­ing.

Next door in the main mu­seum, a solo ex­hi­bi­tion by the in­flu­en­tial Amer­i­can artist Lawrence Weiner ex­plores the nav­i­ga­tional con­cept of the rhumb line, which rep­re­sent the eas­i­est, al­though not the short­est, way to steer from one place to an­other.

Weiner uses lan­guage as his pri­mary ve­hi­cle and here there are texts in­scribed on the walls which re­flect on the sailors’ ex­pe­ri­ences as they kept to the rhumb line, shown along­side draw­ings and a film. It is ab­sorb­ing, but more in­for­ma­tion on how rhumb lines work would help. Es­ther Shalev-Gerz: Echoes in Me­mory is at the Queen’s House un­til March 2, 2008. Lawrence Weiner: In­her­ent in the Rhumb Line is at the Na­tional Mar­itime Mu­seum un­til De­cem­ber 9

Es­ther Shalev-Gerz’s com­puter-gen­er­ated fig­ure ( above) and Lawrence Weiner’s rhumb-line in­stal­la­tion at the Na­tional Mar­itime Mu­seum

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