Boat of Fools??

Whilst waiting for our opening presentations to restart on the UEL DFA teams session today I opened an email from the Art Council to learn about an installation that looks worthy of further investigation.

Kehinde Wiley’s Ship of Fools (2020)
Available at:

“Narrenschiff [German] (Ship of Fools) is the first ever film installation from Nigerian-American artist Kehinde Wiley renowned for his naturalistic portraits of celebrated figures.”

This sounds like the kind of work I need to create but from a different perspective, that of a leisure sailor. The work covers migration and a voyage, not unlike that of Odysseus’s Odyssey. 

Visually it reminded me of the installation: Walking on Water by Mohammed Kazem (2013) depicting the artwork: Directions 2005-2013. This is an artwork I was lucky enough to see displayed in the UAE pavilion at the Venice Biennale that year.

YouTube video posted by FACADES Lifestyle

The work related to the artist location, tide to his GPS coordinates, the installation is immersive, being a 360 degree projection. “The artwork recreates the experience of what it is to be lost at sea and, symbolically, to break down geographical borders and intangible barriers between people. By putting the viewers off-balance, Kazem engages them both conceptually and physically with his work, thereby inviting them to question and challenge their perceptions of openness and universality” (quote from the website linked above). The work predominately deals with boarders and enables the viewers to pick apart and breaking down the common perceptions around the construct of the nations.

In a way it reminds me of the film In Time (2011) directed by Andrew Niccol. A dystopia where a cure for all illness cause a catastrophic problem of over population. To to managed the population people are implanted with time bombs, and ‘time’ becomes a commodity. Henceforth, time is traded, earned, stolen and gifted. Running out of time literally results in ones time being cut short. The rich become immortal whilst the poor live minute-by-minute. New time zones (with boarders) are drawn up that prevent the time poor travelling to salubrious, up town locations.

In Time (2011) Andrew Niccol [Feature Film] Los Angeles: 20th Century Fox & New Regency.

Further a mention of the horizon relating to Kazem’s installation brings to mind a text by Hito Steyerl previously recommended to me by Susan Barnet. It is titled In Free Fall (2011) and considered a feeling of groundlessness, and a reconnection to the horizon. A place of potential like the rainbow, always receding yet still a place on earth reachable from a historic standpoint. This in turn reminds me of Ernst Block and Theodor Adorno theories on utopia and of course Fredrick Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1885) tome link the rainbow with utopian hope.

Caspar David Friedrich
Wanderer above the Sea of Fog (1818).
Courtesy of the Hamburger Kunsthalle. Photograph by: Elke Walford. Available at:

Inspired by Kazem I include this print, also by Friedrich.

187 x 265 mm (Blatt)
Hamburger Kunsthalle, Kupferstichkabinett
Inv. Nr.: 41120
Collection: KK Zeichnungen, Deutschland, 1800-1850
© Hamburger Kunsthalle / bpk Foto: Christoph Irrgang
Caspar David Friedrich
Meer mit aufgehender Sonne – Schöpfungsmorgen (Folge: Die Lebensalter, Blatt 1), um 1826 Courtesy of the Hamburger Kunsthalle. Photograph by: Elke Walford. Available at:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s