In January 2007, the container ship MSC Napoli was run aground in rough seas off the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site in South West England. The unfolding drama of oil spillage, containers washing up on shore and their contents being salvaged near the village of Branscombe was international news. The wreck and its aftermaths was also researched in incredible detail by a well established local history group called the Branscombe Project whose members produced and exhibited original art work in response to it. Much has been written by journalists and academics about the Napoli, and artists (notably Melanie Jackson) have drawn it into their work. But it’s the inside story that emerges from this local research is perhaps the most interesting. At the end of her often-given talk, Barbara Farquharson – formerly an academic archaeologist and anthropologist and member of the Branscombe Project – has said that:
“When you think about it, the creation of World Heritage Sites are part of a global phenomenon involving the creation of iconic places that are both physical and cultural. So in a curious way the beaching of the Napoli hits the cross-wire between global cultural and environmental and economic and political issues” (Farquharson 2009, np).
The Napoli wreck is a brilliant insight into the geographies of material culture, the out of sight geographies of trade, and ways in which art and social science can make sense of its complexities. So the Napoli at Branscombe is worth revisiting for anyone who’s fascinated by these issues. We end with a reading list:
followthethings.com has been a project partner for The Bideford Black (2nd generation) Arts Council-funded project in North Devon. There are 8 commissions, including one involving CEO Ian making things from this raw pigment with artists Joan and Neville Gabie. A film has been made to document the project and the production of its work. The trailer was released today:
The Press release describes what Neville, Joan and Ian have been doing as follows:
Prompted by Bideford Black, and using a shared sketchbook, artists Neville Gabie and Joan Gabie are holding a ‘dialogue of ideas’ with Cultural Geographer Ian Cook (University of Exeter). Together, the three explore the physicality, social and geological significance of Bideford Black, presenting films of studio drawings and artifacts discovered and created along the way.
The exhibition opens from 3rd October to 13 November, at the Burton Art Gallery & Museum, Bideford, Devon EX39 2QQ. For more details about the Bideford Black project, please see the project blog.