Of sky and sea reveals the role of language as a critical marker of the interconnected impacts facilitated by maritime exploration and trade. Ports, past, present and as we head to the stars – maybe into the future, act as sites of colonial expansion and globalisation that instigate and sustain the complexities of ongoing connections and disconnections resulting from these endeavours.
Commissioned by Now or Never in collaboration with Experimenta.
Using the discontinued maritime language of Morse code signal lights, Of sky and sea takes the form of a large-scale light installation in the middle of the harbour, beaming a list of endangered languages into the night sky over four nights. This light transmission exists momentarily on Earth before travelling out into spacetime forever.
Once a language is forgotten, it becomes a cipher, a code, indecipherable unless that knowledge is regained. In an act of mourning, this coded message is projected into the future as an echo of what has been lost. Mirrored in the surface of the harbour, the signal travels out but also within; a reflection on the nuances of expression, feeling and understanding that disappear forever from human vocabulary with the loss of a language.
Accompanying the installation is a website providing audiences access to the list of languages in text form – each language listed with their geographic locality and vulnerability status, alongside a real-time tracker documenting the distance the signal has travelled out in space. The website terminates at the moment the signal leaves the solar system, approximately 1.8 years after the transmission is sent. The final component of the project; an artefact documenting the work, will be held by Docklands Library in perpetuity.
Podcast: In conversation with Michaela Gleave
Visit the Of sky and sea website for real-time information on the signal
View the Now or Never website
Michaela Gleave is a contemporary artist who's conceptually driven practice spans numerous mediums and platforms including digital and online works, installation, performance, photography, sculpture, and video.