(Five-minute preview of) 25-minute video commissioned for exhibition Navigator at The Royal Standard, Liverpool, UK in 2008.
Hidden and inaccessible behind high security fencing, Seaforth Docks is a large modern container terminal on the outskirts of Liverpool. In the video the docks are explored on foot with the assistance of a team of rubber ducks; a narrative soundtrack features excerpts from a text Moby Duck or, The Synthetic Wilderness of Childhood by Donovan Hohn, which tells the story of a 1992 container-ship spillage of a container full of rubber ducks during a freak storm in the Pacific.
The film aims to bring into focus a moment of “rupture” when the ultra-efficient containerised transport process breaks down and something more inefficient, natural, even romantic, is allowed to emerge.
What I find so seductive about the story of the 1992 container-ship spillage of rubber ducks in the Pacific Ocean is the way it interrupts the normally smooth running of the containerised transport process. A truly global phenomenon, containerisation represents the quickest, simplest and most economical means of transporting goods. Each one of the estimated 15 million uniformly large steel containers in existence can be effortlessly transferred between train, lorry and boat – forming the ultimate internationally integrated transport system.
And yet, when a freak storm somewhere in the middle of the Pacific hit a ship en route from Hong Kong to North America and a container was swept overboard, the efficiency of the process ground to an abrupt halt. Released from their container, some 28,000 plastic bath toys began an interminable journey around the world’s oceans – years later finding themselves washed onto beaches as far away as Europe.
I am fascinated by the notion of “rupture”, finding it manifest in particular in the way that humour is able to throw off course the smooth running of rational sense. In my work I often try to stage such comic ruptures, deliberately trying to obstruct the normal flow of things, deliberately trying to trip up the relentlessly efficient progress of the rational world. This is often a difficult task to achieve – the momentum of rational efficiency often proves too great. With the rubber ducks however, I seem to have found some willing aides.
A related text work Rubber Duck was also produced.