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Hans Schabus project for 'Portscapes': 'Europahaven, Port of Rotterdam, 17 Juni 2009'

Hans Schabus, 'Europahaven, Rotterdam, 17 Juni 2009' produced in the context of Portscapes commission series. Photo: Freek van Arkel.

Hans Schabus’ project for Portscapes is the next chapter in his ongoing series of ‘arrival photographs’ featuring the sailing boat Forlorn. The artist has produced a new photograph which can be seen on a roadside 5 x 9 metre billboard on the A15 (1km before reaching the visitor centre Futureland -- satellite view here), and is also distributed as a postcard. A presentation of Forlorn, the film ‘Western’ (2002), a series of photographs and the postcard will be on view at Futureland (directions and opening hours below) until 15 August 2009, a presentation that has been conceived in collaboration with the artist to give further insight into the context of this extraordinary image – below a photo of the billboard presentation followed by production shots.

The Forlorn (2002) is a wooden-hulled ‘Optimist’ class sailing dinghy designed for a crew of one; in fact it is intended for children. The project of the ‘arrival photographs’ started with Western (2002), a film in which we see Schabus navigating through the sewers of his native Vienna in the self-built boat. He paddles through several sewage tracts until reaching a canal, a one way trip through a sinister labyrinth, a dark and obscure underground world. The film makes reference to Orson Welles’ 1949 film The Third Man through the use of the original score – at the film’s climax, Harry Lime flees from the authorities through the same sewers.

Since then the Forlorn has emerged into the light to undertake an unexplained and pitifully lonely global journey in which its single sailor is seen apparently arriving for the first time at different locations. First to a very foggy New York, a city which evoked a more radiant promised land for those many immigrants who arrived there by sea. Then onwards to Frankfurt am Main, Germany; Lake Constance, Bregenz, Austria; and Venice, Italy. The existential journey comprises a seemingly endless quest or escape, a migration voyage seen only at moments of hope and promise in making safe landfall. Will the migrant receive a warm or hostile reception on each new territory?

In the new image 'Europahaven, Rotterdam, 17 Juni 2009', the sailor navigates towards the huge container terminals of the Port of Rotterdam and a vast cargo ship. Sailing at a point which will become the new entrance to Maasvlakte 2, the simplest of water vehicles and a single man appear in stark contrast to an overwhelmingly modern manifestation of seafaring trade. Despite the speed, scale and efficiency of the port, the image seems to indicate that on a human scale the vastness of maritime space nevertheless remains a vulnerable and mythologically rich territory.

Hans Schabus’ (1970 Watschig, Austria. Lives in Vienna, Austria) sculptures and interventions often refer directly to his mental and physical surroundings, particularly to his studio and also by exploring excavation, transportation and engineering. His work embraces ecological cycles of construction, destruction and renewal – elements that were present in the 2004 exhibition at Kunsthaus Bregenz, where the artist transformed the entire building into a complex and convoluted architectonic and mental path of discovery. The show included large-scale videos of train journeys to visit the venue during preparations, as well as flooding the ground floor and encompassing an imaginary tunnel to the basement of the building. In 2006 he produced the ‘Book of Ballast’ in which he explored a mostly forgotten sea connection between Liverpool and the US city of Savannah. Schabus documented numerous stones which made their way as ballast on ships to ports on the east coast of America, where they were put to use to pave streets and build houses. The artist became more widely known when he represented Austria at the 2005 Venice Biennale with the project The Last Land, whereby he created a maze inside a ‘mountain’ that completely covered the pavilion building.

Schabus’ solo projects include: Next Time I’m Here, I’ll Be There, The Curve, Barbican Gallery, London (2008); Deserted Conquest, SITE Santa Fe, New Mexico (2007); Kasseler Kunstverein, Kassel, Germany (2006); Kunsthaus Bregenz, Bregenz, Austria (2004); and Secession, Vienna, Austria (1996 and 2003). Group exhibitions include: Revolutions – Forms That Turn, Biennale of Sydney (2008); Turin Triennial (2005); and Manifesta 4, Frankfurt (2004).

Postcard produced for 'Portscapes'. See image gallery here.

Futureland is on the edge of the current Maasvlakte along the extension of the A15. It is across the road from the E.ON power plant. The information center is open from Tuesday–Friday (10am-5pm) and on Sunday (11am-5pm). Free entrance.

'Portscapes' is a series of newly commissioned public projects taking place alongside the construction of Maasvlakte 2 – the extension to the Port of Rotterdam. www.portscapes.nl

An initiative of the Port of Rotterdam Authority with advice from SKOR (Foundation for Art and Public Space). Curated by Latitudes, www.LTTDS.org
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