Beyond the Breakwater
Have you stopped by to see the Albright-Knox’s current exhibition in the Gallery for New Media, Ellie Ga: It Was Restored Again? If not, you still have time! The exhibition—Ga’s first solo show in an American museum—features two new works from her most recent series, “Square, Octagon, Circle,” 2012–14, which uses the ancient Pharos Lighthouse of Alexandria, Egypt, as a point of departure. Previously, we took a closer look at one of the works in the exhibition, It Was Restored Again, 2013, and today we explore the murky waters beneath the site of the lighthouse with Sayed, 2013.
During Ga’s time in Alexandria she learned to scuba dive in order to explore, firsthand, the submerged ruins of the Pharos Lighthouse, discovered in 1994 by the French archaeologist Jean-Yves Empereur on the floor of Alexandria’s Eastern Harbor. The single-channel video Sayed takes its moniker from the name of a local diving guide whom Ga accompanied on an underwater excursion. The viewer becomes an underwater witness as Ga and Sayed navigate the stone ruins beneath the ancient site and discuss the many gaps in current archaeological knowledge. As they explore, the pollution and swell make taking images of the remains nearly impossible. It is futile to try to capture what is left, leaving it up to us to reconstruct story of the lighthouse from what history has left behind.
Ga has written of her experience:
The sea is rough but not nearly as agitated today so I bring my brass lighthouse sculpture underwater for a photo shoot. As our dive-guide predicted, the visibility is really, really bad. Much worse than last time, which was also pretty bad. Again the wall of brown and green clouds and no visible bottom to swim towards. A meter of visibility at the most. Probably less. Luckily our guide is wearing yellow flippers and I’m able to follow him. We lose my companion almost instantly. My guide gestures emphatically that I am to hold onto this rock and not move. How long I wait at the rock I don’t know. Elapsed time is impossible to calculate underwater, perhaps because there is no horizon to measure time passing against. 5 minutes and 30 minutes are indistinguishable from one another. (http://notesfromalexandria.wordpress.com/)
Ellie Ga: It Was Restored Again will be on view through Sunday, September 14, 2014.
IMAGE: Ellie Ga (American, born 1976). Detail of Sayed, 2013. Single-channel video with sound, edition of 3 plus 1 AP. Running time: 5 minutes, 30 seconds. Image courtesy the artist and Bureau, New York.