AN IMMERSIVE new art experience opens at Compton Verney this summer which invites visitors to take a rowing boat out onto the Warwickshire gallery’s lake and listen to different stories from around the world.
“Crossings” has been created by the multidisciplinary artist Luke Jerram and BBC Radio 4 producer, Julian May.
Part art installation and visitor attraction, it was specially commissioned by Compton Verney and consists of nine rowing boats, which can be pre-booked for a half hour trip out onto the lake.
Each brightly decorated boat is fitted with speakers that play recorded audio of people sharing a variety of different life experiences and personal testimonies.
These include Jo Royle, who – to draw attention to the plastic rubbish floating in the oceans – co-designed the Plastiki, a boat constructed from 12,500 recycled 2-litre plastic bottles, and skippered her on a voyage all the way from San Francisco to Sydney.
Seb Coulthard, who recreated the incredible journey made by Ernest Shackleton and members of the crew of The Endurance, who went to get help for their beleaguered colleagues left on Elephant Island, by sailing the ‘James Caird’ 800-miles across the roughest seas in the world, to South Georgia. Seb made the same journey in a boat the same size and survived to tell the story
And Mr Fan, a barber in Greenwich, who was one of the Boat People, refugees from Vietnam. In 1975, he and his young family left for Hong Kong on a sailing boat that no one aboard knew how to sail. A voyage that should have taken a week or so lasted three months. Just as they were within sight of Hong Kong’s skyscrapers, storms blew them back to Vietnam.
Other stories include that of Captain Cook’s arrival in Tahiti, where he discovered the indigenous people were eating sweet potatoes, which come from South America.
Mana Azarith tells the story of how, aged thirteen, she guided, navigating by the stars, a rickety boat full of refugees across the British Channel.
While Fishing with Cormorants explains to listeners the traditional Japanese fishing technique of Ukai, in which fishermen use trained cormorants to catch fish in rivers.
Each boat trip is designed to last around 30 minutes, with the real-time sounds and experience of rowing on the lake blending with the recordings.
Mr Jerram chose to create his new art installation around boats due to their rich symbolism, especially for a traditionally sea-faring, island nation such as Britain.
He said: “It’s a great pleasure to premier this new artwork at Compton Verney. Through the mixture of recorded interviews, blending with the sounds and action of rowing, I hope the public enjoy being transported to another world and circumstance.”
For more information about Crossings sail over to www.comptonverney.org.uk