Dr Marius Kwint, art historian, writer and senior lecturer at the University of Portsmouth
Inspired by Dickens’s novel, A Tale of Two Cities, A Hundred Seas Rising explores how literature might be implicated in the imagination and trajectories of revolutions.
The installation uses the sound of 100 individual voices as a sculptural material, re-imagining Dickens’s revolutionary mob sonically by creating surges of ideological thought that reverberate across the gallery space.
In the summer of 1957, the Hundred Flowers Movement in China invited a variety of views and solutions to national policy issues. The name of the movement originated from a poem: “Let a hundred flowers bloom; let a hundred schools of thought contend.” This movement was the first of its kind in the history of the People’s Republic of China in which the government opened up to ideological criticisms from the general public. The campaign grew in momentum, from expressions of minor issues of a few to increasingly large numbers of intellectuals voicing their radical ideas, including the overthrowing of the government. Six weeks into the campaign, threatened by the overwhelming criticisms of the people, Mao Tse-tung, ordered a halt to the campaign. The result of the Hundred Flowers campaign was the Anti-Rightist Movement in which ideas against the government were suppressed, leading to the loss of individual rights and persecution.
100 members of the public were invited to participate in the imagination of modern day revolutions. They were encouraged to describe the cause or structure they would like to transform, the motivating ideology for this change - including books that might have inspired their ideas, how they would mobilise others, the objectives of the revolution and how this would be achieved, i.e. through peaceful or violent means. The revolutions ranged from personal, social, cultural, philosophical, technological and political, covering subjects from housing, finance, debt, social welfare, education, animal rights and welfare, to the prison system.
The voice of each interviewee were recorded individually and each recording was assigned to one of the school desks, arranged in rows like a classroom environment. The voices represent a cross-section of views from different cultural and social backgrounds.
A Hundred Seas Rising is part of RELAY: Contemporary art in the South East of England commissioned in response to London 2012. A partnership project between: Aspex, Portsmouth; Space, Creative and Cultural Industries Faculty, University of Portsmouth; and Quay Arts, Newport, Isle of Wight. It is funded by TPSE (Turning Point South East), Arts Council England, Portsmouth City Council, University of Portsmouth and is part-funded by the European Union.
Published to coincide with the tour of A Hundred Seas Rising. Richly illustrated with colour plates throughout. Commissioned essays by Marius Kwint and Jenny Walden.
A Hundred Seas Rising, at Aspex Gallery, Portsmouth, Asian Art News review by Marius Kwint.