Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Sailing on a sinking boat

French designer Julien Berthier has been taking his boat around Europe- a boat that looks like it is about to go down any minute. The 35 year old artist designed the boat in 2007 because he says that he wanted to “freeze the moment just a few seconds before a boat disappears, creating an endless vision of the dramatic moment”. Christened, “Love, Love”, Berthier actually cut a working boat in half, sealed it with fiberglass and fitted it with two engines to get the look he wanted.

Berthier admits that his boat has been the reason for more than one harbour master or coast guard being put on full alert as onlookers report what appears to be a sinking vessel. With its stern up and bow submerged, the boat looks like it is headed straight for the bottom and will disappear any minute. But his sculpture, he says, is fully seaworthy and handles quite well, especially in calm weather."This is like kind of the second before it sinks forever – even though most boats don't sink that way. But anyway I wanted to create this image and freeze it this way, and make it visible and maneuverable in that exact position," Berthier says.

Inspired by the ‘Titanic’ to create his sculpture, Berthier selected a boat after a thorough search of the boatyards at Normandy three years ago. Berthier used the help of a local shipwright to modify the original 21 ft by 8 ft vessel, much to the consternation of the other people in the shipyard who were aghast that a good boat- complete with a small cabin and a sloop rig- was being chopped up. The process was uncomplicated, says Berthier. "It was just cutting it at the right angle, and filling the seams and then taking the keel, filling it with weights, and putting it at the front. There was no special engineering," he says. Twin engines completed the design.

The Paris based artist has built himself quite a reputation designing some weird and absurd artwork; he has also designed a giant skull in the hedges of a European cottage and made holes in an apartment’s wall with the wreckage spelling "Welcome Home." Some critics have said that his engineered artwork seems to ‘occupy the twilight zone between comedy and tragedy’. ‘ Love, Love’ is another case in point. "What I'm looking for, all the time, is you see something, it's not just dark or just funny, it's someplace in between,” he says. "I like when you don't know if you are supposed to laugh or not or what are you actually looking at."

Berthier has not licensed the boat, which would be expensive and, as his says, it would probably not pass inspection anyway. Nonetheless, he has sailed his sinking ‘Love, Love’ down many famous places like Lake Constance in Germany, London’s Canary Wharf and Normandy in France. "We never had any problem moving with it in harbors after having warned the harbor master," he says. The only snag is that the authorities seem to be swamped with people reporting a boat in distress wherever ‘Love, Love’ appears.

As a final oddity, Berthier says he is not a sailor and prefers land any day. "I've been once on a boat for two days, and I threw up for two days,” he says.

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