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The first casting I ever did took place in the workshed of my boyhood home on the coastal fringes of Melbourne. My father - a post WW2 migrant from the Netherlands - my two brothers and I poured lead melted on a portable camping stove into soup-spoon forms we had pressed into damp sand we had gathered from the local beach. We were making sinkers for future fishing expeditions. I was never a very good fisherman, but in my mind I made the finest sinkers.
Recently I have returned to that practice. I have again been pouring lead - again melted on a portable camping stove - into more figurative forms that I have made and then pressed into sand from beaches on the northern shores of the Libyan Sea, which defines Europe’s southernmost borders. These wildly rugged places are approximately 350kms from the Libyan coast which is where the music accompanying my casting activities was broadcast.
Although modest in scale these little lead figures are heavy. Each comprises the lead from roughly 80 spherical sinkers, the kind used by local fishermen in the long hours spent on the sea with which their lives and communities are intertwined.
These curious recast shapeshifters are personal mullings on the darker aspects of some contemporary migration systems and the journeys made by hundreds of thousands of people seeking refuge and opportunity in lands safer than those they call home. They are also meditations on the transformational nature of opportunity which sometimes only comes through facing fear. Their material weight invokes the laws of gravity and points toward another kind of heaviness, the kind that describes the living conditions that drive people - with a sense of hope - to risk their lives in the face of danger and uncertain reception.
Here is not the place for a lengthy explanation about the personal, political and social implications caught up with my recent thinking, but I wish that I still had those little spoon sinkers made many years ago. I would like to transform them again, to set them on a new trajectory through the lifeworld, somehow they they seem to belong to the next group of beach-cast figures which help me to reflect on the nature of privilege, hope, risk, our individual horizons, fairness, kindness and the enduring vitality of the human spirit. TBC…