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The first casting I ever did took place in the shed of my boyhood home on the coastal fringes of Melbourne, where my father (a post WW2 migrant from the Netherlands) my two brothers and I poured lead (melted on a portable kerosene camping stove) into soup spoon forms pressed into the damp sand we’d 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’ve returned to that practice and I have been pouring lead (again melted on a portable camping stove) into forms that I’ve pressed into the sand from the beaches of the northern shores of the Libyan Sea which defines Europe’s southernmost borders. These wildly rugged places are only about 350kms from the Libyan coast from where the musical rhythms accompanying my activities were broadcast.
Modest in scale these lead figures are heavy, each comprises the lead from about 80 spherical sinkers of the kind used by the local fishermen in the long hours spent on the sea with which their lives and communities are intertwined.
These curious shape-shifters are personal mullings on some of our contemporary migration systems and the journeys made by tens 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 opportunities that sometimes only come through facing fear. Their material weight invokes the laws of gravity and points toward another kind of gravity, the kind that describes the living conditions that drive people, with a sense of hope, to risk their lives in the face of uncertain reception.
This is not the place for a lengthy discourse about the personal, political and social implications caught up in my recent thinking; but I wish that I had those little spoon sinkers made all those years ago. I would like to transform them, yet again, to set them on a new trajectory through the lifeworld; they seem to somehow 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…