Comprising four large Ilfochrome photographs, a cinema scaled 15 minute multi-channel HD projection with sound and an 80 page publication, this exhibition (commissioned and presented by the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery) meditates on the force of the ocean, the communities whose lives are woven into it and an inescapable human vulnerability.
Taking as a point of departure the little known 1892 drowning of fifteen young men in Port Phillip Bay, What the Sea Never Told elicits a visceral, emotional response experienced as a kind of embodied memorial to the loss of the 15 young lives whilst resonating powerfully with contemporary global concerns regarding hope, risk and the loss of life at sea.
The exhibition and the accompanying 80 page publication is dedicated to the 15 young men who together lost their lives at sea.
Charles Ernest Allchin 19, James Reid Caldwell 21, William Lindsey Caldwell 19, Hugh Caldwell 17, William Henry Coles 23, John Comber 31, James Firth 17, William Edwin Grover 25, William Grover Jnr. 17, Charles Hooper 35 years, Charles F. Hooper Jnr. 14, John Kenna 18, Alfred Herbert Lawrence 19, George Connor Milne 36, Charles Williams 23.
The drowned young men were all members of the Mornington (Hazewinkel's boyhood home) Football Club returning by sea from playing a game of Australian Rules Football against district rivals Mordialloc. The boat they were traveling in, a 28 ft fishing yawl named Process, never made it back to Mornington. All aboard perished, only four bodies were ever found.
The following is the transcript of a correspondence between the exhibition curator Danny Lacy and the artist in which the story and Hazewinkel's personal relationship to it are explored. The correspondence can also be found in the accompanying project publication.
For any inquiries regarding the publication please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Danny Lacy - What The Sea Never Told is a new project commissioned by MPRG that takes as its starting point the tragic events of the 21st May 1892 when fifteen young men from Mornington drowned in Port Phillip Bay on their return from Mordialloc where they had gone to play a game of Australian Rules Football. It remains one of Australia’s worst sporting tragedies and it is difficult to comprehend how devastating the profound loss of fifteen young lives must have been for the small township of Mornington in 1892. How did you first become interested in this tragedy and what was the reason for wanting to make a series of artworks that respond to this event?
Andrew Hazewinkel - A sensation beyond reason, best described as a deep impulse, has remained my motivation for creating artworks in response to the loss of the fifteen young lives. I spent my boyhood, adolescence, emergent and early manhood living in Mornington. Through these ages I swam at the same beaches and in the same creeks, walked the same cliff paths, free dived the same reefs, climbed some of the same trees and sailed the same waters as the drowned young men. In this way I feel a special kind of kinship with them and this is where the impulse to make the work originates. Moving at the centre of What the Sea Never Told is a memory related idea that I first began exploring through my doctoral work. Throughout the research stages of this project and whilst making the artworks for this exhibition I have kept close the concept of premembering which I define as a form of distributed memory wherein one’s culture, or place, stores up all of the traces, residues and presences of the experiences of those that have lived and died before, for all of its future inhabitants. The story at the genesis of these artworks inhabits Mornington in a particular way, it comes to the surface of the collective sentience and recedes again, but it never goes away; it remains under the collective psychic skin of Mornington. The ebb and flow of it’s presence is, for me, somehow connected with the recurring unconscious exposure to the stack of cut, veined, white stone at the beach end of Main Street and frequent exposure to light on the water that comes with living in Mornington. Since childhood, the stacked white marble has resonated for me with a sense of spectral materialism, the obelisk (itself a symbolic reference to a much deeper human history), the entangled Ti-treed cliff paths, the particular beach sand and the persistent red bluffs, are in a direct way the materialised inception of the relatedness that I have further explored through making these works.
Danny Lacy - I understand that there is still plenty of speculation about what actually happened on that fateful night on 21 May 1892. I always think of Port Philip Bay as a relatively calm body of water. The conditions for sailing must have suddenly changed for such an incident to occur? Only four bodies were ever recovered and material was found washed up as far down the Bay as Sorrento. Through all of your research into the tragedy combined with your knowledge of sailing and experience of being out on the water, what are your views now of how the tragic event occurred?
Andrew Hazewinkel - Speculation is the nucleus of how the tragedy continues to inhabit the collective consciousness of Mornington. Culturally the story functions enigmatically, in a way akin to myth. The uncertainties, the grey smudgy areas, the very questions surrounding the event are what gives the story it’s enduring vitality. Without diluting that very special quality that uncertainties bring to this story, I will unfurl some of the detailed findings of my research, which thankfully has not answered all of the questions. Your question has two parts, one concerns the weather conditions on Port Philip Bay on the night of the 21st May 1892, and the other concerns the failing of the vessel herself – the Process. We know quite a lot about the weather and water conditions that night and its relationship to how the vessel failed. We know a less about the precise location of where tragedy struck. Port Philip Bay can be unpredictable and is often anything but calm. I have childhood memories of large keelboats washed ashore on Shire Hall Beach after breaking their moorings during howling autumnal West North Westerly storms, which crash with surprise into the relaxed atmosphere of an extended Indian summer. These powerful memory images carry with them a sense of sadness. There are others images too that reverberate with a sense of excitement. Imagine spectacular, towering, spume sprays, breaking over and swallowing up the Mornington pier and you begin to get a sense of what it can be like out on the bay. One idiosyncratic aspect of the local weather that make the conditions of Port Phillip Bay seasonally unpredictable, are the squalls that sweep up the bay and the turbulent weather patterns that come with them. Those that live near Port Phillip Bay will be familiar with the image of visually stunning micro climates moving rapidly across the sky. Often looming in the West, these localised thunderstorms, with internally illuminated thunderheads and veils of sheeted rain, arrive with intense force, yet they are often relatively small in physical dimension. They are fast moving mini storms, they come and they pass quickly, they most commonly occur when weather systems from the deep South gather force as they cross the Bass Strait and then funnel through the Heads and sweep up the middle of the bay.It is understood that on the night that the tragedy occurred a series of squalls rolled through Port Phillip Bay. Anecdotal evidence suggests that around the time that the Process was expected to arrive back in Mornington harbour, having completed her 11.5 nautical mile journey in a favourable North Westerly breeze, a squall hit the harbour, hard, almost blowing the small waiting party off the pier. Reports from other captains working the bay that night refer to several squalls rolling through, one particularly forceful one is understood to have hit a few seconds after an uncharacteristic weakening of the consistent North Westerly breeze that was blowing that evening. For those experienced in sailing this is a situation that you would prefer not to find yourself in. We know that of the men aboard the Process that night, only three were experienced sailors, for the others, the rapidly changing conditions must have been unsettling. Two pieces of evidence given at the inquest held by Mr. H.P. Fergie, J.P in the emotionally difficult days following the salvage of the Process give us a sense of what happened on board the Process that night. Mr. C. Henwood, a fisherman by profession, from Mordialloc, was called as an expert witness. His comments were that if the boat had been sailed with an ordinary sail then she could not be considered overloaded by having 15 men on board; however under the large regatta sail that she carried, she would have been safe in fine conditions, but in danger in rough weather. Another important piece of evidence was provided by experienced seamen Mr. A. Peak who was aboard the yacht The Wanderer which was at the scene as the Process was discovered just a few hundred meters from shore on Pelican Reef near Davey’s Bay at Mount Eliza. After inspecting the broken gear of the Process, it was his opinion that whilst the Process was on a starboard tack, the wire stay, which also functioned as a halyard for the main sail, parted, allowing the main sail to come down, fast. For the inexperienced on board, this would have been a frightening experience. The heavy wooden spar, the gaff, which supports the head of the mainsail, would have come crashing down onto them with force. All of the men had evidently been acting as live ballast on the windward side, the sudden jolting and shifting balance would have upset the stability of the vessel which was caught in the middle of a dramatic gear failure. Men would have gone overboard, the loose ballast would have slid astern and in seconds seawater would have been pouring over the transom; the Process would have gone down astern, quickly. In my mind the disastrous event occurred at confluence of two circumstances, neither of which you want to experience whilst sailing. A sudden, powerful and unexpected change in the weather conditions, and the failure of a critical piece of the vessel’s rigging.
Danny Lacy - Following the tragedy the Mornington Disaster Relief Fund was established to support the families who had lost loved ones and the township reeling from this loss. Sporting clubs, in particular football clubs, from across Australia raised and donated money to this fund and the Victorian Football League held a special charity match with representative North & South teams at the MCG. This community response was really genuine and heartfelt and it is important in the larger narrative of the Mornington disaster. You have chosen to expand on this aspect of the story within the development of your ideas for What the Sea Never Told.
Andrew Hazewinkel - In the days following the tragedy a public meeting was held in Mornington with the idea of raising funds to support the families of those that had lost their loved ones. At that meeting a committee was formed which included 20 prominent local residents and a number of other Melbourne based individuals. £120 was raised in the room that night and the decision was taken to circularise a request to all football clubs in Victoria. What followed was a remarkable show of emotional support for, and solidarity with, the people of Mornington. As the news of the tragedy travelled around the country via newspaper, bush telegraph and campfire stories, a great number of sporting and other social organisations came to Mornington’s aide. Whilst the largest number of these organisations were football clubs; cricket clubs, yacht clubs, brass bands, gymnastic clubs, schools, rangers, the fish salesmen association and even a circus contributed to the newly established Mornington Disaster Relief Fund. Of the roughly fifty football clubs that rallied, their sizes varied greatly. Some clubs now form part of the National Australian Football League, others were much smaller and local, to hamlets now disappeared, such as Sailor’s Gully near Eaglehawk; some clubs were as distant from the sea as Broken Hill. The reach was deep and wide. Perhaps the most prominent benefit match was played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) on Wednesday 8th June 1892, by aggregate intercolonial teams representing North and South of the Yarra River. Players were drawn from the thirteen senior football clubs of the Victorian Association. The Northern team was made up of players Currie, Simpson and Spedding from Carlton - Banks, Grace, Leydin and Reynolds from Fitzroy - Officer, Forbes, Chadwick and Campbell from Essendon - Fry, Graham and Lewis from Melbourne - Gibson, Carroll and Williamson from North Melbourne, and Costello, Anderson and Langford from Collingwood. All wore Fitzroy’s colours. The Southern Team was made up of players Windley, Duggan, Doran and Irving from South Melbourne - Fraser, Freame and O’Meara from Port Melbourne - Griffin, Fribbs and Ward from Williamstown - Coward, Kirkpatrick and Kendall from Footscray - Powell. M’Kay O’Halloran and Backhouse from Richmond - Foreman, Williamson and Shaw from St Kilda - and players, yet identified, from Geelong. All wore South Melbourne’s colours. The game was an important event in assuaging the collective grief surrounding the tragedy, it attended by approximately 4000 people and raised £150, or approximately $19,000 in today’s economic value.It is also important to acknowledge that along with the sixty, or more, sporting associations that raised funds to support the bereaved people of Mornington, countless individuals also contributed to the Fund. The tragedy launched an empathic social phenomenon of the kind we still see at times of great loss and unfathomable grief. Over many months of collective mourning, a total of £1600 was raised. If converted to approximate a value in today’s economy it would be roughly $213,000. At any time this sum could only be considered significant but especially so in 1892 when you consider that at that time many of the Banking Institutions and Building Societies, in which hundreds of hard working people had entrusted their futures, collapsed causing so many to lose all. Recent telling of the tragedy tends to focus on the historical development of the community that the fifteen drowned men came from, which is important, but as I researched the event I became increasingly interested in what happened immediately following it. By researching digitised newspapers from May to September 1892, I became aware of just how far reaching the empathic impulse travelled. I began to wonder how many of the sixty, or so, original social organisations that had celebrated the lives of the fifteen drowned men by doing what they do best, coming together and playing, still exist. Through archival research I discovered that approximately fifty still do. Some have evolved into large national clubs, others have remained staunchly local, I began to wonder if they were aware that such a profound empathic impulse was embedded in the very early history of their club. I decided to write to them. The letters that I sent briefly explained what had happened on that fateful night, 21st May 1892, and I outlined their club’s involvement. Some of my letters went unanswered but many received replies and with those replies came team photographs from the period and sometimes, other club memorabilia. In this small book you will find team photos from the years immediately prior to and following 1892. They are included here as gesture of reactivation, enscribing each club’s original involvement with the tragedy into this contemporary response to it and to provide an opportunity to meditate on the face of the empathic social network launched by the disaster.
Danny Lacy - For your project we were successful in receiving an Artist Residency Program grant from Museums and Galleries NSW, supported by the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund, which enabled you to spend 8 weeks down at the Mornington Peninsula Shire’s Artist in Residence at Police Point in Portsea. Can you discuss the importance of the residency for the creative research and development of your project?
Andrew Hazewinkel - A project of this nature draws together many different creative practitioners and I wanted everyone that came to work on the project to have the opportunity to spend some time in that very special luminous atmosphere which is created when two large bodies of water lay either side of a narrow strip of land. I also wanted everyone involved to have the opportunity to spend time looking at, and where possible, to spend time on the body of water that took the lives of the fifteen young men. I hoped the land and the seascape would very gently exert an influence on everyone working on the project the ways of thinking of. We are all used to file sharing and working remotely, but I saw an opportunity here, to allow the place, with all of it’s traces, residues and presences to directly affect the work. Another important aspect of being down at the Studio Residency was the way that it enabled me to connect with the wooden boat sailing community that is based there. Their generosity with knowledge of the disaster, from a practical sailing perspective and their thoughts on vessel’s gear failure shed new light on the tragic event and this has informed the artworks. The support the sailing community provided in the development of this project, through access to boats, had a direct affect on the filming and photographic aspects of making the work. Wooden boats move differently through the water, from fibreglass boats. There is a subtle but perceptible difference, in their motion through waves, this had a direct affect on how I approached filming whilst at sea. Sailing classic wooden boats is different from other forms of yachting and in some ways I had to unlearn what I knew from the experience of sailing more contemporary vessels. The sailors that I became involved with are the keepers of certain knowledge about specific vessels types and sailing practices in and around Port Phillip Bay at the time of the disaster. Going to sea with them for ten days in the Bass Strait enabled me to reconsider the project in a very special way. What I am speaking about is how living and working aboard a historic fishing smack in Bass Strait gave me the experience of a different temporal rhythm, one closer to the times when the sea was much more than a recreational realm. The shift in my understanding of the embodied temporalities between the sea and those whose lives were woven into it, at the time of the tragedy, had a direct influence on how I composed the visual rhythms in the video work.
Danny Lacy - The artworks that you have created for this exhibition comprise a large-scale multi screen fifteen minute moving image work and a suite of four lusciously beautiful Cibachrome photographs. Both works feature images of the sea, either highlighting the character of the surface of the water in different weather conditions or abstracting the water through its movement below the surface, or by offering glimpses of the sky seen from just below the surface. Can you please speak a little about this aspect of these artworks.
Andrew Hazewinkel - I took the decision very early on in the project that I would not include images of boats or bodies in any of the artworks. It is important for me that although the project has a historiographic conception, the artworks remain visually distanced from any sense of nostalgia. The four large colour photographs of the surface of the sea are both inviting and in a way, cautioning. This sense of doubleness runs through all of the works in the exhibition and throughout my broader practice. All of the works in the exhibition can be considered within realm of the medium of photography in that they either still or moving images mediated through a physical lens. The recurrent doubleness that inhabits my practice has resonance within the medium of photography when we consider that in this context the word medium refers to the very practical and conceptual apparatus of photography and a locus for communion with the dead. The still photographic works in the exhibition are an attempt to create images that evoke an alluring sense of profound beauty, and the psychological sense of safety that is often associated with it, whilst simultaneously resonating with a darker something. They a spirit world and foster a gentle reconsideration of the emotional push and pull between states of sanctuary and menace. In this way they can be can be considered not only images of the sea, but also images of what is inside us. In the moving image work the doubleness is articulated in a very different way. In its most declarative way it is articulated through the spatial relationship between the two screens, which operate independently at times and as one at other times. Here again there is a gentle pushing and pulling between different states. It unfurls formally as a dance between representation and abstraction. When considering the images that move across the two screens, we slowly come to perceive another doubleness at play. At times they articulate the dimension above the surface of the water , the dimension of free breath, and at other times the articulate the dimension below the surface of the water, the dimension of held breath. Sometimes we are suspended between the two at a profound, fundamental threshold. In doing so they remind us of a fundamental doubleness that is woven into our very existence, our every moment. The images flashing across the screens ask us to consider the air rushing into our bodies as we breathe in and the air rushing out of our bodies as we breath out. This is an embodied life sustaining doubleness. Across the duration of this work fifteen drownings are represented. The visual material that invokes the drownings was captured via a Gopro camera attached to a simple, innovative rig that I made with rigging wire and fishing tackle. It enabled me to film simultaneously above and below the surface of the water, allowing the conditions of the sea, and the speed of the boat, that I was filming from, to direct the camera’s point of view and foster erratic, uncontrolled movement. To make these images I had to let go. These images flash in an accelerated abstract dimension with just enough glimpses of a sky, seen from below the surface, or torrents of air bubbles rushing across the screen to make us aware that we are at the surface and moving in and out of visual disorientation; then we are plunged below the surface into another abstract dimension of flashing lines and almost perceptible images. It is though one is accelerating through a vast collection of memory images, a collection too vast to allow focus on any singular one, it evokes is a kind of visual memory speed reading. Although there is a sense of the chaotic in the dynamism of these images, it is because of the way they glow on the screen and their colors wash over us as we stand before them that they engender a sense of calm, a willingness, the absence of resistance, there is for me a sense of surrender, of peace in these images. Two lines from Rainer Maria Rilke’s eighth Duino Elegy resonate here “For, nearing death, one doesn’t see death; but stares beyond, perhaps with an animal’s vast gaze”. The third component of the exhibition is the small book that you are holding in your hands; it too articulates, in yet another way, the driving doubleness of What the Sea Never Told. In a structural sense this small book is conceived of as both an exhibition catalogue and a different form of historical document. It is a historical document that commingles two histories, two temporalities. Here the driving doubleness resides in an ongoing oscillation back and forth between the present and the past, both of which refuse to triumphantly close.
Dany Lacy - The Cibachrome photographs are today unique and extremely rare, as the materials used to create them don’t exist anymore, apart from a very small number of photographic laboratories overseas. Can you describe the process you’ve engaged in to produce these photographs and the resonance this has with your project?
Andrew Hazewinkel - I have only ever played one game of football in my life. I was in Grade 1, I played on the wing, I wasn’t very good. I grew up in a Dutch - Australian household and football, or team sports of any other type were not really celebrated in the family home. I played basketball, badly, for one season and baseball, equally badly, for another season. I tried. I swam and sailed and surfed, but I never really practiced teamship and therefore never understood what a team is or does. Through making this project, specifically through conversations and email exchanges with certain club members whilst exploring the community response to the disaster, I have come to appreciate teams and the clubs that are structured around. I now appreciate them as communities of like-minded individuals who support one another in mutually understood endeavour. It is not always about winning. This was mirrored in the support I experienced as I endeavoured to find a photographic lab still printing Cibachromes (or Ilfochromes as they are more appropriately termed these days). A community of individuals who work with the medium of photography rallied to my quest. The process of printing the photographic images in the exhibition is almost extinct, digital versions approximate their appearance but they are not the same. In this way the photographic prints in the exhibition are contemporary artefacts. A very limited amount of the photographic paper that is used to print them on still exists in the world. The chemistry required is also rare. I wanted to work with this disappearing process as it photographically, materially, reflects the historiographic impulse embedded in What the Sea Never Told. The artifactual status of an object does not render it a fetish, or inert in the contemporary realm, rather it enables us to loosen our ties to the present sufficiently to think about the past and it’s intimate relationship with our everyday present in a different manner.