In the video installation Gyres 1-3 by the artist Ellie Ga, individual life plans are interwoven with urgent social problems such as environmental pollution or the current migration of refugees in the Aegean Sea.
As a prelude to the split-screen video installation, a light table is flicked on to form the central image field. Colored photographic transparencies are placed on top of it and one on top of the other, creating ever new arrangements as they shine through. The foils that are not currently needed ›land‹ on a second light table in the lower image field. In a left field, short videos of the things or places the artist has filmed are shown, which she treats in her voice-over narrative.
In oceanography, the eponymous Gyres describe a system of circulating eddies, wind, and ocean currents – in an equally fluid narrative, the visual essay meanders between themes and places. Right at the beginning, the viewer experiences the sheer unbelievable amount of freight that has entered the world's oceans in recent decades: for example, 61,000 Nike sneakers that were lost on the high seas on their way from South Korea to the USA in 1990, and of which individual shoes are washed ashore again and again, according to the Gyres movements. ›Beachcombers‹, collectors of beach goods, pick up the finds and present them at conventions. ›Beachcomber‹ is also the name of a long wave that rolls in from the sea – the ambiguity is reflected in Ellie Ga's artistic approach, which rhythmically places and pulls away foils, and in the calm flow of language tells of the life of the writer and traveler Bruce Chatwin as well as of the vast number of life jackets and bottle posts on the Greek coasts of Lesbos and Symi. In formal terms, Ga's chosen dispositive is reminiscent of pre-digital overhead presentations or the comparative slide projection with two projectors according to Heinrich Wölfflin, which characterized academic lectures until the video projector moved into the lecture halls. The artist skillfully demonstrates how the same slides experience a different perception depending on the context. Ga ›drifts‹ virtuously through aspects of culture, mysticism, autobiography, science, and world politics in her visual essay, but she never loses sight of the analysis of the phenomenon of migration: the journey of people and things, voluntarily or out of necessity. Ga explores the religious motives, the ecological and political catastrophes of which flotsam can tell stories. (Elke Kania)
My work is a form of conceptual archeology. I sift through conversations, images, histories and archives, uncovering fragments of the overlooked and the mistranslated. Through video installations, performances and books, I piece together unexpected connections, enabling metaphors to emerge as I try to find my way.
A key concept in my work is drift, not only in the sense that an object floats across the ocean, but also in the sense that we search for something but instead find something else. My video installation Gyres 1-3 (2019) explores the form of a gyre: a spiraling current on the ocean’s surface that circulates debris and casts it ashore. In Gyres 1-3, no loss, tragedy or object is treated more significantly than another: beachcombers gather the aftermath of the 2011 tsunami in Japan; an oceanographer studies the debris from container spills; shorelines reveal the histories of resistance, migration and ritual offerings on the Greek islands of the Aegean Sea.
In other works, I follow the fortunetelling rituals of a small crew of scientists drifting on a sailboat in the frozen Arctic Ocean (The Fortunetellers 2007-2011) and the quest to piece together a submerged ancient wonder in Egypt (Square Octagon Circle 2012-2015). The use of messages in bottles, both as a tool for studying the oceans and a metaphor for exile, is the subject of my video installation Strophe, A Turning (2017). (Ellie Ga)
Images: Ellie Ga, Gyres 1-3, 2019 © Ellie Ga/ Courtesy Bureau, New York City, USA