Shipping containers are emblems of global trade; objects that, according to political geographer Rachael Squire, ‘flatten and smooth space’ – taking an optimal form that means they can glide from train to road to sea – automated, standardised and sealed.
Kris Lock and Jo Sweeney’s The Vase in the Container is a video installation which explores how shipping containers, and the objects held within them, navigate and shape global geo-economics. It looks at how the social and economic value of artworks might be understood when they are locked inside this system, hidden from view as they move between freeports – tax-free zones where any goods can be stored without the need to pay tax or duties on them. It also consider how a surprising range of activities take place inside these sealed units, including hydroponic farming, and speculates about how these might come together to produce unexpected results.
The video takes as an example the Kolyvan Vase (1843), an object contained within a room of the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. This monolithic artefact, made of the mineral jasper, is described by the artists as ‘entombed’; it was hauled into place before the walls of the museum were constructed around it.
In the video, the artists use computer rendering to imagine the journeys of the Kolyvan Vase in a world where it has escaped the static confinements of the museum building for a transitory existence inside a shipping container. Within this space they suggest that a hydroponic algae farm, left to stew in the vase’s cup, might mutate into a futuristic fountain of youth.
The work is approx 20 minutes long on a loop. Visit at any point during opening times.
The Vase in the Container is the recipient of the 2018 Open School East Commission.