Copperfield, London is pleased to present Here Be Dragons, a Reprise*, building on the preceding exhibition concerning the ocean-space as a historical connector of places, people and identities. This "reprise" format is used as an opportunity to explore these ideas in greater depth than a single exhibition allows.
The ocean is often identified as a void, as a great moat that divides territories, defines distances and sets trajectories. When people talk about remoteness and about distant places on the other side of the ocean, they unconsciously locate their position as the central point of global reference. From our land-based perspective, we perceive the geographic and political space around us taking only the surface into account: what we see on the horizon and what is measurable from a static, onshore point of view.
These exhibitions propose a process of unlearning the way we conceptualise space, rethinking it from an ocean-based perspective that embraces a relational understanding of the sea and celebrates its complexity as an indivisible entity in constant transformation.
This perspective acknowledges a connectivity that complements the functional use of the ocean as a conduit throughout history and detaches from a hegemonic and simplified understanding of identities and territories.
In a reprise, this understanding is expanded to even consider the solid state of oceans, the perceived threat of a second ice age in Himali Singh Soin's work echoing the very real threat of rising sea levels that was introduced in the first exhibition.
Through oceans, violence and hardship have sought out many lands, from the slave trade and war to forced displacement. In spite of or perhaps in consequence of this, tourism, exoticism and escapism are an indelible part of its allure. In the wake of colonialism, commerce and exploration, stories and identities have traveled through time, from sea to coast, from island to mainland and back again. Languages and cultures have merged, memories have sunk and new ones have been kept afloat.
*Here Be Dragons is an expression derived from early Western cartography’s use of monsters and dragons to refer to uncharted and unexplored sea territories, and is indicative of perspective bias.)