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Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Message in a bottle

I imagine art was once an intuitive melding of vision and craft and judged on those terms, albeit with a nod to the idea that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Conceptual art has elevated the ‘nod,' making it part of the ‘art’ itself.

For the conceptual artist, the idea or concept behind the art is apparently more important than the finished work.  A conceptual artist may use whatever materials and whatever form is most appropriate to putting their ideas across. It is the thought processes and methods of production that create the value of the work.

Another authority claims that ‘it raises the issue of authorship, time, space, and even ownership.’

Hence, I present to you:

The bottle.

It was given to me some years ago by friends who’d discovered the joys of deep sea diving. They found it embedded in mud at Scapa Flow where, on the 21st June 1919, Rear Admiral Ludwig von Reuter  scuttled the German fleet rather than allow it  fall into Allied hands.

Between 10am and 1700 pm  on that day, 52 German warships were deliberately sunk much to the displeasure of the British who got there too late to stop it.

 Admiral Freemantle felt obliged – through an interpreter – to give the Rear Admiral Ludwig von Reuter a public dressing down for behaving ‘dishonourably,’ though privately he admitted ‘I could not resist feeling some sympathy for von Reuter, who had preserved his dignity when placed against his will in a highly unpleasant and invidious position.’

Another British Admiral – Wemyss – even expressed relief:
 ‘I look upon the sinking of the German fleet as a real blessing. It disposes, once and for all, the thorny question of the redistribution of these ships.’ He may have had the French in mind, who’d set their hearts on acquiring at least some of them and perhaps the very bottle I occasionally stroke.

After almost a century beneath rolling seas, scoured by sediment, weed, and small scuttling things, it has the feel of warm silk; it conjures up images of the man that last drank from it, and when you blow over its top, you detect the echo of German Imperial pride—if you’re so minded.

 In the words of Admiral Reinhard Scheer:
‘I rejoice. The stain of surrender has been wiped from the escutcheon of the German Fleet. The sinking of these ships has proved that the spirit of the fleet is not dead.The last act is true to the best traditions of the German Navy.’

So then, my bottle is a work of art if the idea or concept is more important than the finished work itself. In this case my bottle was conceived and created by man, has been further shaped by oceanic currents and will be forever associated with a specific historic event. As for ‘authorship, time and space,’  thing, when I hold it, I think of the transience of life


Maria Zannini said...

If only that bottle could talk. The stories it could tell us.

Mike Keyton said...

It has a quieter life now — but who knows in the future when it goes on its travels again :)