Blue Curry: Unsettled Landscapes

By in News on July 20, 2014

When you think of the Bahamas, chances are images of pristine beaches, grass huts, and cocktails come to mind. The tourist industry feeds on the public’s preconceived notions of life in this paradise, ignoring the workaday reality of the people who live there.

“Along with 45 artists and artist collaboratives from 16 countries, I am participating in the inaugural edition of SITElines, SITE Santa Fe’s new biennial exhibition series with a focus on contemporary art from the Americas. Unsettled Landscapes is the first in this series and will look at the urgencies, political conditions and historical narratives that inform the work of contemporary artists across the region through three themes: landscape, territory, and trade.” Blue Curry
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Nassau-born artist Blue Curry, now living in London, had an idea for an installation that would subtly challenge the image of Nassau as merely a playground for tourists and at the same time would honor an aspect of its history. His project for Unsettled Landscapes, called S.S.s, is a live video feed of Nassau’s port, where cruise ships come in daily, spilling thousands into the city.

“The camera’s been set up and running for a while,” Curry told Pasatiempo.

“When they approached me about doing something for SITE, I immediately went back to a project I proposed five years ago for a grant. I was looking at cruise ships and their presence in the Caribbean in conjunction with these set fantasies people have about the Caribbean. The constructed image the region has tends to be quite dumbed down, a site for leisure, consumption, relaxation, and nothing else. As a person from there, you know there’s more to it, but your own government, the tourism machine, all of it, will only stand behind one image of the place. I wanted to take a decommissioned cruise liner and sail it through the Caribbean from port to port as sculpture. It wasn’t reasonable in terms of cost. When SITE came to me I had the idea, kind of like a reclaiming exercise, to use the port as a site for sculpture, installation, and critical engagement.”

Curry had been doing some research on Fort Fincastle, an 18th-century structure that rests above the port where the ships come in.

“The flag mast on top was a signal mast. What it did was communicate with ships coming into the harbor. More importantly, it told people in the community what was happening so they’d find out that ‘There’s a steam ship coming in from New York, and I can tell by this flag.’”

In time, the port’s focus changed from commerce to tourism, and the mast was taken down. Accompanying the live feed of the harbor, SITE has a mast installed outside its entrance. Each day, as new ships enter the port, flags representing the ships are run up the pole. If no ships come in, no flags go up. The flags are not the official banners representing nations from which the cruise liners hail but instead are repurposed beach towels, a fitting symbol of an island nation known for its soft, powdery sands and turquoise waters.

“The Bahamas tend not to have many raw materials or resources,” Curry said. “That’s why we’ve ended up becoming so dependent on tourism and selling ourselves on beauty.”

Michael Abatemarco
Santa Fe New Mexican

Watch the video interview below – Blue Curry is at 2:47

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