We are at the north of the peninsula. Salt waters, silt waters and mud waters pull each other in spirals underneath the calm in front of us.
We are surrounded by distance.
The heat lifts a screen of salt and calls up an image. A ship, a vessel, long way out.
A ship, that doesn’t move.
Suspended, stranded, stationary, dormant.
This is the will of the undercurrent, and this is its prey:
A ship, hovering over the tide.
It doesn’t move, it doesn’t sail towards us and it doesn’t sail away. The Malabar vapours move it like a midday dance, an optical illusion.
A ship, there is no one inside it but it’s full of rats.
They make a terrible sound carried into land like a wild song, a deep chant.
A boat, there is no one inside it, but there’s a hundred crows perched along its frame. They change its shape. I can hear the crows, but I cannot see the vessel’s motion.
It doesn’t advance, and it doesn’t disappear.
It doesn’t sink and it doesn’t fly.
A vessel, carrying a tall statue in the shape of a saint. It doesn’t move towards us, and it doesn’t move away.
A dredge, a hopper dredge, a grab dredge, a suction dredge, a hopper barge, a pile driver, a block layer.
A warship, with a length of three times its own beam.
From its portholes protrude the iron mouths of great canon in row. It seems to draw it strength from the very soul of the world.
A fishing boat. Wit a hull in the shape of a golden duck. It glimmers as it glides. It’s halted. It’s trapped. The more we see, the more it changes.
It turns as it travels, through shapes but not distances.
We are at the north of the peninsula. The gale is calm, but the undersurface prowls.
Salt waters, silt waters, mud waters, like snakes. Slithering, pulling the surface through depths.
Snakes, curling over crests.
Snakes, trapping vessels, shaping ridges, rolling over mires. Snakes, viscid, entangled, masts, woods, sails, oars, clays, snakes.
They feed on vessels at sea.
They wrap around ships.
These are the souls of the undercurrent,
These are their prey.
* Text: Pedro Gómez-Egaña, with fragments from Robert Bristow’s Cochin Saga, and Joseph Conrad’s The Mirror of the Sea.
Music: Pedro Gómez-Egaña with samples and fragments from Rimsky Korsakov’s Sadko.
Kochi Muziris Biennale 2016, Kerala, India, Curated by Sudarshan Shetty
Aphelion draws from the history of maritime travel and colonization of the region of Kerala. Citing the writings of Sir Robert Bristow, the engineer responsible for building the harbor of Kochi, and Joseph Conrad’s Mirror of the Sea, Aphelion includes stories of ships that are found either empty, or carrying dead bodies or disease-ridden pests, as well as myths such as fata morgana and mirage, attributed to optical illusions at sea.
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