For summer 2015, Tyneside Cinema’s Gallery presents a new two-channel video installation by the cinema’s most recent artist in resident, the British-Greek artist Mikhail Karikis. The video builds a portrait of the daily manoeuvres and working environment of Tyneside’s last operational boat builder Fred Crowell as he approaches his final days of labour.
The title of the work takes its name from that of a small red rowing boat, ‘The Endeavour,’ that Crowell is pictured working on in the film. Whilst the title suggests the endurance of a life in an industry that appears to be sinking in the region – Crowell was once the only boat builder between Amble and Hull – The Endeavour persists in providing its viewer with a well crafted audioscape. As the dual screen offers a detailed survey of the builder’s tools and work space, our focus is attuned to the energetic array of accompanying noises that soundtrack the liveliness of the workshop. This is typical of the style which Karikis has developed, always gifting his viewer’s with a fine attention to audio.
After neatly setting the scene of the boat builder’s workshop Karikis shifts the viewer’s participation to the introduction of a harmonica player whose appearance sails through the two screens. He plays a tune that you might not be familiar with, and so the exhibition interpretation aids our understanding at this point, informing us know that the song was made famous during the Jarrow March of 1936, and that it is not the tune of a sea shanty as it might first seem. Also known as the Jarrow Crusades, these marches were organised demonstrations in which men walked from Jarrow to London to object against unemployment. It’s a little tricky at first to make the connection between these components but the link is the region. Coupling the north-east heritage of boat building and protest, Karikis’ choreography of the harmonica protest tune and the Noize Choir poignantly demonstrates on the demise of familiar industries that the region once thrived in.
The film is a tender offering, enlivened by the persistence of the north-east based noise-art collective Noize Choir, whose short, sharp, repetitive tones recite various obsolete professions and quicken the pace to the work’s conclusion. The presence of the choir, like sirens to the sailors, prompts the question of whether or not the boat builder will soon join this long list of archaic occupations. Whilst the endeavour may have ended for Crowell, the mesmerising portrayal will endure within the viewer’s memory.
Mikhail Karikis The Endeavour is on display in The Gallery at Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle, until 12 July 2015.
Images: Mikhail Karikis, The Endeavour, 2015 Video stills