Suzanne Treister
2013-16

Bordeaux/Garonne Public Art Project

Les vaisseaux de Bordeaux: Le Vaisseau spatial
The Spaceships of Bordeaux: The Spaceship


Le vaisseau spatial/The Spaceship, Bassins à Flots - visualisation by David Durand for B O L D

Descriptif : sculpture monumentale en forme de vaisseau spatial, positionnée au-dessus de l'eau ou sur les berges de Garonne. La sculpture fait 15 mètres de diamètre. Elle est construite en inox et intègre des matériaux de récupération d'une épave de Garonne (extraction effectuée par Bordeaux Métropole, rive droite, ponton Yves Parlier, novembre 2013).

Interlocuteurs : Grand Port de Bordeaux, commune, DRAC (Bâtiments de France)

Usages : espace public

Maintenance/entretien : nettoyage annuel (convention Bordeaux Métropole / commune / Grand Port de Bordeaux)

Concept :

Before the invitation by Bordeaux Metropole I had been to Bordeaux only once, in 2009, to take part in the exhibition, 'Insiders - pratiques, usages, savoir-faire' at CAPC Museum of Contemporary Art. During this visit I made a trip to the Base sous-marine, the German submarine base, constructed during the German occupation in the Second World War primarily by Spanish prisoners of war, which stayed in my mind.

In 2013, during the organised boat trip along the Garonne I was struck to hear of the existence of so many ships from the Second World War which were still submerged in the Garonne and to actually see the remains of some of them protruding above the water.

After the trip to the German bunker near Soulac I again I felt the proximity of Second World War histories within the psychology of the city, as if the memories were just under the surface of the water, like the war boats, always prepared to re-emerge.

This also connects to my family history, because my father who studied at the School of Political Science in Paris in the 1930s became an operative in the French Resistance in the Second World War – in both the occupied and unoccupied zones - and I am very interested in the history of the occupation, the memories of crimes of both the occupiers and the occupied.

I thought about the idea of removing one of these warships from the Garonne river and transforming it into something else, as in an alchemical process, the transformation of one thing into another, to embody a physical process of change in the city. So I had the idea of transforming it into a spaceship.

I visualised one of these decaying Second World War vessels being transformed - many decades after the German defeat - into a luminous spaceship, deriving from but no longer a war vessel, lifting history and transforming it into the present day and towards a hypothetical future, as a reminder of war and conflict but also as an encouragement towards a different type of future, a future to be imagined and constructed.

Spaceships, both real, e.g. in terms of the US/Soviet space race, and as imagined in science fiction, embody fantasies of advancing technologies, technologies whose power can be utilised both in peacetime and for purposes of war and destruction, and these ideas are inevitably embedded in the sculpture, to act as a reminder of both the positive and potentially disastrous consequences of advances in science and technology.

A spaceship, as a technological 'sci-fi' imaginary object, a manifestation of the fantasies of technology - and connected in its embrace of technology to the technological drives to save Bordeaux from the sea - can also signify the exhilaration and possibilities of change, speed and space, the space of the universe, outer space and can act to encourage thinking about a bigger picture beyond everyday life. It can also be an alluring image for teenagers thinking about what their future goals might be.

Proposed locations:

Le vaisseau spatial - Garonne - original proposal
Le vaisseau spatial - Base sous-marine
Le vaisseau spatial - Base sous-marine
Archival material :
Sunken warship remains underwater, Garonne Sunken warship remains underwater, Garonne Sunken warship remains underwater, Garonne
 

Above 8 images: World War Two shipwreck dredged up from Garonne river for transformation into The Spaceship.

 

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