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Silently For Me

Richard Humann

Silently For Me
Steel, vinyl, ink
96 x 240 x 72 in
244 x 609 x 183 cm
2011

Artbitat, Kaohsiung International Container Arts Festival
Kaohsiung Art Museum
Kaohsiung, Taiwan

The sculptural installation “Silently For Me” visually and definitively tracks the extensive worldwide travels of an individual shipping container over time. By identifying and logging in the serial number of the container, it is possible to accurately follow the destinations of the container from its maiden voyage year’s prior, until its eventual arrival at Kaohsiung City in 2011.

From the extensive data collected, lines of transportation and ports of delivery have been chronicled. This information is used to enumerate the destination routes of the container and precisely lay out a delineation of the voyages it has traversed. The routes of travel have then been applied over a generated map of the world, showing the history of the journeys and the multiple ports of rest. The exterior of the container is then wrapped, floor to ceiling and on three sides, in the massively printed map.

The concept of the piece is two-fold within the “Artbitat” (Home) theme of the biennial exhibition. In one aspect, the hundreds of thousands of shipping containers that constantly circumnavigate the globe often possess new objects that hold promises of home-life enrichment.  These same containers can also enclose personal valuables that are being shipped to a new location for a new life, or a new beginning, but still with our loved and cherished possessions. Either way, the shipping container acts as a vehicle of either new promise or old comfort. The locked container can hold the same wonder, awe and excitement of an unopened present, or the reminiscent well-being of a treasured keepsake box.

The second element of the theme is that of the actual shipping container itself, and how its physical presence can act as an allegory for the ups and downs, ebb and flow, great (and sometimes not-so-great) experience of travel. Long distance and world travel is currently at an unprecedented rate. Never before have so many people traveled so far, so much, and so frequently as they do today. From the latter half of the last century, the world has constantly gotten smaller, and will continue to get smaller for years and years to come.

From a personal perspective, I always eagerly anticipate the travel experience and all that it has to offer—but am still ever so slightly apprehensive of the unforeseen future that awaits. The odyssey that lies ahead will surely have a myriad of adventures, emotions, and experiences. But it’s difficult to imagine, and impossible to predict what will precisely unfold. It is in this nebulous future that both excitement and apprehension can coexist.

It is not long though, after the arrival at a new destination that my hotel room, or temporary lodging becomes my new “home.” It happens quickly and it happens with certainty. Suitcases find their corner, clothing the closet, shoes by the bed, and the toothbrush makes its way next to the bathroom sink. Within minutes the room becomes familiar, and within hours the room becomes home.

Where I am “here” and where I am “now” is my home. The longer I stay, the more the experiential patina deepens in hue. It gets richer in color and more vivid in awareness, and eventually more substantive in memories. Until a day, or a week or two later, that I move on, and my new location is waiting to become my new home.

By mapping the travels and the resting places that this container has journeyed to, it is possible to see all the routes and the ports that it has come to call its home. Of course, this personification, though poetic in nature, is meant to draw us in to the concept, allowing us to identify with the experiences that come with travel, that come with entering a new city or country, and getting acclimated to the surroundings. It is also a reflection of the need to locate and identify where our home is going to be during our stay. Without the comfort and the safety of the knowledge of this location, we are left to wander “homeless” in an unfamiliar city, town or country. Once our home base is firmly established though, wherever and whatever that may be, it becomes the nexus of our time and place.

The charting of this container, and the ability to see its journey worn on it’s exterior, and open to the public, is also a living history of how it eventually ended up in the 2011 Kaohsiung International Container Arts Festival. It has traveled thousands and thousands of long-serving miles away from its original home, and will stop here temporarily before embarking on a new journey elsewhere, where it will once again find thousands of miles of new yet vulnerable travels, as well as the safety of new ports of rest.

The title of the piece finds its roots in a song by the 1960’s folk rock group, Simon & Garfunkel. Their song “Homeward Bound” tells the introspective tale of a well-worn and well-traveled musician on the road, and his thoughts and desires during a quiet moment while waiting in a far-off train station:

I wish I was,
Homeward bound,
Home, where my thought’s escaping,
Home, where my music’s playing,
Home, where my love lies waiting,
Silently for me.

In truth, just as he has been home all along, so have we.

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Richard Humann • Silently For Me • Steel, vinyl • 96″ x 240″ 72″ • 2011

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Richard Humann • Silently For Me • Steel, vinyl • 96″ x 240″ 72″ • 2011

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Richard Humann • Silently For Me installation • Kaohsiung, Taiwan, 2011

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Richard Humann • Silently For Me installation • Kaohsiung, Taiwan, 2011

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Artbitat 2011 Opening Ceremony

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