In today’s internet culture there are numerous false trails, bogus web sites, conspiracy sites, hoax items and then we have the main stream media which of course is all true especially the BBC but back in the late eighties…..
500 Miles out into the Atlantic, where NATO exercises and rehearses for wars to come? there is a work of art taken seriously by the commanders of nuclear submarines.
As they may search for the largest recorded man-made structure. they may be a little puzzled why they are unable to locate its whereabouts. Even when using sophisticated sonar arrays, together with specialized operational charts which contain every reported sonar contact, wreck or obstruction known, they will fail to find it. But there it is marked on the Hydro graphic Departments database and covering and area of over 500 meters, it appears but is no longer there! It seems to have disappeared.
During the eighties there began a cult of marine archaeology it filled the TV screens, books were published and films continue to be made. The wrecks of the Mary Rose, Titanic,Bismark to name a few, have held a fascination for most of us. The evidence came in the form of video pictures sent to us from the most inaccessible parts of the deepest oceans It may as well have been coming from the Mars or the Moon! Our probes have brought us things hitherto only accessed by our subjective imaginations. With science and technology we probe away, and nothing it seems is beyond the reach of our meta sensory instruments. The findings we have though this stuff may be heard, measured, evaluated, confirmed, classified and of course believed!
This belief in the facts as presented via the medium of these technologies can help to sanction the weapons to be launched, give authority for diseased organs to be removed or sentence `criminals` on evidence produced by forensic science. We seem to have adjusted to these new phenomena with a false consciousness, it negates our experience of the `real` events. We only witness the event via meta sensory apparatus and therefore base our belief in the event by assumptions we already have as to the nature of the event. Yet this will be individually perceived and experienced and as a consequence – subjective!
To experience the object of the wreck at a depth of 3,850 meters, you cannot touch it with naked flesh but we can still claim it is there. Belief in this meta sensory presented information makes us all subject to basing our thoughts on these assumptions. It is with this knowledge the stage illusionist manipulates our perceptions of the event seeing the person disappear but prior to the internet were denied the fact of how it was done. Even science using logical thinking may fail to perceive the facts of the event especially if it assumed too much about what it considered to be the facts in the first place so is therefore also an unreliable witness.
This state of affairs is incongruous to science and yet it is this incongruity that confronted the commander of our nuclear submarine. The facts stare at him on the chart and is there on the database, but it is not there in the findings of the submarines equipment and is therefore `not there` in real terms.
As a sonar controller in the Royal Navy during an exercise during the cold war, I was tracking a submarine in order to authorize the launch of the torpedo carrying missile towards the target. It was launched from another ship many miles away, and while we all stared at our sonar screens, I drew a white line accross the sky in my imagination towards the target. Shortly after the torpedo was released we all felt the impact, as it found its prey; the submarine imploded and over a hundred Russian submariners met their maker – in theory anyway!
The `fact` of wreck HH two,two,six/351/01, was established but for those who attended my exhibition,`Leviathan Found` first held in 1989, they will have seen things quite differently.
As winter drew in 18 months after the exhibitions, a drafty stable attic held the source of an illusion. How 18 feet of matchwood, hardboard and plaster came to be assembled to produce ” a ship that sailed no earthly ocean” has only been revealed to me the creator, by those who have visited my exhibitions. Described as an “impressive, evocative object…full of symbolic allusions and allegories”… the model was the source of the illusion and it worked very well in the context for what it was made for. The exhibition “Leviathan Found”, did not appear as an art exhibition; it was held in an old ex-church, busy and accessible, close to the center of Norwich which members of the public, including many tourists, wandered into freely.
The atmosphere was deliberately authoritative and educational with corporate image present. Fisheye Submarine Technology, my bogus company displayed there findings using photographs, video, found artifacts, models and correspondence. These led the visitors along a familiar path until they were confronted with the wreck itself. Carefully concealed at the end of the exhibition it lay there in state. I canot speak for the thousands of people who have attended the exhibitions but their reactions did prove revealing. When faced with the Leviathan, arguments ensued; the familiar context in which information preceded the wreck challenged the illusions and distortions of everyday life. The facts were now seen in a new light. ” The wreck having the form of a ships hull, has a superstructure that is no way nautical, being made up of fantastic houses and weird buildings which are attached to the hull by rigging.” ” The towering piecemeal structure teeters precariously” and “listing to one side…a beam engine is exposed through a hole in the ships side devouring the vessels resources to stay afloat, meanwhile, unaware of the danger, the building continues upwards on deck because the giant plumb line, visible to all those on board, confirms the ship to be on an even keel.”
“How could a ship like this really exist/” people would remark. A very “elaborate hoax” perhaps, only those familiar with the venue as an arts center realized it was `art.`
It was only after a red faced Martin Dean, Head of The Archaeological Diving Unit at the University of St. Andrews had left my exhibition, did I fully realize how easy it was to process information and distort the facts and create anything you want really. If I could do it what could governments with all their resources do?….Whether art can be used to strip away these illusions I will not comment.The first EAST exhibition was held at a clearly recognized art venue in Norwich. “Leviathan” was a major installation there but on this occasion the response from people proved quite different. Writing in the Eastern Evening News, Ian Sutton commented, “Unfortunately, because it is an art exhibition, our expectations cancel out the hugely satisfying joke that ********** intended with the shipwreck, is it fabulous archaeology or is it art? If it is an art exhibition then it must be art – AND THATS NO JOKE!”
Two gentlemen interested in models came to “Leviathan Found” with prior knowledge of the model. They walked straight towards it and only afterwards glanced at the rest of the exhibition. Realising the video ( was indeed a film of the model itself )they had the compusion to inform the rest of the visitors with their enlightened knowledge…”Look! You can see they`re really match sticks!” they proclaimed while pointing at the film on the screen. While they was leaving, I had to ask one of them if he believed the Titanic was really found. He snapped “Of course it was I`ve seen it.” I replied, “Oh, so you are a diver are you?” “No,” he replied “but I`ve seen it!”