Virginia Ryan, Steven Feld: The Castaways Project

$20.00 USD

VoxLox Catalog, CD + DVD (packaged in double DVD case); Release date: January 15, 2007

The Castaways Project was initiated by visual artist and writer Virginia Ryan in 2003. From 2003-2008 she made c. 2000 sculptural paintings, each 9.5 x 11.5 inches, from washed-up materials collected along local shorelines around Accra, Ghana. All the works are white-washed and flicked through with grey-gold, resonant with the colors of foam and sand as the waves break on the very shores from where the inhabitants were once taken and enslaved to build the new world. The works fill walls and rooms, creating an environment concerned with washed-in and washed-out history and memory of displacements, gold and slavery along the one-time African Gold Coast. In 2006 Ryan invited media artist Steven Feld to collaborate. Feld created an audio environment titled Anomabo Shoreline, from ocean sounds at one of Ryan's collecting places, and an ambient video, Where Water Touches Land, about the beach environment and Ryan's work to collect and transform the objects. The Castaways Project package includes a 32 page color catalog of Castaways art by Ryan, and Feld's audio CD and video on DVD, packaged in a DVD box.

THE CASTAWAYS PROJECT: Artist Statements (written in 2006)
Virginia Ryan

Since 2003 I have produced at my studio in Accra, Ghana, about one thousand Castaways. Each piece is a collage composition created from washed-up materials I collected along four local shorelines: Pram Pram, Jamestown, Labadi, and Anomabo. All the works are white-washed and flicked through with grey-gold, resonant with the colors of foam and sand as the waves break on the very shores from where the inhabitants were once taken and enslaved to build the new world. 

Castaways are exhibited as a collective artwork of two hundred or more pieces, entire walls or rooms with the pieces hung close together in rows, as if in a continuous wave, remembering and recording the simple stuff of people’s contemporary needs and desires along the one-time Gold Coast of West Africa. This exhibit format emphasizes the power of repetition and number, creating an environment concerned with the memory of gold, slavery, contacts, movement, oceans, beaches, shorelines, people, and displacements. The pieces are constructed from organic and inorganic materials, objects that were once desired and purchased, used and worn, carried and discarded, left to wash out and carried back in. 

Castaways is a continual work in progress. My intention is to regularly return to collect and transform the prima materia in an act of re-cognition of the despoiling of sand and water, and re-connection with the places that inspired the project. 

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Audio CD, 62 minutes, stereo
Steven Feld

When I first saw Virginia Ryan’s Castaways in 2004, I found them quite echoic. In their material tactility, color, volume, and assemblage they were audible to me as a complete sound environment. Viewing some one hundred Castaways on Ryan’s Accra studio floor, I felt as though I was putting my ear to a huge seashell and listening to the detritus of history. In the rows of objects I could hear the washing-up-and-out sounds that deposited Virginia Ryan’s raw data, her signs of multiple human and material pasts, on the shorelines of Ghana in the present. Anomabo Shoreline is a composition that responds to this way of hearing the visual material of Ryan’s Castaways, creating for and with them an acoustic memory of where the Gold Coast becomes the Black Atlantic. Composed from recordings made at several locations along the Anomabo beach, this composition is both a stand-alone listening document and part of a sound installation to accompany exhibition of Castaways.

Video on DVD, 15 minutes
Steven Feld 

Filmed and photographed at Anomabo beach, and at Virginia Ryan’s studio in Accra, Ghana, this short documentary follows Ryan on one of her expeditions to Anomabo to collect environmental data for Castaways, and then back to her studio where we see the transformative process by which the works are created. Ryan’s commentary presents the history of the project, and its significance as a sensuous meditation on environment and memory.

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