SEA – SHIPPING – SUN
Tiffany Sia, Yuri Pattison
Tiffany Sia and Yuri Pattison, SEA – SHIPPING – SUN, 2021, video, 11:30 min.
[For optimal viewing please select Fullscreen]
Sea – Shipping – Sun
How do we reckon with our attachments to place, and their knotted historical relations? A meditation on maritime trade routes, SEA – SHIPPING – SUN (2021), is a short film directed by Tiffany Sia and Yuri Pattison shot over the span of 2 years to render a simulated duration of a day, from dawn until dusk. The film is set against a soundtrack of shipping forecasts from archival BBC Radio 4 broadcasts. The sun emerges and disappears, again and again.
Issued by the British Meteorological Office on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the shipping forecast functions to disseminate “gale warnings for seafarers and [communicate] weather information from coastal stations,” originating in a time before GPS and satellite telecommunication technologies when sailors had only the radio to rely on. These broadcasts, continuing a British maritime tradition and no longer serving a practical purpose, are purely nostalgic. Sia and Pattison draw from the poetics of the shipping forecasts and reassemble recordings pulled from two pivotal dates of recent history, 23 June 2016/2021 and 30 June 1994/2020/2021, and set them against an anachronistic setting of shipping channels in Hong Kong.
Multiple scales of time and place come to the fore. Are historical shifts seeable? The term “sea change” originates from Shakespeare’s The Tempest:
Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made:
Those pearls that were his eyes;
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
The contemporary usage of the idiom, denoting a paradigm shift, obscures the original meaning that Shakespeare intended. Here, “sea change” describes a putrefaction of a corpse brought on by the organisms and salt of the ocean bed. The sea contains a submerged history. Currents trace trade routes, and also draw a means of escape. While the sea binds communities together, it also disappears and drowns them. An ambient archival broadcast roils over footage of sea channel traffic.
In the detritus and wakes of empires, these times necessitate embracing the eternal restlessness and statelessness that befalls the fate of a colonial or postcolonial subject. Achille Mbembe warns that to bind oneself to a fixed notion of place threatens “fixation, confinement, and strangulation, as well as the threat of disassociation.” Inspired by audio and visual media, from lullabies to ASMR videos, created with the intention of inducing sleep or relaxation, SEA – SHIPPING – SUN gathers a vision of entanglement. We are left with history’s residue: A gentle, rocking waltz over the sea.
 On 23 June 2016 the Brexit or EU referendum took place, resulting in 51.9% votes cast in favor of leaving the European Union; on 23 June 2021 the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily announced that its final edition was to be be released that Thursday, 24 June 2021 after five top executives were arrested under the National Security Law and the company’s assets were frozen.
 On 30 June 1994 the Patten Proposal goes into effect, countering a formal notification from Beijing that Hong Kong’s Legislative Council is replaced by a “legal representative institution” after 1 July 1997; also on this day the Hong Kong Clock was unveiled in Tiananmen Square and began to count down the days and seconds to 1 July 1997—the handover of Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to the People’s Republic of China; on 30 June 2020, Hong Kong’s National Security Law was signed, passed, and took effect at 23.00hrs; and 30 June 2021 was the deadline for most European Union citizens to apply to live permanently in the UK as settled residents after Brexit.
 Achille Membe, Necropolitics (Durham NC: Duke University Press, 2019), p. 189.
SEA – SHIPPING – SUN was originally commissioned by The Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin and produced by Tiffany Sia and Yuri Pattison in response to Pattison’s solo exhibition, the engine (2020–2021), The Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin.
Also presented as part of this Prospections “No Linear Fucking Time” focus is Sia and Pattison’s chapbook, Weird Times (2021), which presents a brief history of time-keeping technologies through their relation to colonialist expansion, capitalist production, and warfare. It also offers a proposition of “lived time” as an alternative to dominant temporal orders.