Mikhail Karikis: SeaWomen

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Sound and film installation which explores the vanishing community of now elderly female divers (haenyeo) on the north Pacific island of Jeju, who dive to great depths, without oxygen, to collect seafood and pearls.

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[...] In his moving sound and film installation SeaWomen, 2012, Mikhail Karikis abandons certain cinematic conventions, such as synch sound, narration and subtitles, to free up our interaction with his subjects and leave much of their world unknown. What drew Karikis initially to the fisherwomen (haenyeo) of Jeju island, off the South Korea coast, was the squeal-whistle they emit after surfacing from a dive in which they use no sub-aqua equipment. For an artist whose main interest is the sculptural qualities of the voice, this sound - which conjures a dolphin's cry or the note made by someone blowing across the top of an empty bottle - places the human body in between sea mammal and instrument. [...] SeaWomen also features an older generation [...] whose livelihood and lifestyle are under threat. [...] Karikis has used the subterranean gallery (of Wapping Project) to great effect. [...] By sitting on the floor, the audience is not only immersed in the women's acoustic world but also experiences an aspect of their collective customs. The sound swells from waves to thunder, to the chugging boat engine, to the women singing a call-and-response song, to the chatter and laughter of their day, an impassioned moment of debate, all interspersed with the eerie whistle of their dives. The overlapping sounds create a physical response and an impulse to sway suggesting that an ancient rhythmic source is being tapped into that we in the West have largely lost. [...] SeaWomen is a joyful eulogy to a passing way of life. Karikis affirms the refusal of the human body to submit to entropy - the vitality of these women, some of whom are unsteady on their feet on land, is fully released underwater. For Karikis, the world beneath is the dream and its source. (From Cherry Smyth's review in Art Monthly, Jul-Aug 2013, issue 358)