A photograph taken in 1950 shows Le Corbusier and his cousin Pierre Jeanneret in a pedal boat in Chandigarh, India (see publication). It is a compelling image of the renowned architect and the designer on a visibly makeshift vessel readying to embark across Sukhna Lake. The history of this photograph and boat are uncertain. The scene, however, is endearingly playful, as if Le Corbusier and Jeanneret had just discovered a newfangled plaything—watercraft.
This image is a departure point for Mare Liberum’s exhibition and research residency at the Carpenter Center entitled or, The Other Island. Based in Brooklyn, Mare Liberum (or “The Free Seas”) is a collective that uses exhibitions, workshops, publications, and river voyages to guide inquiries into the environmental conditions and histories of waterways. For this presentation, they organized workshops for building punts—flat-bottom boats with a square bow used to transport cargo. Boatbuilding is the primary point of entry for their work, with past project designs ranging from ocean-crossing rafts, to boats made of paper, to kayaks produced with bamboo and repurposed museum banners.
The exhibition title is taken from Michel Tournier’s novel Friday, or, The Other Island, a retelling of the Daniel Defoe classic, Robinson Crusoe. In Tournier’s version, Crusoe vacillates between “civilization” and a return to a state of nature. With our current fixation on rising sea levels, forced migration of island nations, and ocean acidification, we are reminded that the human footprint is indelibly recorded on planet Earth.
or, The Other Island considers these scenarios through discussions of local water ecosystems, pollution, and neglect in relation to the City of Boston and its low-lying neighborhoods and waterways.
Each day from 10 am to 3 pm from Sep 3–10, the public is invited to take part in a participatory boatbuilding session on the Carpenter Center’s terrace. No building knowledge necessary. As the culmination of the residency, a public voyage and field trip down the Mystic and Chelsea River will take place on Sat, Sep 12.