open culture bottle project
The Open Culture Bottle Project is comprised of 26 collaged artworks–one for each letter of the alphabet– remixed from multiple open source collections* of images printed on cotton. Each collage is then rolled into tight cylinders, popped into recycled glass bottles with real corks, and sealed with colored beeswax (no plastic or anything destructive to the marine environment is used). The collages are attached with copper wires to the corks, which makes it easier to pull it out, once it's found, and may allow it a greater chance of being found if the bottle breaks. Each artwork is approximately 7”x11” (18 cm x 28 cm), and has an identifying copper tag with url. The url takes you here, showing the bottle and its contents before shipping it out to sea, and where it was launched from. Links are provided to each open source image used in the collage.
If someone finds a bottle, the image can be found in the Image Gallery below, or type in the accompanying URL to see more about the artwork and its component images. Finders are encouraged to upload an image of their found bottle—and map where it was found. Each bottle has it's own page recording its assembly, launch, and find; as well as an image key showing where all the component parts of the collage were sourced from, including links to the actual sources.
So far, bottles have been thrown by a number of friends and relatives: from a motorboat in the Bahamas; from a water taxi in Venice, Italy; off an expedition ship from coast of Greenland; from the shore in Dakar, Senegal; from an adaptive sailboat in Nantucket Sound, MA; from a ferry in San Francisco Bay; from a ferry in the East River, NYC; from the beach in Easthampton, NY; from a riptide at Wasque Beach, MA; from the shore in Wellfleet, MA; swum out in Toulon, France; from a rowboat in the North Sea, Norway, thrown from Cape Flattery, WA, thrown from a jetty into The Gulf of Mexico, TX, from the shore into The Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia. Bottles are scheduled to be thrown in 2017 from a merchant marine ship traveling to Hawaii, and from various points in Australia. Bottles were found in Dakar, Senegal, Wellfleet, MA and Easthampton, NY.
*Open source images are included from: The Rijksmuseum, The Public Domain Review, The New York Public Library , The Wellcome Collection, Creative Commons, The National Gallery of Art, the Walter Museum, and The British Library.
Throwing a message-in-a-bottle into the ocean reflects in an analog way what we hope will happen when we put information in a tsunami wave of digital data–that someone will find our offering and be moved to respond to it. I love the idea of someone finding an unexpected, mysterious treasure, a happy surprise; but also the poetic impulse of making something beautiful that may not be found in my own lifetime–or at all. It has become the best kind of interactive project as friends and family have taken these bottles around the world and documented the throw for this project.
This project also makes people aware of the valuable resources that our libraries and museums have gifted us with–an accessible catalyst for future creativity and cognizance of our past–in addition to showing examples of re-imagining and appreciating the incredible artistry and imagination of bygone days.
The aesthetic of the collages is based on the idea of a curiosity cabinet; a free-association remix of variable thematic capsule compositions by alphabet letter in the manner of John Soane’s house in London, the Connecting Cultures exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum, or the Bartholomäus Spranger exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of art from 2014. An online site titled The Phrontistery provided arcane words at times that became the starting point for some collage titles and builds. Some collages additionally have personal symbolism and quirks specifically inspired by those friends who were willing to throw the bottles in the course of their travels. Look at the "Vision" section on each page to see a deeper layer of what compelled the actualization of the collage images.
While this is tangential to my specific project, I'd also like to reference this fascinating article by Paul Brown on the history of messages in bottles, as a last hopeful communication to loved ones from people on ships in the process of being wrecked.