Fri 8 Jul 2022 to Fri 5 Aug 2022
Artist: Nina Katchadourian
Pace presents To Feel Something That Was Not of Our World, Nina Katchadourian’s first exhibition in the London gallery. Marking the American artist’s first solo show in the UK in nearly a decade, this exhibition is the result of an extensive investigation of and direct engagement with a true story that has fascinated the artist since childhood.
Katchadourian’s multidisciplinary practice takes many forms, from video, drawing, photography, and performance to sculpture and sound-based work. Regardless of the discipline, Katchadourian’s guiding force is an intense curiosity that in this exhibition focuses on themes of resourcefulness, creative capacity under duress, hope, and care.
To Feel Something That Was Not of Our World is a response to the experiences described in Survive the Savage Sea (1973) by Dougal Robertson, a book Katchadourian encountered aged seven and has reread nearly every year since. The book recounts the story of how Robertson, his wife, three of their children, and a friend survived for 38 days adrift in a tiny dinghy in the Pacific Ocean after a pod of orcas attacked and sank their boat. By her own description, Katchadourian has been “possessed” by this extraordinary story for most of her life.
Early in the global lockdown of 2020, Katchadourian got in touch with the eldest son, Douglas Robertson, and initiated a daily exchange that lasted from 15 June to 22 July 2020 — the exact time period of the shipwreck in 1972. Their 38-day conversation took place across a series of daily, recorded phone calls from the artist’s home in Berlin to Robertson’s home in London. Just as her mother first read the account to her as a child, Katchadourian now heard Survive the Savage Sea recounted to her by one of the survivors. Katchadourian and Robertson discussed the details of each day’s events, as well as deeper questions around the mental shift from rescue to survival, and how improvization and resourcefulness function in a situation where the stakes could not be higher.
The installation transforms the gallery space into ocean and vessel for both the story of the shipwreck and the intimate conversation between Robertson and Katchadourian. To Feel Something That Was Not of Our World invites viewers into a personal-museological exhibition of videos, sculptures, photographs, drawings, text message exchanges, and excerpts from the nearly 50 hours of audio recordings. For Katchadourian, the Robertsons’ ingenuity under pressure is centeral to the story’s magnetism and has deep ties to the artist’s ongoing exploration of the relationship between creativity and constraint.
There is particular resonance to the subject of a shipwreck at this moment in time when so many have experienced isolation and uncertainty, unsure of what rescue and survival will require. The title of the exhibition is a phrase from one of the interviews, where Douglas Robertson expresses his feeling of disbelief at the sight of the ship that rescued them, refusing to believe it was possible even once the ship had turned their way. When Katchadourian asks at what point he finally believed it, he answers, “The rope…To feel something that was not us, that was not of our world — that was so good.”
This exhibition takes place on the 50th anniversary of the shipwreck during the very time period when the castaways were adrift. It will be the first time that Katchadourian and the survivors meet in person.
Installation View, Nina Katchadourian: To Feel Something That Was Not of Our World, Jul 8 – Aug 5, Pace Gallery, London © Nina Katchadourian. Photo: Damian Griffiths, courtesy Pace Gallery