The Ship of Fools originated from various explorations of the concept of hell. A couple of years ago a few of my projects dealt with a construction of a hell environment, modeling it on the formal organization of Dante’s Inferno. I was interested in developing several layers within this environment, including one of the outer layer—Limbo, with an attempt to relate them to my own world. Limbo is a state or condition of neglect, confinement, and/or oblivion. In this performative, participatory project, people explore their own personalities that exist in Limbo.
This project is referencing both an oil painting attributed to Hieronymus Bouch (c. 1490-1500), called The Ship of Fools, and Sebastian Brant’s book (c. 1492) with the same name, which is organized as short chapters introducing characters who are on a boat, heading toward, but never reaching, a fools’ heaven. Both works describe a similar scenario of a group of “fools” who are stuck on a boat attempting to go somewhere, but are unable to. Brant’s manuscript is organized in short, one-page chapters introducing its characters, this manuscript informed the organization of this project where each fool aboard the Ship of Fools is introduced in a short video chapter. The boat is a stage where people give voice to their hopes, fears, or weaknesses, be they small, mundane issues, existential hardships, or concerns related to our current political, cultural, and social landscape.
Participants identify the “fool” within them—those aspects that create stagnation—and, with prompts, actualize them in front of a video camera, on the deck of the boat. The process is documented by a video camera that frame participants from the waist below to allow them anonymity while they express their frustrations.
David Margolin, David Wallace, Elizabeth Letcher, Leif Granberg, Lee Whitefield, Michael Goodier, Paulette Zamora, Paul Grayson, Penny Jennings, Signe Brewer, Randy Sexton, Yariv Kainan.