A large block of marble is excavated from a Chinese quarry; we watch it being transported onto a cargo ship. As the ship sets sail a number of Chinese workers begin to chip away at the rough gigantic material, firstly removing the sides from the block, and cutting the material into chunks before we see the marble begin to be carved and shaped further. What is being created on this journey in the middle of the ocean from this raw material is single classical style column. Beautifully filmed, we watch the transformation and journey of the marble, in a shot where we view the scene from above scale is distorted as the block sits small in comparison to its large vessel container, which, likewise, sails in the middle of the expansive ocean. On the ground the marble regains its grand scale against the Chinese workers who we watch skillfully carve the column. The camera follows the workers, in close ups we see the stones white residue covering one of the men, resting in the pores of his skin as he chips away at the marble. Too the voyage is viewed, from the highest point of the ship we look out into the never ending ocean, and the beautiful landscape at times turbulent and rainy and at others a peacefully sun drenched horizon. As the column is completed a large tarpaulin cover is erected across the ship and the ship continues its ongoing voyage.
Describing the idea of this journey as a ‘fairytale’ Adrian Paci tells this story not as a documentary but as a mesmerising and cinematic vision. The classical style column derived from Ancient Greek and then Roman architecture is an immediately recognisable iconic structure familiar across Europe’s ancient buildings. Notions of history and memory collide with the present day realities of expanding economics, global industries and trading, in witnessing the columns construction by Chinese men on a factory-ship as it sets sail from east to west, our sense of familiarity slips between different states. The 25 minute video was made specifically for Paci’s solo exhibition ‘Lives in Transit’ in Paris which is where the column itself ended up. Displayed horizontally outside the gallery, the column becomes a sculptural object in its own right.
I watched ‘The Column’ at the Museum of Byzantine Culture where the film is being exhibited as part of the 4th Thessaloniki Biennial.