This essay contains the descriptive text for the Boatman installation. It was part of the proposal to the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra in preparation forthe Boatman's inclusion in their National Sculpture Prize and Exhibition 2003.

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description  of  the  boatman  installation


The work consists of a small boat (dimensions 67cm length, 30cm width & 16cm depth) with wheels attached. This boat moves along an aluminium track which projects out from the wall at a height of 2.5 to 3 metres ie. above the heads of the viewers to a length of about 4.5metres.  A small cutout figure in the boat appears to be rowing the boat as its arms & body move backwards & forwards with the boat’s movement.

In actual fact, the movement of the boat is controlled by a motor which in turn is controlled by a programmed controller with several sensor inputs.  The sensors are located in the surrounding space to detect movement and density of the viewing public.  The outputs from the programmable controller, manipulating the movement of the boat is a complex mix of programmed coded instructions, input from the sensors and random inputs. 

The basic speed of the boat is about 1metre/minute but the boat’s movement will vary from a straight-line trajectory to that of a stuttering jerky movement.  Its forward movement motion can be instantly translated into a reverse movement.  The boat’s movement along the track will have a strong sense of the unpredictable to it.
Technically, the boat is attached by means of a catenary nylon line to the motor.  This means that the overall length of movement along the track is tightly defined allowing it to dangle precariously (but still safely attached) at the end of its aluminium track.  The overall weight of the boat is about 0.5 kg.

The tension created by the boat’s overall movement is a basic ingredient of the work.  It relates directly to experiences gathered from my earlier transient performance work from the 1980’s.

The work is powered from the 240v mains through a power converter supplying the 24volts needed by the motor and controller.  It would under normal conditions continue to operate for 3-6 months without maintenance.  It would be advisable to switch to the power point off at lock-up time.

Arthur Wicks
November 2002





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