SeaWomen (2012) is a video installation that questions the meanings of aural subcultures in activating a sense of professional identity and solidarity through the sharing of a common purpose in sound making. Building on Karikis’ previous exploration of the human voice as a sculptural and geopolitical sonic tool (Sounds from Beneath: Whitechapel Gallery, 2012; Manifesta 9, Tate, 2012; Tate, 2014), this video installation examines specifically the role of aural subcultures in community formation. Significantly, SeaWomen’s perspective presents a non-Western example of aural production generated by women, and raises questions about the under-theorisation of non-Western aural feminist practices and discourse.
Collaborating closely with the last generation of female sea-workers living on the South Korean island of Jeju, the installation examines the eco-feminist work of these divers and their practice of an ancient breathing technique. Through a sustained anthropological investigation on Jeju Island and an examination of the relationship between image making, video, sound and performance, this installation ruptures perceptual and formal expectations by blending documentary footage with ideas of theatre and performance. The installation places the unique sonorities associated with these women (breathing, communication calls and work songs), in dialogue with wider political, environmental and global economic concerns, to create an evocative exhibition space that provides an insight into an unorthodox model of self-organised trans-vocal democracy that resists currents of globalisation.
SeaWomen was originally installed at The Wapping Project (London, 2012) and went on to be installed at the Arnolfini (Bristol, 2013), Alderburgh Music Festival (2013), Museo de la Ciudad de Cuernavaca (Mexico, 2013), Nottingham Contemporary (Nottingham, 2013), Shorelines (Southend on Sea, 2013) and Aquatopia, Tate (St Ives, 2013). The work was featured on the South Korean news station YTN and primetime BBC series Truckers. It was also shortlisted for a Celeste International Art Prize in Rome 2012.