Universal Bizargo: Absurdist Artist Stuck in Hanjin Absurdity
The typical person generally thinks of international shipping as a boring topic, if he or she even thinks of the topic at all.
However, this industry–which profoundly but invisibly impacts that typical person’s daily life–is full of interesting storylines: the huge bankruptcy of Hanjin shipping, dockworker strikes, and the investigation and prosecutions of shipping lines for price fixing, just to name a few.
What’s more, there are even international shipping stories so absurd, so bizarre that they’ve spawned a whole blog series from Universal Cargo called Universal Bizargo. Of course, these odd stories don’t happen every day, and it’s been about two years since the last Universal Bizargo post.
It took the Hanjin collapse to bring the series back, but the largest bankruptcy in international shipping history isn’t strange enough in and of itself to inspire a Universal Bizargo post. In fact, the only thing bizarre about the news of a major shipping line going down is that such an occurrence didn’t happen sooner with carriers losing billions of dollars over the better part of the last decade.
What inspired this Universal Bizargo post is a passenger who got stuck on a Hanjin container ship when the company collapsed.
Rebecca Moss is an artist and filmmaker who was selected for Access Gallery’s Twenty-Three Days at Sea: Traveling Artist Residency. That residency put her on the Hanjin Geneva, which got stranded at sea by Hanjin’s bankruptcy.
While having a passenger outside of the crew on a container ship is not unheard of, it is not an everyday occurrence. It’s obviously not an everyday occurrence to have a major carrier file for receivership either. Hanjin’s bankruptcy is nearly unprecedented. It even took what Access Gallery describes as a “highly unconventional” artist residency to get Moss on the Hanjin Geneva right when the shipping line that operates the vessel went under and couldn’t afford to get the ship to port.
Yes, nothing was everyday that got Rebecca Moss stuck at sea, and of course, she is not your everyday artist either.
Moss’s specialty is the absurd.
Some might even describe her art as bizarre: jumping on a pogo stick in a puddle while dressed like a frog, spinning rubble on a record player in front of the remains of WWII concrete pillbox defenses, rolling down a hill onto a patch of set mousetraps…
“The predicament in which I currently find myself is extraordinarily absurd,” Moss was quoted by the Wall Street Journal as writing in an email from the ship.
This situation has plunged Rebecca Moss into the international limelights with articles like the Wall Street Journal one referenced above. What’s really amazing is that against incalculable odds, an absurdist is put in this crazily absurd situation. The situation is undoubtedly perfect for Moss’s sensibilities.
A statement she released on Facebook reinforces that:
For those familiar with my art practise, and with my sense of humour, this situation is oddly suited to me and I am sure will inform my work for years to come. In my work I devise slapstick scenarios that seek to understand a dynamic between humanity and a landscape by pushing situations to a point of crisis….
Surely, we can all agree that this turn of events has enormous potential, and is strangely tailored to my interests…
Facebook provided much insight into Moss’s situation, including the following anecdote that would fit perfectly in an existentialist absurdism crossover of a Samuel Becket play and episode of Seinfeld:
“My favourite question was from a company in America, direct to my Facebook, inquiring about frozen french fries that are currently with us in the containers,” [Moss] said. “In a strange turn of events, I ended up becoming a spokeswoman for the plight of frozen french fries.”
A person who works hard to create “scenarios that seek to understand a dynamic between humanity and a landscape by pushing situations to a point of crisis” fell right into such a scenario.
That made Rebecca Moss’s story worthy of a Universal Bizargo post.
On Saturday, Moss’s absurd adventure at sea ended when she was able to disembark in Tokyo, another article from the Wall Street Journal reported.
Previous Universal Bizargo stories: