ship: steel, dock floats, concrete, paint, anchors, steel cable, various other mixed media
guard house: plywood, galvanized steel, LCD monitors, security cameras, media player, audio amplifier
approx: 2400 x 144 x 750 cm (ship only)

Commissioned by the Indianapolis Museum of Art

Eden II in Indianapolis

Click image to enlarge.


"EDEN II" is a public artwork, and is located on the grounds of the Indianapolis Museum of Art (US). It is a mixed-media installation, consisting of a derelict ship on the lake and a guardhouse and its equipment on the shore. It was commissioned in 2010 by the Indianapolis Museum of Art for their sculpture garden, known as the 100 Acres Park.

"EDEN II" consists of a ship made of steel, dock floats, concrete, paint, anchors, steel cable, and various other mixed media, plus a guard house constructed with plywood and galvanized steel, containing LCD monitors, security cameras, a media player, and an audio amplifier. The work combines real and fictional elements: the speakers play both local weather forecasts and dispatches from imaginary guards (whose voices were provided by IMA security staff), while the monitors display footage from the security camera trained on the viewer as well as simulated imagery from within the ship. It is intended as a commentary on global warming, with the refugees on board the ship driven out by "rising sea levels and the ecological impact of climate change".

Although the original plan was to use a pre-existing vessel, in the end Mäkipää opted to "construct a floating structure that resembles a ship" with the assistance of the local engineering company Silver Creek Engineering, Inc. A steel frame gives the ship the necessary strength to withstand waves, wind, snow, and ice. A system of pontoons and weights keep it afloat and upright, and it is moored in place with weighted anchor lines. It was constructed both onsite and at the Herron School of Art & Design by Mäkipää, the Icelandic artist Halldúr Úlfarsson, Herron students, structural engineers from Silver Creek, and the IMA Design and Installation Crew. Museum director Maxwell Anderson has theorized that, in spite of the effort that went into constructing it, the ship will be slowly demolished by its aquatic environment, and sees no reason to stop it: "We can imagine leaving Tea’s piece to become a shipwreck. Why not just let it do what it needs to do?"

This artwork is typical of Mäkipää in its examination of human beings and their ability to affect their environment. Much of her work is devoted to highlighting environmental change and the role of humans in the destruction and possible preservation of the planet. She treats humans as a unique animal species with a unique ability to reshape the natural world.

Eden II
Rebecca Uchill, December 2013

In 2007, Tea Mäkipää stood on the beach of Iran’s Kish Island, facing the wrecked offshore cargo vessel Koula F, a tourist attraction known more popularly as “The Greek Ship.” Mäkipää was on day 17 of her multi-week, ground transit-only sojourn from Weimar to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where her contribution for the Sharjah Biennial would be a postulated 10 Commandments for the 21st Century. The first of these commandments was the guiding principle of this jounrey: “Do not fly.” On Kish Island, typically advertised as a resort destination, Mäkipää found herself confronted with other non-holiday travelers in a state of prolonged transience. For years Kish, known as a “visa-free-zone” has been a site of passage for workers in the UAE with expired visas, required to leave for a set period before applying for reentry. Mäkipää was struck by the large numbers of laborers from other lands – Filipino, Pakistani, Indian – who found themselves, in a word, trapped in Kish – sometimes with poor accommodations and diminishing viable sources of income. In an interview six years later, Mäkipää recounted her assessment of the situation there: “You might become a person in an impossible situation, being not able to stay, and not able to leave.”

Like the Greek Ship, decaying in its striking silhouette, never to touch ground, members of the migrant population that Mäkipää encountered in Kish were stuck in-between destinations, in a condition of statelessness beyond their control. It was shortly after her visit to Kish that Mäkipää proposed to produce another wrecked ship, Eden II, in response to my invitation to participate in the new Indianapolis-based urban art park called 100 Acres: The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park, on the grounds of the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA). Eden II would be a shipwreck modeled after the Greek Ship, centrally positioned in the 35-acre lake at the center of the 100 Acres wetland park. On board of this fantastical ship Mäkipää imagined a coterie of refugees, trapped just yards from shore.

Completed in 2010, Eden II is a sculpture of a shipwreck sitting on a pontoon base. Mäkipää designed the ship with enhanced foreshortening, giving its already sizable bulk the illusion of being implausibly massive from the viewing station on shore. A nearby guardhouse, also part of Mäkipää’s project, sits locked and abandoned, and the ship immobile, seemingly anchored and left to decompose. Yet the viewer is presented with signs of life – the sounds of human cries for help emanating from the boat, footage appearing to come from the ship visible through a window on monitors in the guard station, a jacket draped across the guard’s chair, waiting for its owner to return. Through apparent surveillance videos and security radio transmissions unfolds a narrative of a mutiny occurring on the captain’s bridge. Mäkipää imagines Eden II’s passengers as refugees, displaced from their homes by environmental damage, and now fighting to wrest power in the ship’s central command station.

Themes of environmental destruction, and other apocalyptic situations, are familiar in Mäkipää’s work. Her 2003 photograph Sisters proposed a vignette of two young women who have scavanged an empty city for their meal of rats; more recently, the artist’s 2011 Oilissimo pays tribute to the devastation of oil spills with a fountain of oil flanked by animals and vegetation coated by black tar. Mäkipää identifies her approach as one of “compressing reality,” explaining: “I try to describe a phenomenon that is interesting to me. . . . I try to compress it, not (into) a symbol, but a reference.” In the “compressed reality” of Eden II, the viewer on shore faces certain dilemmas: assessing whether there are actual people on board the ship, disentangling the ambiguity of how this fictional group of refugees have found their vessel in the center of the American Midwest. Simultaneously, the audience sees live surveillance footage of the guardhouse filmed from overhead – visitors to the artwork find that they themselves are also watched and tracked by Eden II’s guard station. As with much of Mäkipää’s work, the piece succeeds in placing the viewer within a constructed and uncanny scenario, suggesting a fantastical world with ties to common, and uncomfortable, realities. Eden II is not simply a symbol of a ship trapped in limbo, but a situation calling for its audience’s active response.