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detail of The Tourists by Hew Locke

all photos this page © Indra Khanna 2015

The Tourists
2015    Intervention in 27 cabins
Mixed media
Boats  Soldiers

Intervention on board the battle cruiser HMS Belfast, commissioned by the Imperial War Museum, London.

The Belfast was active in the Korean War as well as WWII, and visited the Caribbean in 1962, stopping at Trinidad on its final voyage. Locke was struck by the on-board mannequins of crewmen in the various spaces such as the dentist, DJ and baker. Such figures are used in many historic settings to demonstrate how people lived their daily lives. Locke subverts this museological role, using them to demonstrate the internal lives of the crew and touch on issues of history and mortality.

Locke has created an alternative history in which the sailors are preparing their own costumes and props to take part in the Trinidad Carnival. As is traditional, satire, the acknowledgement of deep fears, psychological and unconscious truths sit alongside the celebratory aspect of Carnival. This carnival is not just about the crew, but also their influence on the places they visit. The songs being played by the ship's DJ (Rum and Coca Cola, Brown Skin Girl, Jean and Dinah, Jamaican Farewell) reflect just one effect the arrival of sailors, throughout history, tend to have on places they visit.

The title The Tourists is ironic this is not a cruise ship and they are not tourists. Ships such as these have been sent by different countries to parts of the globe where there is conflict or change, as symbols of physical and diplomatic power. It is muscle flexing. It is flying the flag. This has been true from the Age of Discovery to the Gulf Wars and beyond.

The 2016 film, also called The Tourists, is Locke's creative re-imagining of this Installation.

See also HMS Belfast

Click here to read interview about The Tourists with ArtImage

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All images © Hew Locke & ArtImage unless otherwise indicated