An infamous sailing vessel commissioned for a solo attempt in the late 1960s to circle the earth without stopping, the "Teignmouth Electron" ended in tragic failure for the amateur yachtsman at its helm.
Beached for decades on the remote Caribbean island of Cayman Brac, the decaying trimaran has long been a muse of artists, inspiring literature, artworks, plays, performances, photographs, folklore, films, songs, and journalistic accounts. For artist Michael Jones McKean, who purchased the boat ten years ago, the vessel operates as a siren-like talisman — a ruin now morphed into relic.
In March 2017, McKean and a team of collaborators traveled to Cayman Brac to create an archaeological record of the "Electron," an effort that culminated in the selection of a single wood fragment from the wreckage site. That fragment will now undergo a rapid-speed aging process, racing across epochs in a matter of weeks to emerge as a fossil — of the boat; of the here-and-now, as well. Inserted deep in the earth’s geologic record, a small portal between timelines, this new fossil will act as the first of 12 beacons in "Twelve Earths."
Unfurling as a 12-part cycle over the course of a decade — a dozen sites located on a single loop around the globe — "Twelve Earths" asserts a contemporary mythos that considers the Earth as a total object. The project’s precisely unified set of artifacts and actions aim to stimulate the recombinatory, transmutational, co-occurring realities ever-present within the world. In its totality, the work will emerge as a sculpture scaled to the earth itself.
Michael Jones McKean (b. 1976, Micronesia) is an associate professor of sculpture and extended media at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he has taught since 2006, and co-director of ASMBLY, in New York.
"Twelve Earths" is co-developed and produced by Fathomers, a creative research institute in Los Angeles dedicated to producing transformative sites and encounters at the intersections of science, technology, and contemporary art.
Follow along at fathomers.org.