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The Vandenberg, the Sunken Ship Art Gallery


The idea is so strange that someone was bound to think of it. For his latest exhibition, the Austrian photographer Andreas Franke has chosen the bridge of a military vessel, the General Hoyt S. Vandenberg, which has spent the last two years underwater in the Florida Keys National Maritime Sanctuary. Entited Vandenberg: Life Below the Surface, the series features twelve digital images taken a year ago inside the wreckage, since retouched by Franke, a frequent diver.

They depict surrealist scenes of humans living on the various parts of the sunken ship—scuttled in 2009—as if they were on land. Franke, a commercial photographer, has imagined, among the schools of fish, a boxing match, a washerwoman hanging her laundry to dry, a ballet rehearsal, a child balancing on a railing, and a psychiatric patient being taken for a stroll in his wheelchair. The images are artificial but affecting nonetheless, and can only be viewed while wearing a scuba gear.

Covered by a layer of plexiglass and encased in a steel frame, the photographs are held to the ship’s surface with strong magnets, returned to their birthplace, the circle closed. “These are mystified scenes of the past that play in a fictional space,” explains Franke. “Dreamworlds, where you can get lost or you can identify with. This makes a new and unexpected atmosphere.”

Jonas Cuénin

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