Hope Coming On by Lanfranco Aceti was inspired by the comparison of historical and contemporary social struggles, by the forced waves of slaves and migrants that have crossed and continue to cross the seas, at the mercy of the waters and financial exploitation that carry them.
This curated performance by Lanfranco Aceti that mixes dance, music and visual art is centered around the painting by Joseph Mallord William Turner titled The Slave Ship (Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying, Typhoon Coming On) 1840. Hope Coming On acts both as a monumentalizing and memorializing of histories, past and present, in an attempt to understand the journey of mankind which still today displays episode of inhumane indifference towards others and unexpected hidden story characterized by a humane willingness to rescue people by reaching out even in to stormy seas.
The stormy seas become at once the symbolic representation of the finite moment of an immense tragedy while simultaneously the opportunity to imagine a semblance of future hope realized whenever the waters will be still again. It is the allegorical merging of the original and violent storm event with recent historical, political and personal upheavals that makes it possible to hear those who have had their voices silenced and drowned.
Turner’s painting seemingly hangs in silence on the walls of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in a quiet room apparently distant from the turbulent historical context that characterized the conception of this work of art. Hope Coming On shatters the sacred silence of the gallery environment with the voices of Boston Children’s Chorus, and offers the opportunity to voice alternative narratives and stories to the silence of suppression. The shattered silence allows the piece to conceptually reestablish a connection between the visual representation of a brutal historical event and the contemporary sufferings that characterize migration across the seas.
It is the complexity of the political statement that Turner made that elicits its contemporary relevance and seeks opportunities to give new voices, literally and figuratively, to a work of art, which, with its subject matter, can encourage us to rethink and bridge social divides. Hope Coming On is a performance in which voices are raised against a representation of the hopelessness of the present in the name of hope beyond violence, divisions, and fractures. It examines both the past and the present, no longer as evidence of a typhoon constantly raging but as the promise that hope is coming on.
Image credit: Design by Deniz Cem Onduygu.