Artefacts: Contemporary Moving Images
Adad Hannah: The Raft of the Medusa (Saint-Louis)

March 18 - May 22, 2017

Adad Hannah, The Raft of the Medusa (Saint-Louis) 7, 2016, archival pigment print, courtesy of the artistAdad Hannah, The Raft of the Medusa (Saint-Louis) 7, 2016, archival pigment print, courtesy of the artist

Adad Hannah is known for creating community-based artworks that involve large scale collaborations with members of specific communities to engage with subject matter relevant to place where the artwork is produced. Hannah’s tableaux vivants involve elaborate sets populated with carefully posed actors who remain motionless as the artist records the scene on video and in photographs. The tableau vivant or “living picture” was a popular style of artistic presentation frequently used in the Romantic and Pre-Raphaelite art movements to represent scenes from literature, history or daily life as artful entertainment.

For this project, Hannah spent five weeks in Saint-Louis, Senegal, which is four hours north of Dakar by car on the western edge of the African continent. Through Hannah’s research process he met artists, actors, craftspeople, historians, musicians, administrators and boat builders who comprise the cast of over 50 Saint-Louis locals depicted in The Raft of the Medusa (Saint-Louis). The set of the tableau was created locally in Saint-Louis using salvaged, dismantled pirogues (handmade and brightly painted wooden fishing boats), architectural detritus and other elements found while roaming around the island of Saint-Louis and the adjacent fishing village of Guet N’Dar on the Langue de Barbarie.

The scenes depicted in Hannah’s photographs and video are inspired by a real-life event:
In the summer of 1816 the Medusa, a French frigate, ran aground on its way to Saint-Louis, Senegal, as it was bringing soldiers and officials to assume control of Senegal, ceded to France by Britain after the fall of Napoleon and restoration of the French monarchy in 1815. The ship was wrecked due to the incompetence of its captain, an officer who had been appointed by the King of France. While each of the lifeboats that left the Medusa had its own story of rough seas and treacherous travels along the sun-burnt shores, the story of a makeshift raft, abandoned by the captain and set adrift with more than 150 people aboard captured the contemporary imagination of the French public in 1816 and is most strongly remembered now through Theodore Gericault’s giant painting Le Radeau de la Méduse (1818 – 1819) which hangs at the Louvre.


Learn more about Adad Hannah’s work

About Theodore Gericault’s The Raft of the Medusa

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