Hartwig Art Foundation presents

MOBY DICK; or, The Whale

Wu Tsang / Moved by the Motion, Caroline Shaw, Schauspielhaus Zürich

With this sujet the group Moved by the Motion takes on one of the "Great American Novels": Moby Dick by Herman Melville.

Sophia al Maria and Wu Tsang's adaptation tackles the novel's subterranean currents, encountering a resistant hydrarchy and haptic collectivities of Mariners, Renegades, and Castaways described by CLR James. Directed by Wu Tsang and scored live by BRYGGEN Bruges Strings to compositions by Caroline Shaw and Andrew Yee with Asma Maroof, the silent film follows the white whale above and below the surface of the water, developing a visual cosmology that resists the exploration and exploitation of the earth under imperial colonialism. The staging of Moved by the Motion interweaves the story of the whaler's 'floating factory' with the early days of the film industry.

dates

Fri June 17 8:30 PM

Sat June 18 3:00 PM

Prices

  • default from € 24
  • HF Young € 20
  • CJP/student € 12

language & duration

  • 1 hour 15 minutes (zonder pauze)

Background
Director Wu Tsang and writer Sophia Al Maria based this work on the ubiquitous book and ‘myth of our times’: Moby Dick. Even though they felt no pressure to be faithful to the story or to the writing in the novel, here’s a brief overview of the book as background information.

About Moby Dick the novel

Moby Dick, novel by Herman Melville, published in London in October 1851 as The Whale and a month later in New York City as Moby-Dick; or, The Whale. It is dedicated to Nathaniel Hawthorne. Moby Dick is generally regarded as Melville’s magnum opus and one of the greatest American novels.

Background
Director Wu Tsang and writer Sophia Al Maria based this work on the ubiquitous book and ‘myth of our times’: Moby Dick. Even though they felt no pressure to be faithful to the story or to the writing in the novel, here’s a brief overview of the book as background information.

About Moby Dick the novel

Moby Dick, novel by Herman Melville, published in London in October 1851 as The Whale and a month later in New York City as Moby-Dick; or, The Whale. It is dedicated to Nathaniel Hawthorne. Moby Dick is generally regarded as Melville’s magnum opus and one of the greatest American novels.

Plot summary

Moby Dick famously begins with the narratorial invocation 'Call me Ishmael.' The narrator, like his biblical counterpart, is an outcast. Ishmael, who turns to the sea for meaning, relays to the audience the final voyage of the Pequod, a whaling vessel. Amid a story of tribulation, beauty, and madness, the reader is introduced to a number of characters, many of whom have names with religious resonance. The ship’s captain is Ahab, who Ishmael and his friend Queequeg soon learn is losing his mind. Starbuck, Ahab’s first-mate, recognizes this problem too, and is the only one throughout the novel to voice his disapproval of Ahab’s increasingly obsessive behavior. This nature of Ahab’s obsession is first revealed to Ishmael and Queequeg after the Pequod’s owners, Peleg and Bildad, explain to them that Ahab is still recovering from an encounter with a large whale that resulted in the loss of his leg. That whale’s name is Moby Dick. The Pequod sets sail, and the crew is soon informed that this journey will be unlike their other whaling missions: this time, despite the reluctance of Starbuck, Ahab intends to hunt and kill the beastly Moby Dick no matter the cost.

Ahab and the crew continue their eventful journey and encounter a number of obstacles along the way. Queequeg falls ill, which prompts a coffin to be built in anticipation of the worst. After he recovers, the coffin becomes a replacement lifeboat that eventually saves Ishmael’s life. Ahab receives a prophecy from a crew member informing him of his future death, which he ignores. Moby Dick is spotted and, over the course of three days, engages violently with Ahab and the Pequod until the whale destroys the ship, killing everyone except Ishmael. Ishmael survives by floating on Queequeg’s coffin until he is picked up by another ship, the Rachel. The novel consists of 135 chapters, in which narrative and essayistic portions intermingle, as well as an epilogue and front matter.

Context and reception of the novel

Melville himself was well versed in whaling, as he had spent some time aboard the Acushnet, a whaling vessel, which gave him firsthand experience. He also did tremendous amounts of research, consulting a number of scientific sources as well as accounts of historical events that he incorporated into Moby Dick. In particular, the story of the Essex was one that fascinated Melville—and perhaps served as his primary inspiration for the novel. The Essex, a whaling vessel, was attacked by a sperm whale in 1820. The ship sank, and many of the crew members were either lost immediately or died of starvation as they awaited rescue for nearly eight months.

Melville also consulted the story of Mocha Dick, a famed whale who was, like Moby Dick, very white and aggressive and whose name was clearly an inspiration to Melville. Mocha Dick was often found off the coast of Chile in the Pacific Ocean, near Mocha Island. He lived during the early 19th century and became a legend among whalers. In 1839 a story about the whale was written in The Knickerbocker, which was likely the source of Melville’s discovery of Mocha Dick. Unlike Moby Dick, however, Mocha Dick was eventually killed and used for oil.

Melville befriended fellow author Nathaniel Hawthorne during the writing of Moby Dick, which led to him dramatically revising the narrative to make it more complex. The novel is dedicated to Hawthorne because of his impact on Melville and the novel.

Once the novel was published, the public was unimpressed. It sold fewer than 4,000 copies in total, with fewer than 600 in the United Kingdom. It was not until the mid-20th century that the novel became recognized as one of the most important novels in American literature.

Excerpted with permission from Encyclopædia Britannica, © 2021 by Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Read less
  • MOBY DICK; or, The Whale

    © Blommers & Schumm (Wu Tsang)

  • MOBY DICK; or, The Whale

    © Credit: Design Pics Inc / Alamy Stock Photo

  • © Film Still, MOBY DICK; or, The Whale (2022), Dir. Wu Tsang

  • © Film Still, MOBY DICK; or, The Whale (2022), Dir. Wu Tsang

  • MOBY DICK; or, The Whale

    © Film Still, MOBY DICK; or, The Whale (2022), Dir. Wu Tsang

credits

cast Tosh Basco, Josh Johnson, Steven Sowah, Fred Moten, Sebastian Rudolph, Thomas Wodianka, Thelma Buabeng, Vincent Basse, Ondrej Vidlar, Mel Guesson, Titilayo Adebayo, Gottfried Breitfuss, André Atangana, Maja Beckmann, Karim Boumjimar, Enantios Dromos, Timon Essoungou, Rene Melliger, Wiebke Mollenhauer, Daniel Kweku Schmid, Stéphanie Scholl, Corey Scott-Gilbert, Sscopeta Shephard, Malik Sievi, Rafal Skoczek direction Wu Tsang conductor Kevin Griffiths text Sophia Al-Maria music Caroline Shaw, Andrew Yee, Asma Maroof production Laura D'Incau Wu Tsang, Tosh Basco associate producer Tosh Basco, Sophia Al-Maria, Stefan Scheuermann, Barbara Higgs cinematography (live action) Antonio Cisneros choreography Josh Johnson costumes TELFAR, Kyle Luu production design Nina Mader VR production Bild Studios video design Fray Studios editing Jeròme Pensel dramaturgy Katinka Deecke, Joshua Wicke music performed by BRYGGEN Bruges Strings 1st violin Jolente De Maeyer, Emily Wu, Eva Ackerman 2nd violin Noémi Tiercet, Femke Verstappen, Kai Yang Chong viola Liesbeth De Lombaert, Ana Sofia Sousa, Eva Van de Ven cello Suzanne Vermeyen, Marijke Gonnissen, Lieselot Watté, Vladislav Glushchenko bass Lisa De Boos, Liesa Deville commissioned by Luma Foundation Zürich, Superblue, TBA21-Academy, Hartwig Art Foundation, The Shed, Whitney Museum of American Art, deSingel

This performance is made possible by