I don’t remember when I met Heidi Kuisma, but I do remember that I had found a kindred spirit. A Finn, at that time living in Glasgow, Heidi was (and still is) a talented, creative photographer who moved in similar circles as I did. Those circles inevitably found their orbit around the 13th Note Cafe in Glasgow. It was, I think, in the …Note that Heidi and I conspired to create one of the projects I am most proud of: We Sink Ships.
We Sink Ships
From, I would guess, 2008 to late 2010 Heidi and I took on that name as our identity for a mixed-media collaboration that would see us exhibit our photographs and those of others, produce a weekly radio show, collaborate with others to make a short film, and later for it to have its premiere at 2010’s International Arts Festival in Edinburgh. In an odd twist of fate, my turn to compose music for the collaboration would lead me away from photography and back to music for the following decade, though I did find my way back to my camera eventually.
In the late noughts, as social media was only becoming popular, and the internet was still in its sullen teenage phase, Heidi and I devised our plan to host an online gallery that would operate much like a physical gallery in that there would be an exhibition for some time, then it would come down and another would take its place. All the while, Heidi and I would be working on our own art to intersperse the guest exhibitions with ones of our own.
An Organic, Glacial Aesthetic
Our art was simple with an obvious influence of the music we were listening to at the time, a great deal of Scottish and Icelandic music. The art often took on an organic, glacial aesthetic. I made photographs with my Leica M8 and a body cap attached with a pinhole laser cut into it. Heidi used a Nikon DSLR and a selective focus gadget called a Lensbaby. We would base our exhibitions on a theme, and in the beginning, half of the photographs would come from me and the others from Heidi. It was later that we began experimenting with digital double exposures, overlaying my photo with Heidi’s or vice versa. After some time online, our debut two exhibitions, Talvi/Winter and Before You Wake were printed and displayed in the 13th Note cafe for our first physical gallery show.
As the project progressed, we invited friends, colleagues, and people we admired to exhibit their work on our little online space. We met with Glasgow’s online radio station, Radio Magnetic, and joined their roster. We recorded every week, sometimes inviting guests to DJ, other times choosing top 5 lists to trade back and forth. At the end of each month, I began a too many fireworks radio show which directly led to the return of the label from hiatus. It was through this radio show we first met and became friends with worriedaboutsatan, Erased Tapes’ Robert Raths, Ólafur Arnalds, Nils Frahm, and Codes in the Clouds. Our friendship with Codes in the Clouds would indirectly lead to my work with VLMV 6 or 7 years later.
We Sink Ships: Elements
As one decade turned into another, Heidi and I began what became our final project, Elements. For each of the classical medieval elements, Air, Earth, Fire, Water, and Aether, Heidi and I would create an exhibition. I would soundtrack each exhibition with what were my nascent attempts at modern classical music. And our friend Rhys Baker composed a poem to accompany each element. Later, a new acquaintance, Matty Ross, would weave our photographs with his own and with archive film footage creating an evocative film with the classical elements and technology at its core.
We Sink Ships is a project I am proud of and now just over 13 years on, I do feel it ended far too soon, though it has to be said, it did so as a result of my move to Poland and my drift towards a solo musical project. I do regret that we did not continue with the potential it may have had.
Below are some of my favourite pictures made by We Sink Ships, and you can see some of the other exhibitions we made and curated on the excellent retrospective website Heidi created on Cargo Collective.