Navjot Altaf en

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Navjot Altaf

Artist, lives in Mumbai (India)

Empty Containers

C. 4000 books on a heavy goods vehicle. Each book contains one printed page at a different place. The visitors are kindly invited to add their own thoughts
to the texts of the books.

In the context of the Yamuna-Elbe project Navjot Altaf has researched issues of the Hamburg harbour and global trade with freight containers. The opening event of her
sculpture "Empty Containers" on the barge Caesar is on 18 October. The artist is present daily from 18-23 October between 4 and 6 p. m. to speak about her work.

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‘Empty containers’ 2011

by Navjot Altaf

I was intrigued by the sight of Elbe River and containers onboard, ships arriving or leaving Hamburg port or piled up all around Containers Terminals along the river and other parts of the city or trucks taking them from one destination to another. While driving, I also got to visually experience the harbor city below and above eye level and its networking -

To me the words ‘container’ or ‘river’ have metaphorical connotations, and “metaphors are devices that allow us to understand one domain of experiences in terms of another”. This interactive project ‘Empty containers’ - in the form of books is an idea used in place of another to suggest likeness as both are containers of materials / knowledge / interconnection. break it ---

For example if we take a metaphor like ‘the ship plows the sea’, (dictionary meaning of plow is an implement used to lift, turn over and partly break up soil.) in the case of the Elbe River it could be perceived likewise / differently because further deepening it by one meter for full navigability, independent of the tidal fluctuations - or for large ships with draft of 15.5 meters to pass has raised relevant questions regarding dredging for natural purposes and economic development / to sustain the trade. What I observe through research is “the Elbe has been navigable by commercial vessels since 1842, the river bed has been deepened 7 times since 1850 to cater for ever growing bigger ships for trade links, the Lower Elbe is 15.30m deep at present”.

To me the metaphors of the river also allow philosophy, poetry and science and Empty Containers - carriers of signs. Sometimes Familiar and Everyday. Intriguing and Exciting. Perhaps even Laconic and Puzzling.

The decision to deepen the Elbe once again is an opportune moment to reflect on our aspirations, our hidden selves, and our creative potential. Our determination to nurture and capacity to destroy.

While I think of how the life and quality of the river what comes to mind is a poem by T.S.Elliot-

The endless cycle of idea and action
Endless invention, endless experiment
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence.

This collaboration between Navjot Altaf (Mumbai) and Nina Kalenbach (Hamburg) Till Krause assistant in production of books (Hamburg) George Jose for proof reading (Mumbai) and Imke Fähnders for German translation, as part of Yamuna-Elbe Project invites the viewer to reflect on their relationship / association to the city / river, their perception of the Elbe / Rivers and the debate on the issue of continuous development - by adding /critiquing / erasing the text found on / in the books / ‘Empty containers’ which could further be shared with other participants at different sites where the work will be installed.

We thank Papier Union for their great support and Annette Ketterer from Druckerei Priess Hamburg Reinbek,
and the whole team of the print shop for their diligence and their accuracy with the production of the books.