Artist of the Floating World

Maxwell Hearn is an American artist who has lived in Paris since 1985. Two years ago, he conceived of a project to construct and launch a colossal pair of sea-going dice.

To help realize his vision, he solicited start-up funding on France’s version of Kick Starer, Kiss Kiss Bank Bank and surpassed his goal of five thousand euros. 

Today, I’m asking you to help aqua dice make its big splash.

The first kernels were when I started designing boats, but as sculptures. And I was drawing these boats that would float but that would be almost impossible to navigate.

They might have two bows that are going two different directions, or they might have, there was one boat I did that had a thousand masts.

I called those contradictory craft. If I was to talk about my body of work, I would say that I’ve been building a boat.

My dad grew up very poor in West Philadelphia. He was an orphan and had never been near the water and all of a sudden he was like, well I’m going to buy a boat.

He was a sculptor and a painter and he bought a boat— he didn’t buy a plastic boat that was just going to float and we could have fun on— he bought an old wreck, an old wooden wreck.

So that’s probably the DNA of the art that I do, which is it’s going to be wooden, it’s going to be floating but sinking at the same time and you’re going to have to be fixing it the whole time to keep it floating.

This is one of the probably the first one I did when I started thinking I was actually going to do something with the dice.

And that’s when I was thinking, wow, the dice as potential landscape, the dice that spots as celestial bodies, and the dice on water, that’s when it actually hit me that wow, what I’m actually putting forward here is the notion of putting dice on water, so water dice.

I chose the Canary Islands for launching this for a few reasons, the main one being  that was the easiest place to drop them straight into the trade winds and into the canary current because they’re the motors to the dice.

It’s the best place to give them an unimpeded launch. When we launch the dice, we are going to be launching them on the path that Christopher Columbus took when he sailed over to the new world, as well as the slaves.

It was called the Middle Passage. And, for me, Columbus’ ships were nothing more than big dice. I mean, Columbus was a roll of the dice.

The aqua dice, they’re painted a bright fluorescent orange with blue spots. These are the colors of life saving equipment on the high sea. So when a boat turns upside down or when there’s a big storm, these colors are deployed so the boat can be found.

  I am sitting here between the dice, and I can feel the wind at my back. It’s now finally turned around to the right direction so we can launch in about five or ten minutes.

For me, there are two things at the same time. It’s like a warning. Look at the financial crisis here in Europe. This is a warning. Don’t speculate. Don’t bet with your money, you have to get away from that because it brings down society.

At the same time, it’s sort of like, well, there’s hope here. The message is maybe we will make it if we just keep gambling. Someone once said to me, I would rather be lucky than anything else in this whole wide world.

And its true, you don’t need...if you’re lucky, you don’t need money, you don’t need books, you don’t need intelligence although you probably have all those things because you’re lucky but, if you have luck then everything else is fine.

All you need is luck….

I’m not rolling the dice here with aqua dice. What happens here is I’m placing them in nature’s hands as it were. And it’s the waves and the winds and the currents that are going to do the pushing and the rolling and the deciding. 

For me, I am kind of happy with any outcome, total dispirition. If they go to America and perhaps they open new doors of chance and a new sort of Christopher Columbus crossing, but we will look for a different outcome. Maybe they will go back to Africa, maybe they will drift off to Senegal and that will be pretty funny.

In any case, imagine someone on the beach going fishing for the day or going for a stroll and they see two dice or a dice showing up on the waves. That’s going to be an extraordinary…I wish I could be that person and be totally surprised.




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If only I wasn't stupid


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