2,000 Meters Above the Sea


The Center for Historical Reenactments presented "2, 000 Meters Above the Sea" - a one-night event by Ruth Sacks. 

The event was an introduction to Sacks’ bookwork Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea: An Adaptation, to be launched in 2013. Various elements from the artist’s book have been absorbed into an installation and a performance.

Sacks’ bookwork is made up of a series of interventions within French author Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1870). Her main interest in this now-classic late¬†19th century tale of underwater travel in the Nautilus (a fictional submarine) lies in the manner in which Western attitudes of entitlement of power are prevalent throughout Verne’s narrative. Early English translators of 20,000 Leagues proceeded to exhibit similar imperial tendencies in their efforts to make Verne’s text more palatable to a British audience. Beginning with Mercier Lewis’ inaugural translation (1873), the French author’s antagonism towards Britain was obscured and erased. Further liberties were taken in the removal of vast sections of the book, with alterations made at will.

Taking these initial English translations (some of which are still in circulation today) as a starting point, this body of work treats the process of translation as one of personal interpretation. The work on "2,000 Meters Above the Sea" follows the logic of a chain of willful misunderstandings and adjustments.

As a result, the exhibition environment was an unconventional one, ruled by impractical restrictions with seemingly nonsensical display solutions and an inventive reenactment of the principles of the cuisine from the Nautilus.

Ruth Sacks is a South African artist who lives and works in Johannesburg. She has exhibited widely, with highlights including The Global Contemporary: Art Worlds after 1989 at ZKM |Centre for Art and Media (Germany 2011), Performa 09, facilitated by the Museum for African Art in New York (USA 2009), .za at the Palazzo Delle Papesse (Italy 2008), Luanda_Pop Checklist at the 52nd Venice Biennale (Italy 2007) and the 1st Architecture, Art and Landscape Biennial of the Canaries (2006). Her published bookworks to date are: False Friends, published by Kunstverein Press, Amsterdam (the Netherlands, 2010) and An Extended Alphabet, published by Expodium, Utrecht (the Netherlands, 2011). Sacks was born in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, in 1977. She obtained a Master of Fine Art degree from the University of Cape Town in 2007 and a laureateship at the Higher Institute of Fine Art (HISK) in Gent, Belgium in 2009.


This event was organised as part of the France-South Africa Seasons 2012 & 2013