“‘Of course, we’ll make it!’ The answer came from my heart but my head was telling me a different story.”
—Dougal Robertson, Survive The Savage Sea
When I saw Nina Katchadourian a few years ago, she mentioned that one of her favorite books of all-time is Survive The Savage Sea, the true story of a family who gets stranded at sea after a killer whale attacks their ship. “It’s about what they talk about and how they stay alive and the world that is the sort of raft they’re stuck on together, which to me is a sort of metaphor for family.”
Katchadourian’s mother read it to her when she was young, and she’s re-read it dozens of times over the years. Shipwreck stories have become one of her obsessions:
What I have come to understand about my obsession with shipwreck is that I am often interested in working in situations where there’s a certain kind of scarcity, where there isn’t necessarily that much to work with. I find that I put myself in those situations again and again. The “Sorted Books” project is one such situation, where I’m limited to the books within that collection. it’s bounded, in some sense it’s a project that involves absolutely nothing but my own time because what I’m working with is already there. I would say that “Seat Assignment,” that series I made on airplanes, is similar. Here you are, where art doesn’t seem possible, you have absolutely nothing to work with, nothing of interest, and the challenge to myself is always to try and think beyond the limitations and find a kind of optimism in those circumstances.
(“Seat Assignment” has a starring role in Keep Going.)