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 intrigued me. While walking and being driven I also got to visually experience the harbor city below and above eye level and its complex networking.
The words ‘container’ and ‘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 as both are containers - of materials / knowledge / interconnection...
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 dredging for 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 Every day, 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 and our creative potential. Our determination to nurture and capacity to destroy. While thinking of my visual experience of the harbor city and its networking, life of the river and how it can be sustained - a poem by T.S. Elliot comes to mind.
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) Nina Kalenbach (Hamburg) Till Krause (assistant in production of books) (Hamburg) George Jose (proof reading) (Mumbai) and Imke Faehnders (German translation), a part of Yamuna. Elbe - Contemporary Flows, fluid times project – invites the viewer to reflect on their relationship/association to the city, their perception of the Elbe / Rivers, water and the debate on the issue of continuous development and its impact - by adding /critiquing / erasing the text on and inside the books which could be shared with other participants at different sites.