twenty-foot equivalent unit series
Drawing on industrial music from the 1980s – containerisation was the cause of the demise of London’s many docks and the surrounding deindustrialisation that followed provided the raw material for the birth of that political sonic reaction – Hellier has recorded percussive and resonant encounters with these familiar steel boxes. Using high sample-rate recordings and ambisonics, they reveal the sonically hidden stories. Evoking the ghosts of their contents and journeys, each vessel resonates differently, depending on its (unidentified) load and undisclosed history but also echos that industrial music. The soundtrack contains fragments from Test Dept, Hellier attended a gig at the Albany by the band in 1984 during the height of the miners strike, supported by a welsh male voice choir. An attempt to make aural the anger felt at the time of immense social change.
The (mostly male) phenomenon of ‘container ship spotting’ makes up the visual source material for these distorted journeys. The title references both the universal system used to describe cargo capacity for intermodal containers (the twenty-foot Equivalent Unit being 1 TEU) as well as the modular sculptures of infamous America Minimalist sculptor, Carl Andre. The overall effect of Hellier’s work is a haunting sonic and visual experience, which evokes a sense of the uncomfortable and encourages the visitor to reflect on 21st-century displacement and the unending ‘trafficking’ of goods – material and people – around the world.
Twenty Foot Equivalent No.4 5 screen video installation and quad audio sound track