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ICA/Boston announces major acquisition of Steve McQueen's Ashes
Steve McQueen, Ashes, 2002-2015. Two channel synchronized HD video transferred from 8mm and 16mm film, with audio, projected onto a two-sided screen, posters; 20 min. 31 sec. Installation at Marian Goodman Gallery, Paris, 2016. Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, Paris. Photo: Rebecca Fanuele.

BOSTON, MASS.- Jill Medvedow, Ellen Matilda Poss Director of the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, announced today the acquisition of Ashes, a momentous video installation by award-winning British artist Steve McQueen. A standout at the 2015 Venice Biennale, Ashes will make its U.S. debut at the ICA, where it will be on view from Feb. 15 through July 9, 2017.

“Ashes is a remarkable work of art; its visual and visceral power made an indelible impression on those of us fortunate enough to experience it in Venice. Now, through an extraordinary act of generosity from ICA Trustee Tristin Mannion and her husband Martin Mannion, the ICA will be able to share the experience of Ashes with our audiences for generations to come,” said Medvedow.

“Steve McQueen is one of Britain’s most influential artists, known for his film and video installations as well as feature films such as 'Hunger' and 'Twelve Years a Slave.' Ashes expands on McQueen’s subjects of the political body, and the ways in which bodies can be confined and defined by history, labor, and the legacies of colonialism and globalism,” said Dan Byers, Mannion Family Senior Curator.

McQueen met Ashes, a charismatic young fisherman in Grenada while filming another work in 2002. Shot on soft, grainy Super 8 film by renowned cinematographer Robby Müller, one screen of the installation portrays Ashes balancing on the prow of a bobbing boat, sailing through blue Caribbean water and sky. He is surrounded by the open air and sea, completely at home in his world. Ashes’ vitality and presence in this projection stand in contrast to the content of the second video projected on the screen’s other side, made eight years later, after Ashes’ death. The crisp, high definition video, shows the meticulous creation of Ashes’ gravestone and the digging of his grave. This footage provides the soundtrack to both projections, a precise, visceral soundscape of fabrication and digging overlaid by Ashes’ friend narrating his fate.

“Life and death have always lived side by side, in every aspect of life,” said McQueen. “We live with ghosts in our everyday.”

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