Mark Wallinger is known for artworks that offer a subtle yet penetrating commentary on British politics and culture.In 2007 he won the Turner prize for State Britain, a replica which he enshrined within the Tate Britain of anti-war activist Brian Howe’s protest camp in London’s Parliament Square that had been demolished by police under a regulation restricting protests.
Construction Site (2011) is a video of three workers erecting a scaffold on a beachfront. The first shots show the horizon—a recurring motif in Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2014—captured by Wallinger in a frame resembling paintings by modernist masters such as Rothko or Mondrian. But it is a painting in motion, animated by the horizontal movement of the water, wind and an odd ship that slides across the ocean at a distance. When the workers enter, they set in motion a play between this horizontal motion of the seascape and their vertical build up. As the sun alters the tones of the sea, the men erect a grid on the sand, symbolically reordering the horizon within it. Seen through the camera, the top of the grid touches the line of the horizon, creating the effect of a scaffold holding up the sky. Their task done, the workers climb to the top of the grid and lightly walk the line of the horizon.
Construction Site can be read as a poetic comment on human endeavor; an homage perhaps to our perpetual desire to measure, map and make the world. In the last minutes of the video, however, the workers return to de-assemble and take away the grid. The scaffold thus removed, the sky doesn’t fall. And the horizon is returned safe, seemingly untouched by an interlude of futile human labour.