Alex Seton lives and works in Sydney, New South Wales. He is best known for his sculpture and installation practice that centres on marble carving. Alex’s recent work engages with contemporary political issues, such as Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers.
Alex Seton’s installation Someone Else’s Problem is a heaped pile of oars constructed from wood and marble dust embedded in resin and joined together by cable ties. Oars signify water-borne journeys and here they are apparent in such vast numbers and such a state of mounting disorder they can only signify one thing: mass capsizal. Somewhere, some vessels have encountered disaster and people have come adrift. And the magnitude of the pile bears witness to the scale of the catastrophe. This work explores Australia’s politics of turning back asylum-seekers. An oar is a device touched and used by the hands of a human being. The people whose hands have plied these oars are symbolically joined to one another, to the artist and to the audience through this motif of human touch—a gesture that traditional sculpture enshrines more than any other of the plastic arts apart from drawing, because of the way it relies on, and leaves marks of, hand labour. The ‘refuge’ part of the word refugee and the ‘asylum’ part of the term asylum-seeker are words that signify spaces of protection and sanctuary, but the people whose hands have paddled these oars remain ‘offshore’ which is not a space or place at all but a mere state of being outside or away. It is one of the most unsafe spaces possible: a space following departure that may never lead to any ensuing arrival.