Production still from the Art21 New York Close Up film, “Caroline Woolard’s Floating Possibility.” © Art21, Inc. 2017.
What if the ocean was your studio? Artist Caroline Woolard and a group of collaborators embark on Carried on Both Sides, a research-based sculptural project that reimagines the past and future of a once ubiquitous object, the Roman amphora. With extensive underwater photography, the film follows the artists from UrbanGlass in Brooklyn to Rockaway Beach in Queens as they experiment with their own contemporary glass amphorae, taking the ancient vessels back to the seas where they originally travelled.
Preoccupied with today’s economic globalism, Woolard found a strong political and formal resonance in the amphora (originally meaning “carried on both sides”)—a two-handled vessel that was used to transport goods from conquered subjects to the Roman imperial center. Digging further into the object’s history, Woolard discovered that the “@” symbol we use in email addresses and social media handles originated as a symbol for amphora itself.
Collaborating with artists and master glassblowers Helen Lee and Alexander Rosenberg, and fashion designer Lika Volkova, Woolard pushed this conceptually rich research into material expression, creating a variety of globular glass amphorae and testing them on the Rockaway shoreline. With plans to exhibit the project as a website, short film, and series of sculptural works at Lesley Heller Workspace in New York City, the artist-collaborators are still exploring the links between ancient commerce and digital connectivity. “It’s interesting to think about the twentieth century imperative to produce, as compared to the twenty-first century imperative to communicate. So where will we go next?” asks Woolard. “What if the imperative to communicate is, in the future, an imperative to rest?”