Mare Liberum: or, The Other Island

Mare Liberum: or, The Other Island

Using boat building as a primary point of entry, or, The Other Island is a multi-pronged project studying water conditions in the Boston area and beyond, using a photograph taken in 1950 showing Le Corbusier and his cousin Pierre Jeanneret in a pedal boat in Chandigarh, India, as the start for research, play, building and studying together in the pubic realm.


Mare Liberum was founded by Benjamin Cohen, Dylan Gauthier and Stephen von Muehlen, and in its current iteration includes Jean Barberis, Sunita Prasad, and Kendra Sullivan

Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts
Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
September 1–27, 2015

Curated by James Voorhies

Made possible with funding and staff of Harvard University's Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts

This compelling image of the renowned architect and the designer on a visibly makeshift vessel readying to embark across Sukhna Lake is the departure point for Mare Liberum’s exhibition and research residency entitled or, The Other Island. The history of this photograph and boat are uncertain. The scene, however, is endearingly playful, as if Le Corbusier and Jeanneret had just discovered a newfangled plaything—watercraft.

Based in Brooklyn, Mare Liberum (or “The Free Seas”) is a collective that uses exhibitions, workshops, publications, and river voyages to guide inquiries into the environmental conditions and histories of waterways. They use watercraft to draw our attention to qualities, histories, and relevance of various bodies of water. For this project, they organized workshops for building punts—flat-bottom boats with a square bow used to transport cargo. Boatbuilding is the primary point of entry for their work, with past project designs ranging from ocean-crossing rafts, to boats made of paper, to kayaks produced with bamboo and repurposed museum banners.

The exhibition title is taken from Michel Tournier’s novel Friday, or, The Other Island, a retelling of the Daniel Defoe classic, Robinson Crusoe. In Tournier’s version, Crusoe vacillates between “civilization” and a return to a state of nature. With our current fixation on rising sea levels, forced migration of island nations, and ocean acidification, we are reminded that the human footprint is indelibly recorded on planet Earth.

or, The Other Island considers these scenarios through discussions of local water ecosystems, pollution, and neglect in relation to the City of Boston and its low-lying neighborhoods and waterways.

Each day from 10 am to 3 pm from Sep 3–10, the public is invited to take part in a participatory boatbuilding session on the Carpenter Center’s terrace. No building knowledge necessary. As the culmination of the residency, a public voyage and field trip down the Mystic and Chelsea River will take place on Saturday, September 12.

In Residence
September 1–11, 2015

Public Boatbuilding Workshops
September 3–10, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.

On Water: Lunchtime Talks
Silvia Benedito
 + Pierre Bélanger
September 8 + 10, 12 p.m. 

Artists Talk with Mare Liberum and Max Liboiron + Exhibition Reception
Friday, September 11, 5:30 p.m.

Public Launch and Voyage
Saturday, September 12, 9:30 a.m.–4 p.m.
Mystic and Chelsea rivers

All activities are free and open to all.

Mare Liberum
Mare Liberum is a collective of visual artists, designers, and writers who formed around a shared engagement with New York’s waterways in 2007. As part of a mobile, interdisciplinary, and pedagogical practice, we design and build boats, publish broadsides, essays, and books, invent water-related art and educational forums, and collaborate with diverse institutions, artists, and theorists to produce public talks, participatory works, and voyages as platforms to catalyze social change.

In 2015–17, Mare Liberum is engaged in a longform research and participatory art project, “Water Rites,” spanning multiple sites and instigating dialogues with river and watershed communities threatened by sea level rise, the encroachment of extreme energy industries, micro-plastic pollution, depleted fish and wildlife stores, water acidification, climate change, and other pressing issues.

Mare Liberum has presented work at Bureau for Open Culture at MASS MoCA, the Neuberger Museum at SUNY Purchase, Maker Faire, the PsyGeoConflux Festival, Parsons/The New School, Boston Center for the Arts, EFA Project Space, Smack Mellon, Alexandraplatz, and the Antique Boat Museum, and has been written about in Hyperallergic, The Brooklyn Rail, Bad at Sports, The Village Voice, and Vice Magazine, among others.

Exhibition Guide with descriptions, gallery plan, program and checklist