Artists to Respond to Nautical History in Amagansett

Pictured Above: The No W here Collective: Toni Ross, Bastenne Schmidt, and Alice Hope, standing in front of the Amagansett U.S. Life Saving Station, 2022. | Joe Brondo photo for Guild Hall

If you were never a member of a surf boat crew at a U.S. Lifesaving Station, you can be forgiven for not knowing what a “faking box” is. Most of us don’t.

But these crews were not faking it when they laid out their lifesaving lines between the spikes in these wooden boxes in a precise process that you could compare to a pilot carefully packing their parachute. Their lifesaving practice depended on these boxes, which allowed a line that was shot to stranded mariners to run free without snagging.

The Amagansett Lifesaving Station’s vintage faking box is a thing of beauty, and its name lends itself well to metaphor.

That’s where The No W here Collective, made up of artists Alice Hope, Toni Ross, and Bastienne Schmidt, comes in. 

The trio is working with Guild Hall curator Christina Mossaides Strassfield on an off-site Guild Hall exhibition at the Amagansett Life Saving Station this summer, filled with works that are a response to the faking box.

This isn’t the trio’s first response to a nautical artifact — last year they worked on a similar project at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, responding to a historic navigational chart from the Marshall Islands, made from coconut palm fronds bound with natural fiber strings, which represented ocean current and swell patterns. 

The project at the Amagansett Lifesaving Station opens July 16 and runs through Sept. 30, 2022, with an opening reception on Sunday, July 17 from 4 to 6 p.m. 

Faxing box, part of the collection at the Amagansett U.S. Lifesaving Station, 2022. |. Joe Brondo photo for Guild Hall

“The Life Saving Station’s faking box is formally beautiful, and poetically and conceptually inspiring,” says No W here Collective member Alice Hope. “I think of it as emblematic to the life saving station itself; it’s the organizing principle to a lifeline. For the last few years I’ve been stringing can tabs to make a continuous line that resembles rope. Sometimes the line accumulates in tangled piles and often I organize it into spiral forms. The faking box will inspire a new organization — a new form of my continuous can tab line.”

The collective will show works in the south-facing crew quarter’s room on the second floor of the lifesaving station, on the station’s western facing backyard and the southeast corner of the wraparound porch, as well as other areas on the site. 

In the crew’s quarters, the artists will do responsive installations to the room itself, and to the faking box. 

The outdoor installations will also be responsive to the site and the faking box, and will include implicit references to the Navigation Chart from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, from the artists’ non-literal perspectives.

The exhibition will be accompanied by educational talks and panels with the artists, as well as family workshops.

As of press time, a Meet the Artists Talk & Walkabout was scheduled for Sunday, July 31 from 3 to 5 p.m., and a Panel Discussion with the artists was scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 20 at 5 p.m. Both events are free, but reservations are recommended at guildhall.org.

The Amagansett Station was constructed on Atlantic Avenue in 1902, one of a network of thirty life-saving stations on the South Shore of Long Island. Through each night and in bad weather the crew at these stations kept watch from the lookout tower and by patrolling the beach. Discovering a ship in distress, the life-savers would launch their surfboat or fire a line to the ship and take mariners ashore with a breeches buoy, which is a round life-ring with a leg harness attached to it that resembles a pair of breeches.

The U.S. Life-Saving Service and the U.S. Lighthouse Service later became a part of the U.S. Coast Guard.

The museum is dedicated to the historical preservation of the building, and to all who served at the Amagansett U.S. Life-Saving & Coast Guard Station from 1902 to 1944.

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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