Yasuhiro Suzuki’s contribution to the first Setouchi Art Festival in 2010 was a motorboat in the shape of an oversized zip fastener. Advertised as a ‘100-Day Art and Sea Adventure’ among the islands of the Seto Inland Sea, the festival provided a specific setting to view contemporary art. Suzuki’s “Ship of the Zipper” (2010) took advantage of this, using the vessel’s wake to unzip the sea.
Originally inspired by an observation that the artist made during a flight over Tokyo Bay when he noticed the marks that boats make, Suzuki went on to realise his idea by creating two variations.
The first version was made in 2004. It was 60 centimetres long, fabricated from fibre-reinforced plastic, furnished with a motor and a radio control unit, and used on a lake. The second version was produced in 2010. This time it was more than eleven metres long, weighed over five tons and carried up to nine seafarers at a time from Takamatsu Port.
The way Suzuki ensured so many passengers could voyage at once was by arranging the seating as if continuing the interlocking forms that the zipper’s teeth would have made inside the craft. As the passengers were seated closely beside and across from one another, their folded knees collectively resembled the fastened zip.
Not unlike American sculptor Claes Oldenburg’s works of enlarged readymades borrowed from the world of industrial design, the “Ship of the Zipper” also uses an exaggerated scale to confront viewers with everyday objects. What distinguishes Suzuki’s boat is the choice to animate what he first saw from an aerial perspective and to allow participants to take part in the work as island sea cruises.