Virginia Ryan & Steven Feld | The Castaways Project

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Avant Garde: Sound Art New Age: Ambient Moods: Type: Experimental
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The Castaways Project

by Virginia Ryan & Steven Feld

A catalog of Virginia Ryan's Castaways, sculptural paintings from African slave fort beaches with Steven Feld's ambient CD & DVD
Genre: Avant Garde: Sound Art
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Anomabo Shoreline
Steven Feld
62:03 album only


Album Notes
packaged in double DVD box

CASTAWAYS: Art Catalog
Virginia Ryan

Since 2003 I have produced at my studio in Accra, Ghana, about one thousand Castaways. Each piece is a collage composition created from washed-up materials I collected along four local shorelines: Pram Pram, Jamestown, Labadi, and Anomabo. All the works are white-washed and flicked through with grey-gold, resonant with the colors of foam and sand as the waves break on the very shores from where the inhabitants were once taken and enslaved to build the new world.

Castaways are exhibited as a collective artwork of two hundred or more pieces, entire walls or rooms with the pieces hung close together in rows, as if in a continuous wave, remembering and recording the simple stuff of people’s contemporary needs and desires along the one-time Gold Coast of West Africa. This exhibit format emphasizes the power of repetition and number, creating an environment concerned with the memory of gold, slavery, contacts, movement, oceans, beaches, shorelines, people, and displacements. The pieces are constructed from organic and inorganic materials, objects that were once desired and purchased, used and worn, carried and discarded, left to wash out and carried back in.

Castaways is a continual work in progress. My intention is to regularly return to collect and transform the prima materia in an act of re-cognition of the despoiling of sand and water, and re-connection with the places that inspired the project.

Audio CD, 62 minutes, stereo
Steven Feld

When I first saw Virginia Ryan’s Castaways in 2004, I found them quite echoic. In their material tactility, color, volume, and assemblage they were audible to me as a complete sound environment. Viewing some one hundred Castaways on Ryan’s Accra studio floor, I felt as though I was putting my ear to a huge seashell and listening to the detritus of history. In the rows of objects I could hear the washing-up-and-out sounds that deposited Virginia Ryan’s raw data, her signs of multiple human and material pasts, on the shorelines of Ghana in the present. Anomabo Shoreline is a composition that responds to this way of hearing the visual material of Ryan’s Castaways, creating for and with them an acoustic memory of where the Gold Coast becomes the Black Atlantic. Composed from recordings made at several locations along the Anomabo beach, this composition is both a stand-alone listening document and part of a sound installation to accompany exhibition of Castaways.

Video on DVD 15 minutes
Steven Feld

Filmed and photographed at Anomabo beach, and at Virginia Ryan’s studio in Accra, Ghana, this short documentary follows Ryan on one of her expeditions to Anomabo to collect environmental data for Castaways, and then back to her studio where we see the transformative process by which the works are created. Ryan’s commentary presents the history of the project, and its significance as a sensuous meditation on environment and memory.


Virginia Ryan, whose extensive international art career is documented at, is an Australian-born visual artist and writer, and Founder and Co-Director of the Foundation for Contemporary Art–Ghana. For a number of years, Ryan’s painting, sculpture, photography, and drawing work has often treated issues of dispossession and homelessness. Since 2001 she has lived and worked in Accra, Ghana and Umbria, Italy.

Steven Feld is Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Music at the University of New Mexico, His work as a documentary sound artist in New Guinea, Europe, and Africa has been published by Smithsonian Folkways, Rykodisc, Nota, and VoxLox, and has been installed in museums and galleries and aired widely on radio. Among his awards is a MacArthur Prize Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship. His VoxLox Documentary Media Arts is based in Santa Fe, New Mexico.



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