STOVE BY A WHALE at Staffordshire Street / London

Steven He and Seongeun Lee / Curated by Jia Yeu He

19th April - 5th May 2024

49 Staffordshire St, 


SE15 5TJ

    photo credits: George Baggaley

Staffordshire St presents Stove by a Whale : Momentarily onto Neither Land nor Sea, a collabo- ration between Steven He and Seongeun Lee curated by Jiayue He. Together, they draw inspira- tion from their different journeys. Steven explores the peculiar ways in which our attention can be drawn, he aims to tease out the mechanisms that help these ideas plant themselves in our minds whilst Seongeun translates the harsh realities of
life into the language of dreams. Jiayue brings these two together to explore the notion of contemporary archives questioning how individuals connect to their roots and claim their identities.

A space where tides change, and the ground isn’t firm.

Steven and Seongeun have been larking in the mud, collecting objects from Thames beaches and their living environments to construct and combine materials where time and history differs & shifts with the moving tide. The site specific installation embodies the transient nature of immigrants, weav- ing a fictional story involving water, a whale and a ship.

The show is titled after the first-hand account of a whale attack in 1820 by a crew member of the Essex, a ship that later inspired Herman Melville to write his 1851 novel Moby-Dick. Considering the ship as both a historical and folklore version of the classic, cosmopolitan city; the site of shipwreck serves as a reminder of the bittersweet nature of settling down and exploring the invisible, conditional identities travellers must adopt to live a life in a foreign land. Land is synonymous with boundaries and border- lines, evoking feelings of security and belonging, yet simultaneously denoting seclusion and differ- entiation. The whale represents the blurred dreams that are absent from the scene.

Audiences are invited to walk around the space, speculating on the site of ruins while discovering new living entities within. From far to close, utopi- an dreams may fracture after arrival, but in doing so, they also leave space for potential rebirth. The show connects border-crossing journeys between the water and the land, encouraging viewers to contemplate the complex nature of contemporary immigration.