The usual means of transporting works of art across long distances is by air, but our artists’ budget was too meagre for that. In order to transport the sugar blocks, which thanks to so much effort on the part of so many were finally dry and reasonably uniform, we had to rely on slow transport, by boat, in the same way that commodities generally move around the world’s oceans. We were advised to avoid expensive multinationals and use a small Nigerian freight forwarder. The director himself organized the entire transport from door to port in a wink. He assured us that we need have no worries at all. We would have our own 20-foot container, because Nigeria did not allow LCL’s (Less than a Container Load) and would be able to follow the progress of our container at any time, by way of an ingenious tracking system. He proudly showed us the server with Uninterruptible Power Supply, which permanently monitored all cargoes at sea. With total confidence we placed our order.
Artist/Author: Lonnie van Brummelen / Siebren de Haan
During the first few weeks, our sugar blocks made an administrative journey along all the various harbour authorities of Lagos, a stage during which nothing could be tracked. Then, when our container ship finally left the harbour, the tracking system suffered a blackout, crashing on a fatal error whenever we logged on. The transport firm reported that the system had indeed suffered an irresolvable problem since the Sugar Festival, the very day the ship set out to sea with our sugar. No one had any idea where on the world’s oceans our shipment might be, or where and when it might arrive in Europe. More weeks went by with no further enlightenment, until we finally received notice that the ship had been sighted near Antwerp.
A generous quantity of silica gel had been put in the container to absorb excess moisture, but when it was opened, we were met with the heavy stench of mildew. The blocks were softer than butter and almost impossible to extricate from their packaging. How could all that moisture have gotten into our blocks? Had they only been dry on the surface? Maybe the container was not waterproof, and rain or ocean water had gotten in. Or had it in fact been too well insulated, like a condensation cube, with its sealed-off tropical air expelling moisture by raining onto the cargo when it started to cool down? The questions remained unanswered. It would be no easy matter to reverse the entropy that had set in and save the blocks from dissolving. Like Trauerarbeiter, we peeled the sticky packing paper away from our tormented sugar loafs and once again tried to dry out the soggy lumps.