Whatever Floats Your Boat, Installation View, A.R.P. Exhibition, Cockatoo Island 2010.


Video documentation of the escape.
Camera: Lucas Abela and Luke Tipene

Whatever Floats Your Boat is a project channelling the spirit of the legendary Australian bushranger Captain Thunderbolt and his wife Mary Ann Bugg. Frederick Ward was serving his second sentence at Cockatoo Island Gaol for stealing horses, folklore says Bugg frequently swam to the island with food for Ward and a file so he could cut through his chains. On 11th September 1863 Fred Ward and another prisoner escaped by swimming to Balmain and it is believed Mary Ann assisted them. The police were slow to admit of their breakout as no one had ever escaped from Cockatoo Island before. They headed north towards the Uralla area, where Ward became known as the bushranger Captain Thunderbolt. In the case of Mary Ann, it is said she is responsible for Fred Ward being at large for so long and her Aboriginal heritage the reason for Thunderbolt’s dislike of firearms. At a time when most women were subjugated to a life of raising kids and crops Mary Ann had the opportunity to show her spirit and determination alongside Captain Thunderbolt.

Working on the island that housed the old dockyards in the Sydney Harbour and plenty of dark histories including a penitentiary that was closed down in the 60s due to its poor conditions there is no shortage of eeriness here, from the ghosts of prisoners and dock workers past to the racist graffiti still donning the heritage walls.

During my studio residency on the island over the Summer of 2009/10 I built a canoe, the Black Mary- in honour of Mary Ann Bugg, and in a brave maiden voyage rowed it back to Balmain for my own escape from Cockatoo Island.


Sydney Morning Herald Article: here

Developed during A.R.P.
Cockatoo Island Studio Residency
More residency info: here


  Images: Construction and Sydney Harbour crossing escape performance.  
  Marine paint supplied by:

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