«I wasn’t looking for a ship, but a place that suits me.»
Studio, performance location and apartment with a view: The artist Anmari Mëtsa Yabi Wili has realised her dream of a perfect living space on board a cargo ship.
«Lorin» is written in blue, hand-painted letters on the white bow when we see the ship on Quai des Belges in Strasbourg. The cargo ship arrived here only four days ago – because its owner had been looking in vain for a permanent mooring in the Basel region for years.
Anmari welcomes us on board in a good mood. «Always hold on tightly», she warns, as we toddle along the narrow gangway of Lorin’s bunt to the pilot’s cab. Anyone who climbs up from there to the actual living areas, will find a small kitchen and two charmingly decorated cabins. However, anyone who then enters the cargo space, will feel they have been transported into a completely different world: The workshop and living space is light, large and colourful. There are instruments and artworks by Wili and her friends everywhere, glass chandeliers hang from the high ceiling. Although the artist apologises for the untidiness, it seems as though everything is in exactly the right place in this comfortable, large space. And only the water behind the portholes and an almost unnoticeable swaying under one’s feet reminds us from time to time that we are not in a New York artist’s loft but on a cargo ship in the Alsace.
A demanding cohabitant
Lorin is a so-called barge. The cargo ship was built in 1951, is almost 45 metres long, 5 metres wide and weighs 184 tonnes according to its certificate. Before it was owned by Wili, Lorin was used as a freighter for maize. Today the ship is home to cultural goods such as performance, art and music.
The most important item on board is Anmari Wili’s grand piano. A demanding cohabitant, who contributed to its owner ending up here. Wili grew up in Lucerne and for a long time lived with her children in Basel, where she worked as a contemporary pianist. Over the years Wili not only discovered new areas of art, but also new living spaces. After various international performances and exhibitions, she spent three years in Peru with her youngest daughter from 2005. When it became clear that it was time to travel back to their homeland, Wili thought about which location would be appropriate.
«Living on a ship was not something I had dreamt about. On the contrary I was really looking for a space that suited my life and my work – and that would offer sufficient space for family, art and grand piano.»
A lot of work has gone into it
No sooner said than done? Not quite. «It took a long time until I found a suitable type of ship and the sales platforms. Shortly before I gave up the idea of a cargo ship, a Dutch harbour master recommended this ship to me.», remembers Wili. That was in 2009. «Naturally at that point I had no idea of how much work this would mean», says the artist and smiles. Nevertheless she does not regret the decision for a second: «Of course there is perhaps more to do here than in a normal property. However, if I then think about how much the quality of life I have on board would cost on land, then I’m very happy to accept this expenditure. In addition, as a result I learnt all about every aspect of my ship.»
In the meantime Lorin has become a permanent fixture in Wili’s life and art. Performances and music are also to take place here in the future – with and without an audience. «Actually we are all continually on the way somewhere», she summarises her previous travels at the end of our conversation. «It’s important to me that the new destination is always a bit more exciting than the previous one». Here on the idyllic quay in Strasbourg this milestone has definitively been reached.