Michael Jones McKean

Twelve Earths

areas of research

time / earth / history / scale / geology / transmutation / materials / archives / water / bone / satellites


In March 2017, as the opening stanza to an extended collaboration with Fathomers, artist Michael Jones McKean engaged the remains of the Teignmouth Electron, the sailing vessel commissioned by amateur yachtsman Donald Crowhurst for his failed and tragic attempt to circle the earth, alone, without stopping, in the 1968–1969 Golden Globe Race.

Beached for decades on a remote island in the Caribbean, the Electron has long served as mystery and muse for artists, filmmakers, writers, sailors, historians and many others. For Michael, who has owned the boat since 2007, the vessel operates as a siren-like talisman — a ruin now morphed into relic. 

Joined by a team of researchers and Fathomers, Michael traveled to Cayman Brac to create an archaeological record of the decaying Electron, capturing comprehensive photo and video documentation, as well as digital 3D scans of the site, with the intention of contributing these and other research materials to the rich public well of Electron mythology. We also isolated and preserved a select fragment of the boat for an important project action to come.

Since then, we’ve been deep-fathoming — in the larger scheme of Michael’s project — with co-conspirators across the globe: paleophysiologists in Arizona; materials engineers in Washington; archaeologists in Virginia; filmmakers in London and New York; marine surveyors in Malta; drone operators; photogrammetry specialists; Milton Melvin Croissant III.

sites of presentation

In development


Michael Jones McKean (b. 1976, Micronesia) is an associate professor of sculpture and extended media at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he has taught since 2006, and the co-director of ASMBLY, in New York. He has received numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Nancy Graves Foundation Award, an Artadia Award, and fellowships and residencies from the Core Program (Museum of Fine Arts, Houston), the International Studio and Curatorial Program (New York), the Sharpe-Walentas Studio Program (New York), the MacDowell Colony, the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, and the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts — where he devised and employed a large-scale self-contained water harvesting and storage system to produce a simple but phenomenal visual event: a rainbow in the sky


Research expedition to Cayman Brac, site of the Teignmouth Electron, March 2017

Los Angeles River research and tour with Tom Explores LA, May 2016