Max Mulhern's Aqua Dice

Have you seen these massive sea dice?

American artist Max Mulhern launched them on 12/12/12 from Gran Canaria. Any guesses where they'll end up?

The same trade winds that propelled Christopher Columbus onto his serendipitous discoveries are, 520 years later, sending two equally chancy vessels out across the Atlantic.

American-born, Paris-based artist Max Mulhern has been working on his Aqua Dice project for the past two years. The project arose from Mulhern's boyhood love of sailing, as well as his fascination with luck and chance.

“For me, Columbus' ship were nothing but big dice,” he explains in this video. Having secured funding from a wide variety of donors, including a crowd-sourcing site and the French government, Mulhern commissioned a French naval architect to design his dice, and a boat builder in Brittany to construct them. The eight-feet-square cubes are fashioned from wood and PVC, fitted with GPS systems, painted fluorescent orange and were launched from the quay in Gran Canaria last month.


The Aqua Dice at the start of their journey
The Aqua Dice at the start of their journey

It hasn't all be plain sailing though. Mulhern had tried to get backing from Las Vegas casinos, in the hope that their patrons could bet on the roll of his massive dice, but the gambling houses declined, as they couldn't easily calculate the odds. He also admits that the dice might be in breach of international maritime laws concerning unattended vessels. Yet his dice are easy to spot, designed to collapse on impact, and contain his full contact details, alongside a hand-written copy of Arthur Rimbaud’s poem, The Drunken Boat.



Everyone from art lovers to the nautically curious can track the dice's progress here. At time of writing, they were about 1,000 miles off the coast of The Canaries, and still quite close to one another, floating towards the Caribbean. You can even place a bet on where the dice will eventually wash-up via Max's site. The winner gets one of Mulhern's prints. However, for Mulhern, seeing this sculpture project through to fruition is reward enough; he doesn't care whether the dice make landfall in America, Africa or further afield. “I'm happy with any outcome,” he says.

You can read more in an interview with the New York Times' Michael Kurcfeld. For the Aqua Dice site, head here. And for more on other contemporary sculpture projects, consider our Vitamin 3D book, an up-to-the-minute survey of contemporary sculpture and installation featuring 117 artists.