Saturday 14 May 2022
This weekend saw the opening of Tideline and Ground, with hundreds of visitors joining talks and curated tours with artists Julia Lohmann and Henrietta Armstrong (both of whom have made new works Tideline), as well as Wayne Binitie, Ros Burgin, Shaun Fraser, Yan Wang Preston, Simon Faithfull and Tom Waugh.
Saturday’s Sea Change Talks brought together scientists, designers, activists and poets ranging from Common Ground and Cape Farewell founders Sue Clifford and David Buckland, to the Natural History Museum’s Juliet Brodie and eco-poets kin’d & kin’d.
Professor Julia Lohmann, invited to imagine her ideal combination of minds on seaweed matters, expressed her delight at sitting down with three women, all of them Chairs in their respective subjects, with whom she’s had many inspiring conversations over the years.
She started by describing how brown algae grow fast, but not at the expense of others; and they provide shelter to fish, whilst pulling out excess nutrients from the sea. Philosophically, she said, she aspires to be like them, and thinks we have much to learn from the ways and uses of algae. During her residency at the Victoria & Albert Museum, she set up the Department of Seaweed, not because it has the established material culture of other departments such as glass, metal and wood, but because she sees a niche: most of the seaweed innovations that belong in her department are yet to be made. Her research and collaborations focus on all the different ways that seaweed can be sustainably developed as a material for making.
As a design researcher and interaction theorist, Ann Light’s (Sussex/ Malmö University) answer to the question of how to change the world, lies in making cultural as well as material change. Both she and Juliet Brodie, an international expert in seaweed, shared experiences of communities driving regeneration and conservation of kelp forests in Sussex and Portugal, and how in response to a sense of helplessness in the face of environmental challenges, a virtuous and empowering cycle can be fostered from a groundswell of action at local levels. Brenda Parker (UCL) agreed that sometimes we are looking for an answer in technology to fix what has been imperilled or destroyed; but that very often, if you leave something alone, you are giving it a chance to heal itself. ‘In reality, all we
need is to stop. The best action is no action.’ There was a general optimism in the panel around the design-informed science, and science-informed design, with initiatives such as the European Union’s Creative Practices for Transformative Futures initiative modelling the way.
Throughout Saturday, Julia and her team of makers ran a workshop in the Pod, showing visitors how to work with seaweed. Many people left Tideline with brooches and other items of jewellery to remember the day by.
In the afternoon, David Buckland described founding his campaigning organisation, Cape Farewell, to bring artists, scientists and creative thinkers together to build collective awareness and cultural responses to climate change. Again, the emphasis was on messaging, and engaging the public through storytelling rather than hectoring and doom-mongering. He and artist Chris Drury described Exchange, a collaboration with poet Kay Syrad looking at ways of sustainable farming. ‘The farmer is a scientist and a trader; he watches the stock market as much as his livestock,’ Buckland explained. ‘It is a really complex life.’ Drury showed some of his works from the project, currently on view as part of Ground in the Long Gallery.
Animating the Barn with their expertise, experience and a cross-pollination of solutions and ideas, Saturday’s speakers shared their passion for the common interests of social and ecological systems, and how we can make human activity work in harmony with sea and soil. The result was a truly inspiring day of exchanges between the audience and creative practitioners across disciplines, bringing the Barn to life as a turbine hall for imagination and agency.
Buckland and Drury passed the baton to Kay Syrad, who with Clare Whistler performed as the composite eco-poet, kin’d and kin’d, and the day was rounded off by Common Ground co-founder
Sue Clifford’s talk, tracing the organisation’s innovative and imaginative work in community conservation and environmental education from the 1980’s onwards.
Tideline features artists working with climate change and the marine environment, and also includes works by Dorothy Cross, Kurt Jackson, Richard Long and Tania Kovats, and is on until 3 July.
Ground explores the work and legacy of Common Ground and includes Hannah Brown, Chris Drury, Laurence Edwards, Chrystel Lebas and Stephen Turner, and is on until 5 June.