Sabrina Dreaming - Severn Estuary Tidelands


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Most rivers have sacred personifications – in the form of tutelary deities. For the River Severn, this is ‘Sabrina’, or ‘Hafren’ in Welsh]. The project will seek to expand and deepen the ways in which water landscapes are encountered and understood – scientifically, artistically and socially.

Layers of industry, agriculture, vegetation, soil, rock and water make up the territory of the Severn Estuary. Cultural layers of prehistory, history and story and myth are enduring sources of conjecture. All of these – together with the human and non-human communities – fuse to form the ecology of the estuary, which has the second-largest tidal range in the world. This residency project will initiate new conversations and involvements by developing film/sound/music-based artworks, extracting some of the hidden and intangible essences of this water landscape.

As Artist In Residence, Antony Lyons will also draw on his own extensive previous work on water environment themes (pollution, climate-change, biodiversity, working water communities etc.), and link into CCRI research streams relating to ecosystem services, water/food security, landscape and community issues.

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Sabrina Dreaming - Severn Estuary Tidelands

  1. 1. SABRINA DREAMING Severn Estuary Tidelands Antony Lyons Artist-In-Residence at CCRI, 2014
  2. 2. Sabrina Dreaming This is a year-long artist residency hosted by the Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI) at the University of Gloucestershire and supported by a Leverhulme Fellowship grant. In conjunction with CCRI researchers and others, the residency project will seek to expand and deepen the ways in which this water landscape is encountered and understood - scientifically, artistically and socially. New conversations and involvements will be initiated by developing film/ sound/sculpture-based artworks, extracting some of the hidden and intangible essences of this coast, especially in the context of the pressing need for anticipatory adaptation to climate-instability Sabrina Dreaming Many rivers have sacred personifications - in the form of tutelary deities. For the River Severn, this is 'Sabrina' or 'Hafren' in Welsh. The Severn Estuary coast has the second largest tidal-range in the world. Potentially will involve CCRI research streams relating to ecosystem services, water/food security, landscape and community issues.
  3. 3. The field areas for the residency will be chosen from within this estuarine coastal zone
  4. 4. photo: J Dearbergh
  5. 5. photo: J Dearbergh
  6. 6. Existing projects by Lyons on the estuary Submerged (Drowned Lands) (a sculptural installation project) Transgression (Rising Waters) (a short film) Between The Tides (a coastal cultural/artistic exchange)
  7. 7. Past involvements of Lyons with the estuary Pollution control/regulation/planning: sewage, industrial effluents etc. Landscape-based creative projects elsewhere on/near this coast Devon, North Somerset, Bristol (River Avon)
  8. 8. Eleven Minutes (Tide and Time), 2006
  9. 9. Eleven Minutes (Tide and Time), 2006
  10. 10. Eleven Minutes (Tide and Time), 2006
  11. 11. SHADOWS AND UNDERCURRENTS ‘Aliveness Machines’
  12. 12. Torridge River and Estuary, Devon, 2012
  13. 13. Torridge River and Estuary, Devon, 2012
  14. 14. Torridge River and Estuary, Devon, 2012
  15. 15. Torridge River and Estuary, Devon, 2012
  16. 16. ‘Aliveness Machines’, Devon, 2012
  17. 17. ‘Aliveness Machines’, Devon, 2012
  18. 18. ‘Aliveness Machines’, Devon, 2012
  19. 19. ‘Aliveness Machines’, Devon, 2012
  20. 20. ‘Aliveness Machines’, Devon, 2012
  21. 21. Working with the Ravilious (Beaford Arts) Archive, Devon, 2012
  22. 22. The Severn Barrage - a recent ‘activist’ issue Disconnection/ Separation Narrow assessments - economic, technical, scientific “People aren’t going to get excited by Save The Eel ! ”
  23. 23. "The Angler’s Trust estimate that 25% of all salmonid spawning habitat in England and Wales lies upstream of the proposed barrage, but the estuary is also a migratory route for sea trout, sea lamprey, river lamprey, allis shad, twaite shad and eel.”
  24. 24. AIR - Sabrina Dreaming : Activating the gap? An attempt to provide a platform for more diverse involvements, and to explore new transdisciplinary responses to this place: A geopoetic approach - an interweaving of the rational and the imagination.  GEOPOETIC POSSIBILITIES AT THE ESTUARY
  25. 25. "The term geopoetry was first coined by geologist Harry Hess in the 1960s to introduce his readership to the novel idea of plate tectonics. He described his speculations as geopoetry in order to induce his readers (mostly other geologists) to suspend their disbelief long enough for his observations about seafloor spreading, driven by magma rising continuously from the mantle, to catch on. He needed his audience, in the absence of much hard data, to speculate imaginatively, as if reading poetry....a mental space where conjecture and imaginative play are needful and legitimate” Don McKay, The Shell of the Tortoise, 2013
  26. 26. GEOPOETICS mycelial, rhizomic geologic imagining multiple futures sentimental a tapestry a weaving resistance, challenging shamanic, predictive, curative bridging the gaps - art, science, environment, technology
  27. 27. rhizomic/ mycelial embracing complexity
  28. 28. GeoPoetics knowledge and imagination people and place “The geopoetic impulse seeks to connect emotionally, holistically, a fusion of the rational, the imagination, the physicality of materials and a reaching out to the hidden within landscapes.” 
  29. 29. DEEP MAPPING....and counter mapping "Deep maps will be slow – they will naturally move at a speed of landform or weather" Clifford McLucas (Brith Gof) "Deep mapping is part of the archaeology of the contemporary past" Michael Shanks “Deep mapping aims to challenge the official management of memory that fixes the value and uses of places.” Iain Biggs
  30. 30. Geopoetics + Deep Mapping projects that aim to re-connect people to place and processes geopoetic sculpture/installation:eco-symbolic materials data-augmented intermedia installations (incorporating ‘aliveness machines’) field methods:listening, walking, dialogues, stories “subvert the dominant paradigm”/ empowerment
  31. 31. “The land unfolds for the geologist as he passes over it, revealing an infinite number of perspectives that are integrated and contrasted in his mind....these results are built upon the intuitive use of judgement in which the geologist selects and constructs a system of signs, and blends multiple perspectives from a nearly infinite amount of potential data." Robert Frodeman
  32. 32. Before and After
  33. 33. Before
  34. 34. After
  35. 35. TRANSGRESSION ‘‘a relative rise in sea level resulting in deposition of marine strata over terrestrial strata. The sequence of sedimentary strata formed by transgressions and regressions provides information about the changes in sea level during a particular geologic time’’
  36. 36. TRANSGRESSION - A FILM Anticipatory Adaptation ‘Stilt Life’ Occupy the Intertide
  37. 37. ‘coastal squeeze’ ‘hold the line’ ‘managed retreat’
  38. 38. Transgression (Rising Waters)
  39. 39. Reminders of the Desert
  40. 40. Reminders of the Desert
  41. 41. TRANSGRESSION "An exploratory geopoetic essay, derived from a series of walks undertaken by artist-researcher Antony Lyons and Dr Iain Biggs at the Severn Estuary coast during 2013. Speculations on the past, present and future of this lowlying coastal area. We take as our starting point the definition of ‘Transgression’ as a geological term describing an advance of the sea over land areas. Our essay is based on fieldwork (walking, listening, recording), archival research, exploratory conversations and production of intermedia collages. In the context of climate-change and rising sea-levels, we use poetic juxtaposition to creatively engage with anticipatory adaptation strategies. This hybrid composition incorporates images, voice, musical composition and recorded soundscapes. Touching on themes that include deep-time; landuse; building with nature; rewilding and the commons, we offer a provocative meditation on a topic, not an argument (or if so - a gentle one).
  42. 42. Installation - Art+Science Donegal, 2011
  43. 43. Donegal, 2011
  44. 44. Donegal, 2011
  45. 45. Portugal - Landscape, Community and Water, 2013
  46. 46. Portugal - Landscape, Community and Water, 2013
  47. 47. Portugal Landscape, Community and Water, 2013
  48. 48. Portugal - Landscape, Community and Water, 2013
  49. 49. Portugal - Landscape, Community and Water, 2013
  50. 50. In a recent landmark case, a court in New Zealand conferred legal personhood on the entire Whanganui River system. The court ruling also postulates that the indigenous iwi people have very specific responsibilities for the river and watershed, caring for the river as a person.
  51. 51. ”We shall never cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time” T. S. Eliot, Little Gidding, from Four Quartets
  52. 52. Project Blog
  53. 53. Example of a soundart project on the Severn, by Liminal Black Water Brown Water began as a site-specific headphone piece for the island that separates the river Severn from the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal at the Sourport Canal Basins. The colour of these two water systems becomes a central metaphor in the work, which is presented as a dialogue between James Brindley, the great canal engineer and Sabrina, mythical Goddess of the River Severn. The piece has subsequently been re-worked into a number of other forms including a book, a radio programme and a concert performance.
  54. 54. Conceptual Influences on Sabrina Dreaming These 3 photos are all pilgrimages, and all involve tidal situations ...and transformations...
  55. 55. This is probably the most famous photograph from the Severn Estuary and represents a rupture of sorts - the end of ‘mass’ intimacy with this part of the tidally-affected coast. The Severn Bridge opened later in 1966, making it possible to take that passage from England to Wales cocooned within a vehicle. Any sense of the visceral unpredictability of this coast is lost, as are the heightened polarised emotions of attraction/reliance versus danger/fear.
  56. 56. Possibilities An Open Observatory for Intimate Science Intimate Science is  "coupling the virtual world to the physical",  "a new generation of artists is helping to make science intimate, sensual, intuitive". Roger Malina, Leonardo 67
  57. 57. Ghandi’s ‘Salt March’ arriving at the coast at Dandi, 1930: The main point of his 240 mile long march to the sea was political and subversive - a challenge to Britain's Salt Acts which prohibited Indians from collecting or selling salt. The action formed a pillar of Ghandi’s “satyagraha,” or mass civil disobedience. What the image also reveals is the age-old and powerful human relationship to the coast in the form of salt-harvesting. Social Resistance - ritual disobedience - transgression
  58. 58. The Salt March was also called the White Flowing River because all the people were joining the procession wearing white khadi. “Even our old aunts and great-aunts and grandmothers used to bring pitchers of salt water to their houses and manufacture illegal salt. And then they would shout at the top of their voices: 'We have broken the salt law!” “The whole concept of Satyagraha (Satya is truth which equals love, and agraha is force; Satyagraha, therefore, means truth force or love force) was profoundly significant to me.” Martin Luther King
  59. 59. ‘Contemplating Joyce's scrotum-tightening sea, Sandycove, Dublin’ photo of Joseph Beuys,1974 The image holds and reveals (amongst other associations) the Beuysian idea of ‘social sculpture’; the importance of myth, soul, symbolism and ancient shamanic thought; the Joycean epiphanies by the sea (at/near this location); or even his ‘thinking like a river’, as in Finnegans Wake.
  60. 60. SOCIAL SCULPTURE (BEUYS) Engaging with processes - ecological and social Embracing what is unfinished rather than what is complete, what seems unacceptable rather than what reassures.. Transformativity “fail again  - fail better…”