By Katherine Jones
Last night heralded the end of on one phase of the Bristol Loves Tides programme - a project that was co-designed with members of the Water City Bristol team, delivered by the organisation My Future - My Choice and involved a diverse and exciting range of activities designed at bringing a love of tides, and indeed a love of nature, into the lives of Bristolians young and old.
The evening began at the Planetarium where we were treated to a very large and curved showing of the first Proxi and Peri film, depicting their arrival into Bristol at the beginning of the Green Capital year. About 80 people were in attendance at this ticketed event, many of whom had been at the first event in March. The crowd included young and old, a variety of people who had an interest in some way, in Bristol's tidal nature and history.
The Planetarium show included, as might be expected, segments of 3D animated demonstrations of the planets of our solar system in relationship with each other. At the risk of sounding like a voiceover on a cheesy children's TV programme, we travelled through time and space, zooming in on a map of the South West of England with the Severn Estuary and the Avon leading into Bristol, viewing the solar eclipse of March 20th of this year from the perspective of Ashton Court, and later zooming all the way out to view the planets in Syzygy of the earth, sun and moon, both in March and a couple of days ago again. It was fascinating to see these views, and gave a real sense of our beautiful planet, its beautiful moon and the solar system we are in.
But Proxi and Peri wanted to take the opportunity of this Syzygy and the high tides to head back out to sea, hoping their mission to get Bristol to love the tides was completed. And so we joined them on a boat to head to where we could see them off.
The full moon looked huge (it's an apogee so at its closest to the earth and therefore appearing somewhat larger than usual - hence the 'super' moon title). Unfortunately from a moving boat my photos do not do it justice.
We were transported (in more ways than one?) to dock by the Nova Scotia where we assembled and were told to find other planets (earth, sun, moon - coloured tickets having been distributed earlier) and have a chat about what we would do personally to make the world a better, greener (bluer?) place. Having mainly lost my voice this was a bit of a challenge but I managed a few quiet conversations as we made a procession along the Cumberland Basin and to the site where we had last assembled at the March 22nd Syzygy and made the mud heart on the wall..
Singing, music, performance and a healthy dose of ribbing the academics (I heard you! ;-)) ensued, along with entreaties to the people of Bristol to care about their watery environments. Until finally it was time for Proxi and Peri to go, and away they rowed...
All that is left for us to do now is to reflect...
Proxi and Peri brought humour, light-heartedness, and fun, as well as thoughtfulness and reminders into the performances, which were engaging and interactive. They also, along with the film-makers, particularly Rough Glory films, created atmospheres, and engaged with, what we strange academic types might call the 'embodied' and 'materiality. Mud featured strongly in the interactions and performances with the public (though not in the schools, for perhaps pragmatic reasons!). People I spoke with remembered well putting their hands in mud and making the heart on the wall, as did I. These unusual sensory experiences, and the interactions in locations we perhaps would otherwise never go (as with the spot shown above, behind which is a curly mass of roads and flyovers, a concrete tangle of urbanity), have had the effect of weaving us into the spaces perhaps, ritualising our immersion into them, as a collective.
Have these performances and interactions changed our perceptions of space/place? I certainly feel differently about these spaces, a kind of intimacy has formed, as well as a sense of shared-ness. And our participation in rituals such as the making of the mud heart seem to have inscribed us in a quite personal way into the fabric of the city. Interestingly, the current graffiti that has emerged on the heart is of aliens, spaceships, and the sun, moon and planet earth... I don't know if this was intentional on the part of someone involved, or inspired somehow by our strange mural but in whichever way, it seems that 'creative conversations' continue in more ways than one, in more forms and materialities and with unknown others through traces and overlaps...
A big question for me throughout this project is always - how do we know that connections between places, between people, and people with themselves, their senses of identity and belonging, will have an effect on the way we behave? Do these things really affect us such as that as a society we move towards increased sustainability? It is virtually impossible to measure the impact of events and programmes like this - who knows what it will inspire? But it seems part of a continuum of ways in which we start to re-imagine our relationships with the world, and I am certainly inspired by the conversations emerging out of these interactions. Proxi and Peri may have left the city, but their legacy lives on.