UNDERCURRENTS - A Bricolage
Bristol Harbourside July 13, 2017
An imaginarium or exploration of water based on the lens of the ‘non-human’ - as represented by the Kittiwake and Eel
Maggie Roe & Antony Lyons
& the Water City Bristol team
This project aims to expand, critique and reflect on our relationships with water and forms part of the AHRC Hydrocitizenship Project.
The plan was to produce a ‘mini-exhibition’ expressive of the study and creative research.
The project developed as an intensive and creative exploration of the often uncharted connections between mind, body and water. The focus is on non-human/water/human relationships; on a sensory and associative, conscious and unconscious exploration of species and water; particularly the subconscious, emotional and sensory and a ‘dark ecology’ of these relationships based on a geopoetic approach.
Kittiwakes & Eels
The anchor species are the Kittiwakes of the River Tyne and the Eels of the River Severn/Avon. Both of these species travel long distances by, with, from and in water. They rely on water and water is their habitus. They exist in liminality. The associations and stories surrounding each are very different. The Eels of the Severn remain mysterious and elusive; travelling over 4,000 miles from the Sargasso Sea to travel up the river, arriving around March every year. A rich culinary and history is reasonably well-known locally about the Severn eels, and they are seen primarily as a commercial commodity by some local communities.
The Kittiwakes that nest on the Tyne Bridge and some nearby buildings at Newcastle, are the furthest inland colony in the world and are probably the only such bird assemblage to inhabit a large city. They nest from March until August, travelling long distances to feed in the North Sea. There is excellent scientific data about this colony, collected since the 1950s, and an active community of naturalists and locals who watch and record Kittiwake information.
Both species connect fresh and salt water through Tyne+North Sea coast (Kittiwakes) and the Avon+Severn Estuary coast (Eels). Both have Atlantic journeys as part of their life-cycles. Both have strong periods in their life-cycles where being part of a vibrant community is important. Both are on the Red List of species which means not only the survival of the species but also their cultural associations and meanings are under threat. The Eels and Kittiwakes’ stories are considered in terms of complex interwoven strands where body, mind, myth, memory, waste, food, soul, politics and history are entangled and their interactions between humans and water become muddied and unclear.
Why Tea-Towels and T-shirts?
An ordinary, everyday item that has developed from a domestic necessity to an essential designer kitchen furnishing, the common tea-towel is often of standard size, form and material. While familiar and often ignored, it is also the provider of concise messages in both visual and textual form. These are often pithy observations, recipes and souvenir images of attractions and tourist sites. The objective of using this form in our exhibition is to encourage a ‘double-take’ by the observer. What you think you see, is perhaps not what you get. By extension, we have used the T-shirt format because it is commonly recognised as providing opportunities for self-expression, advertising, souvenir messages, and protest. T-shirts provide low-value ‘wearable art’ and while often exhibiting immediate messages, our design provocations aim to elicit a second glance and at least a second thought.