Brownsea: An Imaginary Island (An Island of the Imaginary)

Neal White: sketch for the Unmade Centre; courtesy the artist

This installation draws on artist Neal White's ongoing Test Sites research into Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour in Dorset.

Here, nature, flora and fauna compete with numerous shifting tensions: between boundaries of land and sea, private land use and ecological needs, between scientific and amateur understanding of bird and migratory patterns, between the needs of leisure boat users, tourists, shipping and the oil industry. Invisible layers of control shape and regulate this site of outstanding natural beauty, which boasts numerous Sites of Scientific Interest (SSSI), the start of a UNESCO world heritage park, and countless European Union protected environmental habitats. 
Brownsea: The Imaginary Island as an installation does not provide an informational view onto this idyllic space, but explores its role as part of deeper psychological, political and creative projections by the various gatekeepers, wardens, guards, enthusiasts and conservationists who call this place their own. 
The installation becomes a space in which the artist reflects on these shared social and spatial imaginaries – the romantic, sublime, utilitarian, economic and social – as they interact with deep and hidden aspects of the landscape; oil extraction, marine pollution and leisure overload. It acts as an analogue to the Island; a space for an exchange of views in which the burden of our imaginations are shared, and our political views and personal desires for the sublime projected. Ultimately, it aims to explore the possibility of a future platform on the Island, in which these personal and social imaginaries are realised.
Norm Contaminated, a soundscape by artist Anna Troisi, has been specially created to form part of the installation.
At different points throughout the exhibition, the artist will be conducting an experiment in the analogue / vivarium structure. Members of the public can sign up to participate in this experiment using the postcards available in the exhibition. This experiment will ask the participant to exercise their own capacity for imagining the tensions of a far-away geographical location, from a highly concentrated, constructed vantage. Time slots will be announced soon.
Brownsea: The Imaginary Island is part of Test Sites: Assembly, running at Arts Catalyst Centre for Art, Science and Technology from 22 March - 12 May 2018. Entrance is free.
For over 20 years, Neal White's work has critically explored art in relation to new ideas, forms and technologies. As part of many collaborative endeavours – he has been developing projects, research and artworks, publications, archives, fieldworks, critical excursions as bus tours and exhibitions with academics, architects and activists. His current work explores situated practices and knowledge - drawing together environmental and ecological matters of concern with marine biologists, ecologists, coders, architects and volunteers in Poole Harbour and Brownsea Island, Dorset for Test Sites. Neal White is a Professor at University of Westminster, where he also directs the Centre for Research and Education in Arts and Media (CREAM), a UK leader in research in art, design and media.
Test Sites is supported by Wellcome Trust, University of Westminster, Bournemouth University, Canal and River Trust, and Arts Council England.