Mud Larks among the Eel grass

The first of three workshops presented as Fruits of the Thames, part of Wrecked on the Intertidal Zone, a series of investigations into the Thames Estuary with YoHa.

Mud Larks among the Eel grass with Paul Huxster

Using geo-locating devices such as smartphones, geo-tagging photo-cameras and GPS devices we will assist amateur biologist and gardener Paul Huxster studying Eelgrass and Cordgrass spatial fluctuations across Leigh’s tidelands. Local micro and macro biodiversity depends of these two plant species.

In the 19th century various Cordgrass species were introduced to the tidelands of Two Tree Island, as a low-end land reclamation experiment to expand Old Leigh's public land for grazing sheep. It proved a resounding failure for the positivist minds of land speculation. Today Cordgrass is an attractive nutrient for invasive grazers as they migrate toward the Estuary’s warming waters. And both Cordgrass and grazing animals are steadily establishing in the area. However, siltation processes are also altering the local environment, and as sea temperature rises, Eelgrass species are being pushed from Essex shorelines northwards, affecting in turn many other the breeding, feeding and migration of other species.

Images will be compiled using the hashtag: #mudwalkingleight. An interactive map and extensive documentation will be produced to help Paul Huxster to track this complex yet contentious process in which science oughtn’t have the only say. We want to reflect upon what constitutes native or non-native ecology and what defines novel versus historical ecosystems in an age in which human activity constitutes the main force driving ecosystems’ change. And, above all, contemplate the cultural systems we use to value them.

The tide on the day will be early, so we need to start walking by 9am. Participants should bear on mind that the event is demanding physically; appropriate gear (listed below) is essential, especially tight wellies and a strong stick for walking. It will take about 2-2.5 hours to walk the mud, then after little rest and light refreshment, participants will get a chance to add their data, images and observations to online maps produced on the day or produce their own map. 

Protective clothing and equipment

To take part in this workshop you will need comfort clothing and rainwear, tight-fitting wellies and strong walking stick (boots and stick are critical for walking on the estuary). Smartphones or GPS devices are welcome but please bring a plastic bag to keep the dry.

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Fruits of the Thames

As part of Wrecked on the Intertidal Zone, a series of investigations into the Thames Estuary we are holding three workshops in Leigh-on-Sea to digest and map the Fruits of the Thames.

 

Because of the delicate ecosystems, each workshop is limited to 15-20 participants, please book using the booking links below.  The workshops are free, light refreshments will be provided.  Please bring a packed lunch or plan to buy your lunch in Old Leigh, where we will be at lunchtime and you can enjoy the local Fruits of the Thames, Maldon Oysters for just 75p each.

These workshops lead on from the workshop Eating and Smoking the Flowers of the Thames held in July 2014 at Leigh-on-Sea's Maritime Festival.

Catastrophe can afford a certain optimism. Many would say the worst has already happened to Two Tree Island, Leigh-on-Sea, situated on the north bank of the Thames Estuary. From 1936 to the mid-1980s the site was used as landfill and a sewage works, leaking PCBs, DDT and other nasties into the salt marsh. Southend-on-Sea and Castle Point local authorities have little data about what lurks beneath the uneven rubble, plastic bags of dog poop, half-empty 1950s Brasso tins, chip wrappers and the ruins of long-forgotten Southend-on-Sea property booms. In 2004, the Island’s chemical cocktail leached into the genomes of surrounding shellfish percolating to public attention in Parliamentary questions.

In recent years Essex Wildlife Trust and a host of local volunteers have transformed the Island into a haven, allowing wild Essex to perch on top of its abandoned urban filth. Today beautiful — and sometimes exotic — wild apples are tempting to eat, blackberries flourish and cry out to be jammed; fennel, shellfish and sea aster spring from once-contaminated soil. Two Tree Island is not too different from anywhere else in the UK, where the worst of poisonous substances and their potential hide beneath the surface.

Workshop Details 

Mud Larks among the Eel grass with Paul Huxster

Sat 13 September, 8.30am - 1pm
Picking up point: Leigh-on-Sea railway station, Belton Way, Leigh-on-Sea, SS9 2ET
Dropping point: Old Leigh

Using geo-locating devices such as smartphones, geo-tagging photo-cameras and GPS devices we will assist amateur biologist and gardener Paul Huxster studying Eelgrass and Cordgrass spatial fluctuations across Leigh’s tidelands. Local micro and macro biodiversity depends of these two plant species.

In the 19th century various Cordgrass species were introduced to the tidelands of Two Tree Island, as a low-end land reclamation experiment to expand Old Leigh's public land for grazing sheep. It proved a resounding failure for the positivist minds of land speculation. Today Cordgrass is an attractive nutrient for invasive grazers as they migrate toward the Estuary’s warming waters. And both Cordgrass and grazing animals are steadily establishing in the area. However, siltation processes are also altering the local environment, and as sea temperature rises, Eelgrass species are being pushed from Essex shorelines northwards, affecting in turn many other the breeding, feeding and migration of other species.

Images will be compiled using the hashtag: #mudwalkingleight. An interactive map and extensive documentation will be produced to help Paul Huxster to track this complex yet contentious process in which science oughtn’t have the only say. We want to reflect upon what constitutes native or non-native ecology and what defines novel versus historical ecosystems in an age in which human activity constitutes the main force driving ecosystems’ change. And, above all, contemplate the cultural systems we use to value them.

The tide on the day will be early, so we need to start walking by 9am. Participants should bear on mind that the event is demanding physically; appropriate gear (listed below) is essential, especially tight wellies and a strong stick for walking. It will take about 2-2.5 hours to walk the mud, then after little rest and light refreshment, participants will get a chance to add their data, images and observations to online maps produced on the day or produce their own map. 

Protective clothing and equipment
To take part in this workshop you will need comfort clothing and rainwear, tight-fitting wellies and strong walking stick (boots and stick are critical for walking on the estuary). Smartphones or GPS devices are welcome but please bring a plastic bag to keep the dry.

Free workshop, light refreshments will be provided.  Please bring a packed lunch or plan to buy your lunch in Old Leigh, where we will be at lunchtime and you can enjoy the local Fruits of the Thames, Maldon Oysters for just 75p each.

Digital Mapping, Introduction to Citizen Science with Andy Freeman

Sun 14 September 10am - 4pm
Meeting point: The Fisherman’s Chapel, New Road Methodist Church, New Road, Leigh-on-Sea, SS9 2EA (5 minutes walk from Leigh-on-Sea railway station)

With GPS enabled camera phones and free online tools its now easier than ever to make useful, fun and beautiful maps that can show anything from your holiday snaps to the distribution of edible plants in polluted soil.

Andy Freeman will introduce a range of techniques for making and sharing maps using simple digital methods. The workshop includes a walking tour of Two Tree Island where participants will learn how to collect geo-tagged images and data using either their mobile phone or equipment supplied on the day. Data we hope to collect and map on the day includes:

  • aerial photography using a drone and/or kite (weather dependent)
  • geo-tagged photos
  • air quality
  • sampling water for pollutants
  • ambient sounds
  • ambient electromagnetism
  • background radiation
  • the blueness of the sky (using a cyanometer)

Participants will get a chance to add their data, images and observations to online open maps produced on the day or produce their own map. The workshop runs from 10am-4pm and includes light refreshments. Participants are welcome to bring their own laptops, tablets and cameras to build their own maps as wi-fi will be available, but this is not a requirement of participation.

Protective clothing and equipment
To take part in this workshop you will need comfort clothing, walking shoes and rainwear. You can also bring smartphones, laptops, tablets and cameras as wi-fi will be available for the indoor parts, but this is not a requirement for participation in the workshop.

Free workshop, light refreshments will be provided.  Please bring a packed lunch or plan to buy your lunch in Old Leigh, where we will be at lunchtime and you can enjoy the local Fruits of the Thames, Maldon Oysters for just 75p each.

Supported by Dave Black from BlackWing Services http://blackwingservices.com/

Wild eating amongst the rubble and chip wrappers with YoHa

(Joint workshop with Digital Housing Hub project in association with South Essex Homes)

Sat 20 September 10am - 4pm
Picking up point: Leigh-on-Sea railway station, Belton Way, Leigh-on-Sea, SS9 2E
Dropping point: The Fisherman’s Chapel, New Road Methodist Church, New Road, Leigh-on-Sea, SS9 2EA

YoHa will guide you through the potential hazards of eating wild herbs, plants and fruits of the former landfill site of Two Tree Island. We will meet you at the Leigh-on-Sea station and go for walk and collect edible plants along the way. After the walk we will move to Fisherman’s Chapel in Leigh where we will make some lunch out of what we harvest in the morning and taste them.

Protective clothing and equipment
To take part in this workshop you will need comfort clothing and rainwear and walking shoes. Bring a small sharp knife or secateurs & a plastic container for harvesting edibles.

Free workshop, light refreshments will be provided.  Please bring a packed lunch or plan to buy your lunch in Old Leigh, where we will be at lunchtime and you can enjoy the local Fruits of the Thames, Maldon Oysters for just 75p each.

Links

Mud walking June 2014 http://vimeo.com/101228535

Interview at the workshop "Eating and Smoking the Flowers of the Thames" on Leigh maritime festival July 2014 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T5DJPqsImvs

YoHa website about this project http://yoha.co.uk/wrecked

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Transformism

Transformism, new commissions by two artists, Melanie Jackson and Revital Cohen. 

Both artists, through their distinctive practices, have made new works exploring their interests in how cultural archetypes and ideas interweave with science and technology to create new shapes, visual forms and structures.

As we develop the tools to manipulate and engineer new forms and systems of life, the exhibition considers our historical and contemporary entanglements with nature, technology and the economy, and how these relationships influence emergent forms in biological and synthetic matter, through new sculpture, installation and moving image works.

The Urpflanze (Part 2) is the second part of Melanie Jackson’s ongoing investigation into mutability and transformation that takes its lead from Goethe’s concept of an imaginary primal plant, the Urpflanze, that contained coiled up within it the potential to unfurl all possible future forms. Contemporary science likewise imagines the potential to grow or print any form we can imagine, by recasting physical, chemical and biological function as a substrate that can be programmed into being. Jackson’s work begins in the botanical garden and looks to the laboratory, from clay pits to the factory floor, from analogue to digital clay, from its own animated pixels to the interior of the screen in a series of moving image works and ceramic sculptures. She has collaborated with Esther Leslie on a text that has informed the work and a new publication, THE UR-PHENOMENON, that will be distributed as part of the exhibition.

In Kingyo Kingdom, Revital Cohen, whose projects often test the ethical parameters of biological design, explores the genus of fish that have been designed for aesthetic purposes, questioning the definitions used to indicate living creatures. Does one denominate a manipulated organism as an object, product, animal or pet? What consequences does this entail for our feelings and behaviours? Cohen’s interest in the cultural perceptions and aesthetics of animal-as-product took her to Japan where exotic goldfish have been developed over centuries of meticulous cultivation; breeding out dorsal fins and sculpting kimono-like Ranchu fish tails. Kingyo Kingdom explores the unique culture of breeders, collectors and connoisseurs with footage from the Japanese national goldfish competition, questioning the design and commodification of this species.

The exhibition's Reading Room includes:

  • Paola Antonelli, Talk to Me: Design and the Communication between People and Objects
  • Jane Bennet, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things
  • Diana H. Coole, Smantha Frost, NewMaterialisms: Ontology, Agency, and Politics
  • Michel Houellebecq, Atomised
  • Esther Leslie, Synthetic Worlds: Nature, Art and the Chemical Industry
  • Daniel Miller, Materiality (Politics, History, and Culture)
  • William Myers, Bio Design: Nature Science and Creativity
  • Harry Pearson, Racing Pigs and Giant Marrows: Travels around the north country fairs
  • Kazuya Takaoka, Kingyo: The Artistry of Japanese Goldfish

Publication

An illustrated exhibition guide with an essay by Isobel Harbison will be available in print and as a free eBook download.

Events

26 January, Opening and Crafting Life: Materiality, Science and Technology symposium

Read reviews

Designo.daily
Nicola Triscott blog
AnimalNewyork blog

Biographical information

Melanie Jackson
Melanie Jackson inhabits different tropes of art making to interrogate possibilities of representation against the engaged practices of the world. She is interested in ways in which thought and affect is conducted through the material, and much of her work has explored this against the context of work, production and the flow of international capital.  She is currently investigating the relationships between nature and technology through a series of experiments with fauna and flora, and the technologies available to her. Melanie is a lecturer at Slade School of Fine Art, her solo exhibitions include The Urpflanze (Part 1), The Drawing Room, London (2010), Road Angel, Arnolfini, Bristol (2007), Made In China, Matt’s Gallery, London (2005).  She won the Jerwood Drawing Prize in 2007.

Revital Cohen
Revital Cohen is an artist and designer who develops critical objects and provocative scenarios exploring the juxtaposition of the natural with the artificial. Her work spans across various mediums and includes collaborations with scientists, bioethicists, animal breeders and physicians. Since establishing her studio in 2008, she has been exhibiting and lecturing internationally within varied contexts and locations - from scientific and academic conferences to art galleries and design fairs. She is the current winner of the Science Museum’s Emerging Artist Commission.

Supported by

Melanie Jackson's commission has been supported by a Wellcome Trust Arts Award and the Slade School of Fine Art and Revital Cohen’s by S-Air Japan. Transformism is funded by Arts Council England.

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Bower Birds at ZSL

Bower Birds was an exhibition by Sally Hampson.

Around London Zoo, apparently created by visiting bower birds (found in Australasia), could be found a number of fascinating 'bowers', love nests woven and furnished by small birds for the purpose of attracting mates.

Sally's research into these birds took her to Australia, and to the collections and library of the Walter Rothschild Zoological Museum in Tring.

Alongside the exhibition, Sally ran education projects with Fairleigh House School, Pimlico, London, and Year 2 of Sevenoaks County Primary School, Kent, looking at the entrancing behaviour of the bower birds.

Supported by:

COPUS

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The Garden Shed Lab

A 2011 installation associated with the exhibition, Laboratory Life, at Lighthouse in Brighton, and toured at Microwave Festival in Hong Kong later that year (2011).

This group, led by artist Kira O'Reilly and in collaboration with Valerie Furnham, Columba Quigley and Genevieve Maxwell, exhibited work-in-progress featuring a garden shed lab containing a self-made sterile hood incubator, lab equipment and photographs and video made on site. The goal, using 100 years-old tissue culture technology, was to create cell cultures from incubated chick embryos and to re-create Thomas Strangeways' 1926 tissue culture experimentation.

Laboratory Life the result of nine days in a collaborative open laboratory, was an exhibition of five bioscience-themed projects created by twenty one international artists, scientists and doctors conceived and led by Andy Gracie (based upon Media Lab Prado's model), and organised by The Arts Catalyst and Lighthouse Arts.

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The Quest for Drosophila Titanus

A 2011 installation associated with the exhibition, Laboratory Life (2011) at Lighthouse in Brighton, and toured at Microwave Festival in Hong Kong later that year.


Led by artist, Andy Gracie, and collaborating with Kuai Shen Auson, Janine Fenton and Meredith Walsh, the group of artists and scientists exhibited their work-in-progress aimed at developing a new species derived from various phenotypes of Drosophila melanogaster (the fruit fly) adaptable to environmental conditions found on the moon, Titan, via exposure to various simulated environmental conditions of this moon.

The apparatuses associated with this astrobiological experiment included the experimental chamber, video documentation of the experiments, a printed manual describing the experimental process, the breeding colony (formed by selecting the most vigorous flies from each experiment), and the memorial to failed individuals.

Laboratory Life, the result of nine days in a collaborative open laboratory, was an exhibition of five bioscience-themed projects created by twenty one international artists, scientists and doctors conceived and led by Andy Gracie (based upon Medialab Prado's model), and organised by The Arts Catalyst and Lighthouse Arts, Brighton.

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The Nightwatchman

Simon Hollington & Kypros Kyprianou's installation, The Nightwatchman (2008), featured in the exhibition Nuclear: Art and Radioactivity (2008).

The installation explored the intricacies and ambivalent legacy of nuclear power through two commissioned artistic works: Chris Oakley's Half-Life (2008), and Simon Hollington & Kypros Kyprianou's installation which traced 'changing perceptions of the nuclear power industry over its 50 year history through a single immersive narrative environment, blending fact and fiction into a darkly humorous journey through hard-nosed PR and spin to a logical hysteria.'

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Half-Life

Artist Chris Oakley's short film (2008) explored the intricacies and ambivalent legacy of nuclear power.

Oakley's Half-Life looks at the histories of Harwell, birthplace of the UK nuclear industry, and the development of fusion energy technology at the Culham facility in Oxfordshire. Produced with the co-operation of both these organisations, the film examines nuclear science research through a historical and cultural filter. Drawing on archive footage of the sites, alongside contemporary materials, the work takes structural clues from nuclear physics, exploring the heritage of nuclear energy from the roots of the technology that drove the industrial revolution.

The relationship between nature, and our reliance on mineral energy resources, and the portrayal of the often-mundane realities of nuclear research seek to ‘normalise’ emotionally driven debates around the subject. With the recent widespread acceptance of the reality of climate change driven by carbon dioxide emissions, the work explores the realities and myths surrounding the nuclear sciences.' Half-Life featured in Nuclear: Art and Radioactivity, 2008 and at the artist panel discussion, Nuclear Culture on Film, 28 April, 2013 at Arts Catalyst, London.

Commissioned by Arts Catalyst and SCAN

A trailer of Half-Life can be seen here

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Nuclear Reliquaries and Transmutation

James Acord created a series of Nuclear Reliquaries and Transmutation work from his residency at Imperial College London for the exhibition, Atomic

Self-styled 'nuclear sculpture', James Acord lived on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, near Richland, Washington, USA, where the plutonium for the first atomic bomb was processed. He moved there and lived there for 15 years to have easier access to radioactive materials produced at Hanford and in order to get to know the scientists and other workers employed on the site. 

Invited to undertake a residency in the Physics Department at Imperial College, London, in 1998 by The Arts Catalyst and Imperial College's then arts curator, Acord was inspired to create a series of nuclear reliquaries, in which symbolic items from the nuclear age were housed in boxes modelled after the medieval reliquaries used to preserve sacred Christian objects. As Acord told the Guardian in 1999, “I can’t help feeling that today’s nuclear industry is not unlike the church of the 12th and 13th centuries. We have a priesthood living in remote areas, interacting only with each other. Yet these are the people who make decisions for you and me.” He also created a blackboard piece, Transmutation, detailing the formulae of his proposed transmutation project for a nuclear experimental reactor.

The reliquaries were first shown in the Arts Catalyst exhibition Atomic, which also featured the work of artists Mark Aerial Waller, and Carey Young, exploring the economic and cultural legacy of atomic power, and were exhibited at Imperial College, Kluze Fortress, Bovec, Slovenia and Yard Gallery, NOW, Nottingham, UK.

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Glow Boys

Mark Aerial Waller's short film shot at Oldbury nuclear power station 

16mm film to video
14m colour sound
 
Mark Ariel Waller's film is a study of the psychological state of the contemporary British nuclear industry. The film dramatises original research undertook over the course of a year. The script was developed from the pitch black humour of nuclear contract workers Waller met whilst travelling across the UK, from Wylfa in Anglesey, to Sizewell in Suffolk. This is a survey of a strange marriage between the maintained decrepitude of post war science and a highly sophisticated, but undermined PR campaign. Nothing had changed since Lindsay Anderson surveyed Britain in O'Lucky Man or Britannia Hospital, 25 years earlier.
 

Glow Boys was first shown in The Arts Catalyst exhibition, Atomic at Imperial College Gallery, London, UK, 1998, and subsequent tour.

Atomic featured the work of artists Mark Aerial Waller, James Acord, and Carey Young, exploring the economic and cultural legacy of atomic power, and was later exhibited at Kluze Fortress, Bovec, Slovenia and Yard Gallery, NOW, Nottingham, UK in 1999. Glow Boys was also featured at the symposium, Nuclear Culture on Film, 28 April, 2013 at The Arts Catalyst, London.

CAST: Douglas Park, E.J. Waller, Grahame Fox, Kealan Doyle, Bernd Bucker, Mark E. Smith, Michael Howarth, Joolia Cappleman, Paul Rattee.
 
Produced by Tom Sheahan and Red Star Films
 
Funded by The Arts Catalyst, British Film Institute, Southern Arts
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