Excerpt from Rivers-Mouths-Tides-Memories
Heather Green & Owain Jones
Our collaborative project, Tidal Timespace: Imprints & Palimpsests examines, contrasts, and celebrates the ecology and culture of these two diverse estuarine landscapes. It is a project steeped in the specificity of place and embedded in the practice of deep mapping, intertwining ecological and historical narratives, personal and communal memory, scientific data, and a wide range of media into a rich, multi-vocal installation. McLucas (2010) describes how deep mapping ‘brings together the amateur and the professional, the artist and the scientist, the official and the unofficial, the national and the local’. The use of deep mapping as an aesthetic and methodological instrument democratizes knowledge by weaving temporal, spatial, and disciplinary threads
into one practice. (Springett 2015)
Although much of our work is accomplished alone or through long distance correspondence, the spirit of our project is performed in the field—images and ideas string together in walking, listening, tracing, conversing, reflecting, and collecting. As Les Roberts (2016) states, “The ‘map’ is lodged in the more immaterial spaces
of the body and imagination. Its performativity is made flesh in the way the walker inhabits and dwells within the space that both map and walker conjure into being.” By timing our fieldwork on the flats during low tide we submit to chance encounters and discoveries, to weather, and to spaces of silence and exchange.
The finished installation will consist of a series of plaster casts of mudflat textures from each site displayed on pedestals, an ambient soundscape created from artistic interpretations of tidal data, and an artist book consisting of a lexicon listing historical details, scientific phenomena, colloquial names, species, and site-specific culture and vocabulary in both English and Welsh for the Severn
Estuary, and English and Spanish for Bahía Adair. This naming preserves personal, ecological and cultural heritage, even in the face of possible new developments and altered landscapes. As Lucy Lippard states, ‘Untold land is unknown land,’ ‘naming is the way we image (and imagine) communal history and identity’.
Interspersed among the lexicon entries are our childhood memory fragments you see here in the margins of this paper in which we endeavor to remember our lost tidal landscapes. In the early 1990’s, 80% of Estero La Cholla was destroyed to build a golf course and housing development, and in the 1980s the salt marsh flats called The Lamby, where the mouth of the river Rhymney joins the Severn estuary was taken by Cardiff City council for the site of a large landfill facility to process and dispose of the city’s waste. As such these written fragments exist as a kind of watery recasting of places and people that are no longer with us. Memory’s details undulate and shimmer, revealed or lost in opacity only to perhaps emerge again. Much like the plaster mudflat casts that create a facsimile of the fleeting patterns, scripts and traces, these seized memories exist as registers, preserving moments that have imprinted on who we are.
The myriad of textures left at low tide uphold the patterns of tidal rhythms and flows of water, casting wavelets that have been
reworked as a palimpsest and lay ground for what will soon be
erased and rewritten again. As Jones states (2011: 2287)
“Rhythm is to time what pattern is to space, and these need to be considered together.
Tidal processes offer fertile ground on which to explore such ideas as they are so
obviously temporal and spatial at once.”
As we find ourselves immersed in the complexity of these visual rhythms etched in the benthos, we are also drawn to the intricacy of sound, as the places in question are extraordinary soundscapes. And of course, one can be immersed in air, and in sounds, and sounds of water, as well as in water itself. As Foley states ‘The idea of immersion draws on phenomenological concerns, updated within NRT, with person-place interactions and the specific relations between bodies, practices and multisensual environments, where surround-sounds, touch, and proprioception have explicitly embodied dimensions’ (Foley 2015: 2018-19).
There is a musicality to this immersive becoming; the world as waterscape, as soundscape, or perhaps a series or ecology of soundscapes. Serres begins Biogea, his raging lament for the
destruction of the earth and its waters, with two quotes. The second (quoting George Bernanos) containing these words; ‘...for forests, hills, fire and water alone have voices, speak a language. We’ve lost the secret of it… The voice that we no longer understand is still friendly, fraternal. A maker of serene peace.’ (2012: preface).
Through reflecting upon the Severn and Bahía Adair side-by-side, we hope the finished installation can instill a sense of attention, appreciation as well as a feeling of communal care through articulating the specificity of their shared characteristics and striking distinctions. Just as the tide creates an interchange between water and land, and salt and fresh water—there is also a cultural mixing and exchange that occurs—resulting in fertile ground for greater awareness, conservation, and stewardship of these important tidal, riverine and riparian environments.