Tidal Timespace: Imprints & Palimpsests

(ongoing and in-progress)


Plaster casts, inkjet on Asuka, photopolymer and relief on Johannot and handmade abaca, riso, audio


Esturine landscapes are incredibly vital ecosystems: providing feeding and nesting areas for migratory birds, serving as a nursery for many important fisheries, and protecting coasts from erosion, to name a few. Because of their strategic positions that offer sites for bridges, harbors and industry, these landscapes are also impacted by human development, waste and destruction. Because of their fine sediment, they are much slower to flush wastes and toxins than sandier substrata making them quite susceptible, even fragile1.


The tides of the Northern Gulf of California in the Sonoran Desert are among the largest in the world, and the 3rd largest in North America. Located on the mainland side of the Mexico, the ebb tide in Bahía Adair reveals patterns and traces of the movements of rays, invertebrates and birds that are etched in its expansive mudflats. All the marks sculpted in the flats are partially erased or hidden by the tide each day, transforming the exposed mudflats or the water that subsequently blankets them into a kind of semi-diurnal palimpsest2. Geographer Owain Jones of Bath Spa University describes how rhythmpattern is timespace animated, encompassing the consonance and dissonance within tidal landscapes that are overwritten by development3. I’m interested in using the metaphor of a palimpsest to describe this overwriting and other ephemeral conditions of this terrain. Just as the mudflats become a palimpsest after the tide’s daily erasing of the cursive travel of snails and other scripted impressions, so too, do many man-made pursuits; the overwriting for development obliterates rich ecological stories and effaces local narratives.


I see this first project in Northern México as my pilot project for a longer trajectory. After completing Tidal Timespace in Bahía Adair I plan to duplicate the same piece in other sites with record tides that expose a vast expanse of mudflats, diverse biomes, species and geographic locations. When shown together, these tidal explorations will highlight each site's unique specificity as well as the broad similarities between them. The next site  is the Severn Estuary in the UK, with Owain Jones as my main collaborator. The Severn shares many attributes with Bahía Adair—unveiling a large liminal space during low tide where traces are inscribed and erased, and where a precipitous vulnerability to environmental threats is laid bare. There are also stark contrasts between the two landscapes; the force and breadth of the tide, land formations and climate, the sediment composition and texture of the mud itself, the types of marine species found, vernacular names and fishing traditions, and the length of time that people have inhabited its shores. I hope to instill a sense of reverence and appreciation for each site as well as a feeling of communal care through looking at the specificity of each site's shared characteristics and striking distinctions.


1. Little, Colin. (2000) ‘The Biology of Soft Shores and Estuaries’ Oxford University Press, Oxford, New York

2. Palimpsest: a manuscript or piece of writing material on which the original writing has been effaced to make room for later writing but of which traces remain.  Something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form.


3. Jones, Owain, ‘Lunar-solar rhythmpatterns: towards the material cultures of tides’ (2011)  Environment and Planning A, 43 (10). pp. 2285-2303. ISSN 0308-518X






"All things are engaged in writing their history...Not a foot steps into the snow, or along the ground, but prints in characters more or less lasting, a map of its march. The ground is all memoranda and signatures; and every object covered over with hints. In nature, this self-registration is incessant, and the narrative is the print of the seal."   

                                                                                                                                       —Ralph Waldo Emerson

“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.”

                                                                                                                                                    —Owain Jones

Description/Elements for Each Site


  • A series of plaster casts that will float on the wall, capturing patterns and scripts made from the diverse mudflat textures left at low tide.


  • An accordion book with a sequence of images photographed every three minutes for an hour and a half, depicting the flood tide slowly covering the flats over.


  • A hand printed artist book with debossed prints of the marks and inscriptions in the mudflats, an alphabetical lexicon in the native languages of each site (English/Spanish), (English/Welsh), combining fragments from historical texts, scientific terms, local vernacular names, lists of species, and fragments of childhood memories from each community as a kind of meditation on place.

  • An audio component that will interpret data collected (seawater salinity, temperature, tidal range, expanse and speed, sediment composition, tide type, estuary type and dominant species) into an ambient soundscape that will fill the space, and allow the visitor to hear each site's unique tidal conditions and qualities.

  • A table for viewing the two books with chairs, and headphones for listening to the audio.

  • A hand printed map showing where each cast was made, and place names listed in books.