Tidal Timespace: Imprints & Palimpsests

(ongoing and in-progress)

 

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

Tidal Timespace: Imprints & Palimpsests is an interdisciplinary mixed-media art project that examines, contrasts, and celebrates the ecology and culture of two diverse and at-risk tidal landscapes: Bahía Adair in Sonora, Mexico, and the Severn Estuary in the UK. It is a project steeped in the specificity of place, intertwining ecological and historical narratives, personal and communal memory, scientific data, and a wide range of media into a polyvocal art installation.

 

Estuarine landscapes are some of the most vital and at-risk ecosystems, as they provide feeding and nesting areas for migratory birds, serve as nurseries for critical fisheries, and buffer coasts from storms, flooding, and erosion. Because of their strategic location, estuarine landscapes can be impacted by human development (e.g. bridges, harbors, and industry), and degraded by human-introduced pollutants, sediments, and even pathogens (1). By examining Bahía Adair and the Severn side-by-side, the finished installation will instill a sense of reverence and appreciation for each site as well as a feeling of communal care through articulating the specificity of their shared characteristics and striking distinctions: the Severn has the second largest tidal range in the world and is fed by the Severn River, the longest river in the UK, its rich culture has been cultivated for centuries; Bahía Adair, a large, sparsely populated wetland complex located in the Gulf of California, has the third-largest tidal range in North America, is surrounded by the Sonoran desert, and fringed with multiple negative estuaries. Just as the tide creates an interchange between water and land, and salt and fresh water—there is also an intercultural mixing and exchange that can occur—resulting in fertile ground for greater awareness, conservation, and stewardship of these important environments.

 

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 development (3). I’m interested in using the metaphor of a palimpsest (2) to describe the 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 cerith or hydrobia snails and other scripted impressions, so too, do many man-made pursuits; the overwriting for development obliterates rich ecological stories and effaces local narratives.

 

Tidal Timespace will essentially create a kind of time capsule—a snapshot between tides that will preserve ecological and cultural heritage. Through mudflat casts, audio recordings, prints and stories, these ephemeral traces and narratives will be archived and shared for Welsh, English, US and Mexican communities, giving visibility to each. “Untold land is unknown land,” states Lucy Lippard, “Naming is the way we image (and imagine) communal history and identity.” (4) The act of enumerating and regarding these fragile places and species becomes a promise of persistence and a way of giving a multitude of voices agency. By entwining these strands to describe these faceted stories about biodiversity and habitat loss, and defining the regional distinctions and phenomenon unique to each landscape, I also draw upon the practice of deep mapping—an emerging method of intensive topographical exploration that “works horizontally across the terrain and vertically through time.” (5)

 

In addition to my Tidal Timespace project, I have organized and will create the box and interleaving for an international print exchange (with the same title) between 6 UK, 6 Mexican, 6 US artists, and essays from Owain Jones and Katherine Larson. I will show the resulting collection of these prints at the same time as I show my finished installation—which will further illustrate the geographical breadth of these diverse tidal landscapes across continents and oceans with local voices and interpretations. After exhibiting Tidal Timespace, I plan to hold a silent auction for the individual mudflat casts and artist books to help raise money and awareness for CEDO Intercultural and the Severn Estuary Partnership.

 

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

4. Lippard, Lucy. (1997). 'The Lure of the Local: Senses of Place in a Multicentered Society.' The New Press.

5. Pearson, Mike (2006). 'In Comes I: Performance, Memory and Landscape'. Exeter: University of Exeter Press

 

 

 

 

 

"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.
                                          —Lunar-solar rhythmpatterns: towards the material cultures of tides, Owain Jones

Description/Elements for Each Site

 

  • A series of plaster casts that will float on the wall, capturing each site's unique patterns and traces inscribed in mudflats at low tide.

 

  • An accordion book with a sequence of images photographed every three minutes for an hour and 45 minutes, depicting the flood tide slowly covering the flats over.

 

  • A gate-fold artist book for each site combining maps, images of 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 vignettes of childhood memories from each community as a kind of meditation on place. These personal histories are written by fishermen and community members charting lost places, traditions and deep connections to the tides and estuary.

  • 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,  allowing each site's unique characteristics to be heard.

  • 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.