Tidal Timespace: Imprints & Palimpsests
Cast plaster, steel, inkjet on Asuka, photopolymer and relief, audio
Tides, especially ones connected to estuaries and mudflats, perform diurnal writing and erasing, concealing and revealing, leaving their ghostly spectral traces at ebb tide. Each set of tracings, unique, is wiped away by the following tide and a new performance creates a new set of inscriptions. As quintessentially liminal spaces, these landscapes provide a fleeting platform for entanglements with humans and non-humans—and any given state of becoming is haunted by what has recently been and what is soon to become again. In this project Tidal Timespace, I think of the visible remains seen at low tide as a kind of palimpsest, and capture them in a series of plaster casts and photographs printed in several artist books, recording the still-wet, intricate tidal patterns inscribed by snails, currents, and other beings in the mudflats at low tide, mapping the diversity and signature of each landscape. The project intertwines ecological and historical narratives, personal and communal memory, scientific data, and a wide range of media to revere, share and care for the fragile landscapes of Bahía Adair in Sonora, Mexico, and the Severn Estuary in the UK.
By examining the Severn Estuary and Bahía Adair side-by-side, the finished installation aims to instill a sense of reverence as well as a feeling of communal care through articulating the shared characteristics and striking distinctions of each site. Located in the Upper Gulf of California, Bahía Adair has the third-largest tidal range in North America, and is a sparsely populated wetland complex fringed with salt pans, freshwater springs, and multiple esteros (hypersaline inverse estuaries that occur in dry climates where evaporation exceeds inflow of freshwater). The Severn Estuary, fed by the Severn River, has the second largest tidal range in the world, and a rich maritime culture that has been cultivated for centuries. 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.
It would be an impoverished sensibility if one did not feel, when on intertidal land at low tide, the strangeness of the same space at high tide. This is part of the wonder of estuaries and part of their vulnerability. And all this is overlain now by a darker future specter of climate change, sea level rise and storm surge induced erosion.
The Bahía Adair-half of the project is nearly complete. I’ve been working with fisherman Rafael Peñuelas Machuca recording his childhood memories with his father in the early 60s, and diver Ernesto Gastellum who has taken me by boat or 4x4 truck to remote sites along Bahía Adair to make the casts. For the final installation, I’m aiming to complete around 25 casts with their locations shown on a hand-drawn map, display the two artist books, play the tidal soundscape composed by Blue Stained Stems, and share the print exchange created in response to the project by artists from the UK, Mexico and US. These will be shown twice: once in Tucson and once in Puerto Peñasco. A silent auction for the individual mudflat casts and artist books will help raise money and awareness for CEDO Intercultural.
I will be working on the second stage of this project at the Severn Estuary within the Fulbright program in spring 2024, working with Cardiff University School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, the Severn Estuary Partnership, and my main collaborator, geographer Owain Jones. I hope that by comparing these two landscapes, the project will create an intriguing contrast and unique framework for bringing about awareness of climate impacts on estuaries world-wide.