Murmur: Artists Reflect on Climate Change - An Talla Solais - 5 August - 16 September was curated by Jonathan Baxter and brought together a group of four environmental artists and one jeweller all concerned with climate change; Sarah Gittins, Chloe Lewis, Ellis O'Connor, Meg Rodger and Saule Žuk
Curator Jonathan Baxter on Murmur: Artists Reflect on Climate Change ...
"When thinking about this exhibition - the reality of climate change, the devastating impact it's having and will continue to have on the ecosystems that we all, human and non-human, depend upon - the word 'urgency' comes to mind. So why is this exhibition entitled Murmur - Artists Reflect on Climate Change? Shouldn't these artists - like all of us - be shouting out a warning or taking direct action?
It's tempting to think that action is what we need. (And, of course, we really do need action to address climate change.) But before we act we need to nice there's a problem we need to notice the wonder: the abundant multiplicity of life forms and living systems that make up this teeming planet.
One way to take notice is through art. Both the making of art and the engagement with art. Indeed, as Anne Bogart has written, 'the true function of art' is 'to awaken what is asleep'.
This chimes well with the artists who have made work for this exhibition. When asked what they hoped the the exhibition might achieve - knowing full well that art is only one part of a multifaceted response to climate change - their individual answers, although nuanced, were of a piece. ...
Living at 57° North / 7° West and exposed to the Atlantic of all the elemental forces, my life is defined by the wind.
This body of work continues my exploration of my relationship with the elemental qualities of wind. The work in An Talla Solais gallery has been created by an interaction between the wind, a simple tripod apparatus and myself. As part of the exhibition, my Storm Drawing Barrel has been deployed on the end of Ullapool Ferry Pier for two weeks, thanks to the co-operation and support of Harbour Master, Kevin Peach and ATS staff. The image above is one of the first outputs which has given a great result. These will be be displayed in the gallery as a drawing record of the wind for this period.
The backdrop to this process is the rhythm of the Shipping Forecast, established in 1861 by Robert FitzRoy, formerly Captain of the Beagle on expedition with Charles Darwin 1831-1836. For around 150 years, the daily Shipping Forecast has been a reliable and dependable life-line for anyone making a living from the sea.
Unfortunately, FitzRoy’s inspirational work in meteorology was not fully appreciated in his lifetime. He was lambasted by businessmen concerned that his forecasts kept their ships in port, discredited in the press by politicians seeking to further their own careers and under pressure to justify his forecasting methodology by competitive fellow meteorologist. Sadly, as a result, in 1865 FitzRoy suffered a mental breakdown and took his own life. For thirteen years the Shipping Forecast fell silent but those at sea and those who would listen, finally successfully lobbied Parliament for its return, resulting in the Meteorological Office of today. In 2002, in recognition of his ground-breaking work, the Met Office changed the Shipping Forecast sea area of Finisterre to FitzRoy.
During the mid 1800s, FitzRoy and his contemporaries researched and studied during a burgeoning time within the sciences. In particular, James Tyndall’s research was fundamental to the current climate change debate. On the 7 February 1861, he presented his conclusions to the Royal Society ‘On the Absorption and Radiation of Heat by Gases and Vapours’, what we now term ‘Green House Gases.’
Now in the 21st Century, for climate change scientists with the task of forecasting the future of our environment theories on green house gases are all too familiar. Unfortunately, though so too are the skeptics within trade, politics and the press. Forecasting climate change has many parallels with the groundbreaking meteorology Fitzroy and his contemporaries were attempting 150 years ago.
My wind drawings are comparable to statistical scatter plots. Each mark is a record of the direction and strength of the wind with the darkest areas representing the tendency over time. The patterning is similar to the statistics within the climate change debate, where there are so many variables that the associated scientists are constantly challenged to justify their forecast. Unfortunately, like my wind drawings, increasingly there is recognition that the inference is towards a dark pattern of change.
In honour of FitzRoy, the title of each of my wind drawings is the Shipping Forecast relating to the day on which the drawing was made.
Sarah Gittins on Sea Tangle ...
In April 2017 I undertook a research residency with An Talla Solais with the aim of investigating how low-impact fishing practices are, or will be, affected by climate change. I was aware that a great part of the fishing community in Ullapool works in a way that is gentle on the marine environment and I was interested in discovering more about the reality of livelihoods that are directly dependent on the wellbeing of the seas. I was also interested in discovering more about how Wester Ross waters are responding to the stresses of climate change. In particular, I wanted to investigate whether warming seas and changes in weather patterns, along with the related symptoms of acidification, species migration and species loss, were being witnessed by those in and around Ullapool who harvest the sea.
During the residency I met and spoke with the Ullapool Harbour Master, two creel fishermen, a scallop diver, an oyster farmer, a seaweed harvester, a writer investigating climate change and the artists of Murmur, among others. Sea Tangle was made in response to the research conversations and experiences made possible by the generosity and support of these people. It aims to weave together some of the interconnecting threads of working lives, environmental change and life sustained by the sea.
Chloe Lewis on Impacts of Climate Change ...
I am visually attracted to polar ice caps and their constant freezing temperatures. Through research it is clear that climate change is having a devastating impact on the Arctic Ocean. Climate changes are altering the sea surface temperature. I have explored these temperature fluctuations through drop water casting using pewter. This casting technique has enabled me to capture tangible evidence of an invisible change. The results from experiments vary from large and compact to explosions of tiny pieces. The investigation ranges from 11 degrees to just below boiling point. Working with the investigation's outcomes and combining modern materials and self-discovered techniques, I have created a series of jewellery pieces that express the fragility of our environment whilst highlighting its magical qualities. This project and my approach enable me to draw attention to the global impact of climate change.
Ellis O'Connor on Shifting Land ...
This work deals with the linear qualities of landscape at the North West Highlands Geopark. The work aims to address the significance of the landscape to show how even the smallest details of the land are tangible, vibrant and constantly shifting. The work itself is abstract. Choosing to focus on the lines, textures and patterns of the unique geology of the area, Shifting Land seeks to instil in the viewer the immersive beauty of this landscape and how the micro can be a significant sours for understanding the power of the land.
Saule Žuk on Twenty Days on Ullapool Hill ...
Twenty Days on Ullapool Hill is an attempt to make a deeper connection with Ullapool's local environment by camping on Ullapool Hill. In light of climate change I wanted to approach a deeper understanding of my connection with the local environment. To expose myself to the weather I camped in a small tent providing only shelter as opposed to a comfortable dwelling space. I was struggling to escape the rain and stay dry, until I began to embrace it. I learned to trust the wind to dry me and I learned to move with the shifting weather. The tent was small and narrow, creating a second layer of my body. The tent and I would tremble in the wind. I could feel the knocking rain at night.
During the first days I found it difficult to let go of my busy mind. I felt anxious for not being actively busy, but the humble Encounters I had with the surrounding environment slowly pulled me in and calmed my mind. I remember the joy and the need of just being, feeling, sensing and witnessing the surroundings. I slowed down, there was nowhere to rush to and always something to witness. My ears opened up to the sounds of creatures in the grass, falling streams and the gentle humming of day and night. I was mesmerised by the beauty of the always moving sky - constantly changing, alive every second. I felt a part of Ullapool hill - just being there and witnessing the movements of everything alive. I wanted to stay there longer, to witness the wonder of changing seasons.
During my time on Ullapool Hill I came down to the town to make clay whistles with the people I met. We spoke about climate change. Clay Whistles is an offering to the earth. Giving it voice by giving it sound. The conversations I had with each whistle maker took form in each of the whistles. The whistles embody a gentle call and response to reflect on what is truly important to us.
Once I was back in the studio, I missed the smells and movements of Ullapool Hill. I wanted to share the wonder of soil and cover half the gallery with soil from the hill. However, it did not feel right to rob the land of so much soil just for my own pleasure and the pleasure it would bring to a gallery audience. Instead, I have collected small samples of soil from the hill. Borrowed Earth refers to the fact that I am borrowing the soil from Ullapool Hill to share the wonder of colours and textures of the local environment. At the end of the exhibition I will return the soil to Ullapool Hill.
Shelter is an invitation to stop, slow down and reconnect to what's important to each of us in our relationship to a changing world. I invite you to sit or stand in the shelter, to stop for a moment, to just be and breathe.