Winter snowfalls are providing a welcome respite from seeing strand-line plastic – allowing time for focusing on the natural forms of familiar Northern shorelines. One of the lowest tides this winter took place on the 2nd February- allowing access to see some of the biggest and heaviest of our marine algae – Laminaria (Kelp) beautifully bowed over, shiny and relaxed in the slack water . The ‘stand of the tide’ provided me the opportunity for a few hours observation of these brown seaweeds. Close up its easy to appreciate that they produce the main plant material for the coastal food web. Anchored along the low water line and out into the sub-tidal zone the submerged kelp form ‘forests’ – a perfect habitat for fish, shellfish and other animals to get food and find hiding places. The rich biodiversity of our coastline is fascinating and clear to see when walking through this dynamic inter-tidal world/zone .
As the media begins to wake up to the ‘Plastic Pollution’ issue evidenced on our shore lines, I revel in my momentary ‘Plastic Free’ time in the Littoral Zones
reinvigorated by many winter walks in this rich dynamic environment I am preparing to seek out support for my work – to visually tell the story of this important ecological CONTACT ZONE that is now constantly battered and often smothered by our litter.
I am looking for online help to crowd fund for the next phase of this project focusing on making work in public settings this year, to be toured to Harbours, Ports, Museums, Street Festivals next year. Please get in touch if you can offer any help by leaving a comment below or emailing me Julia Barton firstname.lastname@example.org
31 MSPs pledged to take action on plastic pollution by signing at #CleanBeachesScotland exhibition & event at Holyrood in December 2017. I created the exhibition based on my recent NEO Terra installation shown in both Shetland & Ullapool, to illustrate to MSP’s the scale of coastal & marine plastic pollution in Scotland.
Of the MSPs who signed, 50% ticked all of the pledges demonstrating a personal commitment to backing measures to reduce the amount of plastic that contaminates our beaches and sea. 63% are keen to meet with Littoral Art Project to take a closer look at plastic pollution along their constituency shorelines. We will meet local beach cleaning groups (Marine Conservation Society MCS , Surfers Against Sewage SAS and Harbourmasters to learn more about specific beach litter issues in their constituency and to enrol them in becoming Beach Champions.
Photographs by Alan McCredie
Joan McAlpine MSP joined me at Dunbar in her South Scotland constituency, to examine the particular litter issues concerning the Dunbar Harbour Trust as a multi-use Harbour and to take a sand sample from the regularly cleaned south beach.
The exhibition and event received wonderful cross-party support from MSPs, including Graeme Day convener of the Environment, Climate & Land Reform Committee with interesting conversations with many members of the committee. Environment spokesperson for the SL Claudia Beamish who attended the event, later commented in a Parliamentary Debate on the 20th December that “it was truly inspiring to see what art can do to support communities and others in their work on the issue”Roseanna Cunninghamresponded in the debate that ‘……The work of the organisations that the member flagged up is incredibly important, and it needs to be backed up by Government and global action…….’
Thanks to Mark Ruskell, Environmental spokesperson for the Scottish Green Party, for his time to hear about Littoral Art Project’s findings and to talk through the value of LAP’s citizen science approach. He outlined his commitment to rigorous debate about plastic pollution and the connection to climate change legislation. I look forward to following up his links to Fife environment and arts education organisations.
I will also be contacting the other MSP’s interested in bringing the LAP to their constituencies ( Joan McAlpine in South Scotland, Rachael Hamilton in the Borders, Kate Forbes in Skye, Liam McArthur and Jamie Halcro Johnston in Orkney ) and to explore the potential of this creative approach to engage their communities in tackling #MarinePlasticPollution as in Shetland and Ullapool where people joined me in collecting and examining beach samples.
The results of this interactive arts-cum science approach formed the photographic evidence shared with MSPs and is available to share with councils and community groups.
Following on from the success of the Holyrood exhibition, the Shetland Amenity Trust and I will be requesting a meeting with Scotland’s Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham. I intend to pass on the LAP research from 120 beaches and the findings of partner organisations, community groups and individuals that took part in the #CleanBeachesScotland event co-hosted by MCS , with major contributers KIMO, SAT, FIDRA, SAMS ). I will be highlighting the extent of plastic pollution originating from the fishing and aquaculture industries, which often makes up to 90% of litter on Northern Scottish beaches and are often under mentioned .
We welcome the recent Scottish Government’s announcement to legislate against environmentally damaging items:
The positive response of so many MSPs during the #CleanBeachesScotland event and the Scottish Governments environmental announcements give hope to all those working to #BeatPollution in Scotland. These are great achievements that need to be actioned and broadened to include the fishing & aquaculture industry’s plastic pollution as soon as possible, so that Scotland can truly be seen to be leading the way internationally towards achieving a cleaner more sustainable environment.
Please follow up with your MSP e.g. suggest helping to bring the project to their constituency. If you/your organisation/group has evidence of plastic pollution on a stretch of the Scottish coastline please leave a comment below or email me so I can include it in the #CleanBeachScotland document that I will present to the Environment Minister.
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Julia has received Creative Scotland awards supported by The National Lottery for the original Littoral Art Project R&D and NEO Terra exhibition that led to this exhibition. The #CleanBeachesScotland exhibition was self-funded by the artist.
My ongoing musings on our entanglement with plastic pollution and its interconnectedness with the sustainability of our environment both here in Scotland and globally was greatly aided by visitng the most recent An Talla Solais exhibition Murmur an exhibition of 5 women artists reflecting on Climate Change .
Both the exhibition and a gallery talk by John McIntyre (scientist) illustrated the linkage between our actions and changes in world ecology. John used this diagram called a ‘Muir Web‘ drawn by Landscape ecologist Chris Harrison as a visualization of habitat relationships and ecological associations of the Manhattan island, circa 1609.
John Muir: “When we try to pick out anything by itself we find that it is bound fast by a thousand invisible cords that cannot be broken, to everything in the universe.”
Our inter-connectedness and responsibility to the environment, our species and each other was further wonderfully delivered that evening in a film of the American philosopher/artist Donna Haraway entitled ‘Story Telling for Earthly Survival’ by film-maker Fabrizio Terranova. Donna animatedly tells anecdotes of her dogs prowess at complex agility courses, adding another layer to her own visual analogy of our ecological and social mesh being as a ‘Cats Cradle’
As I begin to select elements of the NEO Terra exhibition to take to Holyrood in December to share with MSP’s and Ministers I am convinced of the importance of taking the #LitterCUBES particularly this one made from strapping to help with imagining the depth and complexity of the issue that we are all enmeshed in.
My intention is to engage as many people as possible in the seeing of the ecological web/mesh we hold in our hands. To do this I am working up an idea to tour the #LitterCUBES ( in much bigger forms) to harbours and festivals around the coast.
Please leave any suggestions below of possible locations, where you can see this working and ways to help raise funding to make this happen . Thank you
Very happy to have achieved the installation of NEO Terra: my multi-media interactive exhibition at An Talla Solais’s gallery in Ullapool. The preview was well attended helped by a flurry of invitation Tweets and re tweets, plus the BBC coverage . Many thanks to all.
All exhibitions are challenging to install, this one included, the ‘minimal look’ of the overall exhibition belies the amount of focused and time consuming work required to set up the 10 x 2 m canvas, assemble 12 islands from over a thousand of pieces of melted plastic, video animation, 4 sculptures, 3 large wall drawings, 2 printed charts, Plastiglomerate cross section and the all important interactive lab space comprising: Plastiglomerate sample point , magnification and monitor station , lightbox installation, 60 glass vials containing sand samples. ready for examination. ,
The projects ethos of public engagement continued through to the installation process and each day local members of the arts and science community called by to help carry, draw, provide sustenance and encouragement. So THANK YOU to Alice (from Shetland), John , Ailsa (on loan from Visit Scotland) Sara & Jan from Ceard, Milly, Erin, Rosanne, Caroline, Susan, Eileen, Daniel, ATS and Creative Scotland. (team shot to follow)
The first comment I over-heard at the preview assured me that our hard work was worth it, as an audience member stepped into the main gallery facing the long floor installation stretching 10 meters in front of him, promptly turned and said ‘this is a bit challenging’
The show runs every day 10-5pm until Sunday the 18th June at An Talla Solais , Market St, Ullapool.(link)
The first sighting of the exhibition NEO Terra, an archipelago of islands was seen on Saturday at Da Gadderie, Lerwick, by an inquisitive, thoughtful and appreciative audience. These first shots fleetingly record a walk through the exhibition, around the central floor installation a 10 metre map with plastiglomerate archipelago within the Polymer Sea. Exiting this space the Terra Nova animation made with Shetland filmmaker JJ Jamieson illuminates the origin and making of the islands/the plastiglomerates.
Turning left visitors enter an interactive space where plastiglomerates with their place of discovery can be examined. 60 beach samples from around the islands are arranged side by side , a selection of which with commonly found microplastics can be magnified and projected. Notes can be left of observations. Opposite is a photo documentation of education workshops carried out in schools this spring.
Five cubes constructed out of plastic items found on beaches and a simply drawn timeline notating how long different items/materials might last on beaches completes the exhibition.
The exhibition runs until the 12th of November at Shetland Museum & Archives and is open very day 10-4pm. I will be present in the gallery on many days during the exhibition naming coastal features and analysing the samples collected. I look forward to meeting visitors particularly on Friday afternoons between 2-4pm
Many thanks: to JJ Jamieson for his creative collaboration and technical dexterity in making the animation. Thanks to John Hunter Shetland Museum & Archives curator for going along with plans for re-configuring the gallery, physical help in constructing the walls and keeping us smiling while installing and to Davy Cooper from the Shetland Amenity Trust for lending us equipment and calm we can fix it support.
Installation was only possible with the help of artist/photographer Ailsa, art students Alice and Kirsty, Jane from Sumburgh Head, and Sita Goudie and Alice from the Trust.
Thanks to Jean Urquhart for making the connection between my work on the NW coast and the work of Sita Goudie running the Shetland Amenity Trusts Environmental Improvement work who in turn enabled the Littoral Art Project in Shetland to happen.
Plus all my friends and supporters on the mainland and world wide thank you !
The opening of the An Talla Solais members open exhibition on Friday gave me the opportunity to open my studio and invite visitors in to see my growing collation of information and emerging ideas of possible responses to the beach litter I am examining with the High School pupils.
I am asking for comments to be added to my working notes on the walls as people walk around the studio. The number of different of beach litter materials displayed are growing.
Isolating them into specific groups enables discussion into specific related problems. Something that I am keen to do.
Arriving on the Isle of Cumbrae early on Thursday morning at low tide I was able to watch the terns and oyster catchers rigorously working the tide lines for food. A perfect start to my day dedicated to focusing on techniques to help me get to know what’s happening in the littoral zone around our coast.
My eagerly awaited tutorial with marine Biologist Dr Phillip Cowie at UMBSM ( the University Marine Biology Station on the Isle of Cumbrae Millport) covered top tips on simple best practice microscopy, advantages of certain microscopes, effects of different light sources and ways of taking photographs through the microscope using a digital camera
Equipment and methods required for separating out different man-made particulates collected. As most low to medium density plastics float separation is easy and effective through immersing in trays of water and picking them out with tweezers to examine. Butchers dishes , tweezers……
The range of plastics in one small sample from the strand line near the station at the mouth of the Clyde is huge the cheaper end of the market using Polyethelene eg household string, plastic bags (right hand rope).
Stronger products such as load baring ropes and clothes are made from Polypropalene this form of plastic being manufactured from individual fibres (left hand rope), the strands of which are at the centre of the stations research, filaments are now being recorded in a host of marine organisms including fish, crustaceans such as the Nephrops (pictured here) and most disturbingly in organisms as small as sand-hoppers.
As sand-hoppers are food for so many birds feeding on our beaches I hope in someway to highlight this fact in my work . We then discussed the ways of capturing and keeping sand-hoppers alive in tanks for a display illuminating the issue of ingestion of fibres and the existence of plastic in the food chain. Dr Cowie pointed out that it’s difficult to be able to extrapolate and project the significance of their findings without continued and wider research into feeding habits of fish and other marine organisms.
Unfortunately this though will not now be continuing on at the station.
P.S By the end of the day I had been able to work on microscope techniques, build up my knowledge regards identification of different types of plastics and the possible sources/origins of them. I was able to discuss the implications of the different materials to marine organisms and broaden my understanding of the proposedresponses to managing beach litter.The Station was an appropriate place for me to build my marine education essential for my littoral project as it was founded in 1885 on the ‘Ark’ a boat fitted out as a laboratory and run by the islands naturalist Dr D Robertson and was visited by distinguished scientists and inspired hundreds of amateur naturalists like myself.
I would like to thank Dr Cowie for his enthusiastic support for my project, wish him and the research team luck and success in carrying their research on in the future and to encourage anyone who has the opportunity to visit the station.