NEO Terra: findings

On the 12th of November the final beach samples, taken from 60 beaches around Shetland, were carefully examined revealing a vast mix of  small plastic particles which were counted, recorded and projected across the exhibitions interactive space.

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51 of 60 beach samples taken from strandlines around Shetland contained plastic particles – Mangaster and Mavis Grind samples each contained over 100 plastic particles many  contained  Nurdles (plastic pellets being tracked across the world)

Many people returned to the exhibition for a final look and to share their own experiences of encountering beach litter, with stories of particular incidents of pollution from ship wrecks. In the early 1990’s two fish factory ships were wrecked close to Lerwick and residents from Gulberwick (a village a little way south) recounted  how they are still picking up debris from the wrecks particularly compressed foam (a form of plastic) from along their local  beach.  The plastic would have insulated the ships freezers. Perhaps next time the show is mounted there will be an island named WRECK, but for now the islands that made up New Lands /NEO Terra floor installation have been collapsed.

The majority of the plastiglomerates that I collected  from the beaches (25 boxes) and used to make the islands have now been placed in the Lerwick’s landfill facility.  Unfortunately this is the safest way to dispose of plastiglomerates which my have absorbed toxins from the sea. I bagged the few hundred  small plastiglomerates which had made up CORD isle to travel with me to new locations. The first of which was Southampton University   where I mixed together  plastglomerates from Shetland & Wester Ross to create  a geometric ‘Polymer Mix’ as part of my presentation for the ‘Being Human Festival’ focusing on the question ‘Is Plastic fantastic?’

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The delegates all agreed that plastic is a fantastic material as long as it stays within the economy – being reused and recycled. The vast leakage of plastic into the environment is damaging so many environments as witnessed here on beaches in Scotland, the UK and in oceans across the world. The leakages need to  be stopped whether it’s from factories, tourists on beaches , commercial fishing industries, agriculture or from toilets in our homes! One thing is sure we are all responsible.

NEO Terra will next be mounted in Ullapool at An Talla Solais’s  Caledonian Gallery next May – I will  begin my next collecting expedition to Wester Ross in the New Year. Please get in touch using the comment box below if you have any suggestions of where  the show might  travel too/be shown or have any comment/questions.

NEO Terra: first sighting

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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 !

cs-logo-1-copyand travel support from North Link Ferries

Making….

…. the process of making work for the exhibition has steadily been taking place over the last month in a series of places across the country.

Drawing and configuring island plans for my archipelago map and filming micro-plastics  at Wasps Studios in Edinburgh

Collecting & photographing litter items on the Firth of Forth beaches. The Guide to Beach Litter will be launched at an interactive educational event during the exhibition.

Modelling and photographing my toy commando in Borders 128 changes and shots were made to produce a short stop frame sequence for the exhibition animation.

Moldmaking and casting wax replicas of beach litter and the toy commando in the well equipped mixed media workshop at the Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop

Canvas dying experiments took place this week with friends at An Talla Solais in Ullapool. Scaling up the dying process revealed  difficulties in maintaining the consistent colour I want to achieve, an Ordanance Survey sea blue. Taking this liitation on board the canvas/map will now be made in a time honoured reliable way using paint

The final making stage  of this exhibition work will begin tomorrow when I arrive back in Shetland, where I will be delighted to take up my place as Artist in Residence at Sumburgh Head Lighthouse.

Post written while I wait to board the MVHrossey  from Orkney. Thanks to North Link Ferries support towards my passage.  The show opens on 8th October at Da Gadderie Lerwick Museum and Archives and runs until 12th November.

Searching…….

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….coastal geographical words, understanding of different polymers, appropriate materials, remaining animation shots to use in the making of my  exhibition  installation and for specifically for specialist support:

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a laboratory to carry out a chemical analysis of the different polymers fused together in the plastiglomerate samples that I have collected over the last year. The analysis will form a important part of the part of the installation

 

 

 

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promotional help, such as  contacts in news papers, journals, on line sites,  who would be intersted in telling the marine plastic issue from a new explorative visual angle using the Littoral Art Project story and exhibition

 

 

 

Any suggestions/comments/networking help for the exhibition would be much appreciated.         A press release with short summary of the project, exhibition information and schedule  can be found and copied from the Press Release page. Please forward this to any supportive organisations, journalists and colleagues/friends asking for editorial coverage/ help with promoting the exhibition. Neo-Terra: a burning marine issue  at Da Gadderie, Shetland Museum & Archive, Lerwick. Oct 8th-Nov 12th . Many thanks.


Footnote:  ‘inappropriate  resting place’ taken along the Forth estuary,  while completing the photogrphic illustrations for my Guide to Beach Litter.resting place

 

 

Shetland Notes 6: Birds

Tonight I take my leave of the Shetland Isles with Black Guillemot’s  diving in Garthspool harbour. Stepping onto the deck of the ferry I am able begin to unravel what I have learnt from my extraordinary Shetland expedition.Almost 8 weeks criss-crossing the Isles, examining beaches, collecting Plastiglomerate, filming  animation footage and leading workshops with pupils with 14 schools. On this journey my constant yet ever changing companions have been the wonderful bird life that fills the skies and extensive coastline.

             Drawings above of a Common Gull, Raven and Skua (Bronxie) by Urafirth School Pupils

As the ferry swiftly leaves the dock and makes its passage through the Bressay Sound Arctic Terns dart across the prow of the boat and Fulmars fly down skimming  the seas surface dipping to pick up food.

IMG_1882Steaming down the east coast of the isles I focus hard on the shoreline through the mist trying to recognise some of the beaches I have collected Plastiglomerates from and lead litter investigations on with pupils from 14 schools over the last 7  weeks. The first beaches I spot are effectively the small town beaches (less thean 50m long)  there are many of them tucked in between buildings with a  small tidal range.

We soon pass by the Voxter beaches of stone and shingle then Hoswick  beach were we examined the beaches with local Sandwick School pupils, collected micro-plastics from the beach and considered the disturbing images (below) taken by a scientist Jan Andries van Franeker who carried out an autopsy on a Fulmar found locally on Shetlands south mainland.

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The dead Fulmar had over 9oo polystyrene beads plus small pieces of plastic and nurdles. Fulmars  feed on the surface of the sea and understandably mistake the polystyrene and plastic pellets/pieces for fish eggs. The result of eating so many piece of plastic is starvation as the bird thinks its full. Fulmars also feed the plastic to the chicks. The extreme dangers of micro plastics to bird life was central to our Close Examination workshops and was carefully explained by my workshop colleague Jane Outram the environmental officer of the Shetland Amentity & Guide at Sumburgh Head Lighthouse (bird observatory). Jane has been a great bird knowledge and has been an invaluable project colleague  who has helped me to facilitate the workshops and help me  differentiate  the numerous type of  waders, gulls and .

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We have both been delighted and impressed by the children’s knowledge of birds while delivering the educational workshops. The Urafirth Primary Schools beautiful  illustrations used here are taken from the schools notice board which names the birds seen around their school and points out the dangers that face specific birds  like the Shag below,  from beach and marine plastic litter.

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Shetlanders are rightly proud of the vast aray and number  of bird and  wildlife that lives and visits the islands throughout the year. I have delighted in being able to witness this at close hand  as I criss-crossed the islands visiting beaches and schools. I have caught sight of otters cruising along the Grathspool harbour wall (Lerwick) at sunset and Red-throated Divers diving in the afternoon sunlight on Voes out west.

As MV Hrossey ploughs through the North Sea I try in vain to photograph a lone Gannet gliding  fast across the wake of the ship which is broken up by the fresh north easterly.

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As we pass by  Sumbrugh Head cloaked in cloud after  weeks of continual sunlight. I reflect on the fascinating natural beauty of Shetland and the dangers that wildlife and Birds are facing here and around the world given the increasing volume of plastics in the oceans and on the beaches.

Birdlife: (top) melted plastic rope,  (LHS) Guillemot egg on Yell,  (RHS) waders eggs increasingly exposed as nests change from muted brown to brightly  coloured

With such images in mind  I leave with an even greater determination to make work that envisages this environmental problem  in new and dramatic ways and  to stimulate  discussion and the need to act /change behaviours. I look forward to returning in September to install my work at Da Gadderie  Shetland Museum and Archives

Thanks to Creative Scotland for funding towards my animation and exhibition development work and thanks to Awards for All  and Zero Waste Scotland for funding for the educational workshops and to North Link Ferries  for help towards my travel.

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