MISSION GALLERY, SWANSEA, WALES

14 JUNE – 03 AUGUST 2014

The bay of Swansea, which boasts stunning beaches that sit side by side with a significant industrial past and a commercial present, is an obvious choice for the location of one of the Ephemeral Coast exhibitions. It offers potential for so many facets of the project’s goals: a gallery situated in a maritime quarter, as well as the capacity to connect through geographic proximity and community to the cultures of the coast. Moreover, South Wales, along with the West of Wales and most regions in the South of England, have experienced startling changes to its weather patterns with record storm surges and flooding remapping the physical contours of the coastline with serious ramifications of how we conceptualize living on the coast.

The artists taking part have been chosen because they all currently employ ideas, themes and methods of exploration and mapping coastal culture and their associated ecologies; and all are concerned with practices of site-specificity. Each of the artists produced new work based on the curatorial premise of the exhibition: Stefhan Caddick, (Abergavenny, Wales) responds to the recent floods in the region with a diorama inspired by J.G. Ballard’s Drowned World, which alludes to nihilism, biblical floods as well as contemporary migrations; Fern Thomas’s (Swansea, Wales) From the Watchtower Radio Station will utilize sound recordings of her own performative practices of observing the sea as well as those of her community during the first half of the exhibition; while Julia Davis’ (NSW, Australia) video installation presents a comparative geography in which the artist positions herself ‘at the edge’ of an encounter – with natural wonder and its imminent ecocide. Meanwhile, Gemma Copp, a Swansea based artist has produced a video for ‘The Space’ in which she contemplates the breath of the sea and its figurative death. Comparative in scope, these works give rise to creative strategies for understanding new and uncertain coastal ecologies and the loss, resilience or metamorphosis of their associated cultures.

A catalogue of Ephemeral Coast – S. Wales will be published by punctum.books with contributions by Ian Buchanan, Director of the Institute of Social Transformation, University of Wollongong, NSW, Australia; Mary H. Gagen, Associate Professor of Geography and Climate Change, Swansea University and C3W; and Celina Jeffery.

 

EXHIBITION CATALOGUE

 

Ephemeral Coast, S. Wales
Edited by Celina Jeffery
Brooklyn, NY: punctum books, 2014. 64 pages, illus. ISBN-13: 978-0988234048. OPEN-ACCESS e-book and $30.00 in print: paperbound/8.5 X 11 in.

Buy or download the catalogue at Punctum Books
This catalogue is a theoretical extension of the artists’ work presented in first installment of the exhibition in south Wales, UK. The catalogue discusses the curatorial process and incorporates essays by guest authors, who re-contextualize Ephemeral Coast, S Wales within discussions of regional climate change and cultural theory.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Introduction — Celina Jeffery // Navigating Coastal Climate Change — Mary H. Gagen // Curating Ephemeral Coast — Celina Jeffery // ARTIST PAGES: Stefhan Caddick, Julia Davis, Fern Thomas, Gemma Copp // The Ephemeral Coast: On the Edge of the Otherly Realm — Ian Buchanan

 

Julia Davis

ABOUT THE ARTIST

The primary focus of my research investigates the perceptions of and relationships between places, spaces and human habitation. My questions revolve around how these perceptions underpin our sense of self as well as how landscape is cultural space – a space formed by and informing culture.

BIO

Julia Davis is a site-specific artist based in Sydney, Australia. Over the past decade Davis’ work has been installed in salt lakes, deserts, coastal precincts, parklands, galleries and built environments. Her practice explores the perceptions and relationships between objects, places and spaces. More recently, Davis’ work has attended to the viewer’s experiential reading of space in terms of temporality and duration. She has exhibited in Australia, Germany, Italy and Spain, and is the recipient of numerous awards including the NAVA NSW artist grant (2011), the Helen Lempriere National Sculpture Award (2007), the Woollahra Sculpture Prize (2006) and the NGSW Director’s prize (2002). She currently teaches sculpture at TAFE and holds an MVA from Sydney College of Arts.

www.juliadavis.com.au

 Julia Davis,  Consilience: as the world turns , 2013/14, Time-lapse HD video, stereo sound. 07:49 (loop). Concept/ Performance: Julia Davis, Camera: Alex Chemey, Composting: Matt Fezz,, Sound: Paul Huntingford, Julia Davis Thanks to NASA for extracts of sound from Voyager 1 & 11’s first recording of interstellar space and encounter with Saturn 1980.

Julia Davis, Consilience: as the world turns, 2013/14, Time-lapse HD video, stereo sound. 07:49 (loop). Concept/ Performance: Julia Davis, Camera: Alex Chemey, Composting: Matt Fezz,, Sound: Paul Huntingford, Julia Davis Thanks to NASA for extracts of sound from Voyager 1 & 11’s first recording of interstellar space and encounter with Saturn 1980.

ABOUT THE WORK

Julia Davis’s work explores the effect of time on understandings of the body in relation to landscape and how this underpins our sense of self and place. She often works in ‘active‘ landscapes such as deserts, volcanic areas, coastal precincts and salt lakes and is interested in the idea that landscape is cultural space – a space informed by and informing culture.

In geological time, the landscape moves, pulses and crashes in processes of coming into and out of existence. The often violent imagery of turbulent volcanic ash clouds used in recent works translates here in this vast Southern Hemisphere sky, which elicits contradictory feelings of foreboding and rapture. Tension between anticipated loss and subsequent renewal, as well as the duality of processes that create and destroy, corrode and protect are ongoing interests in Davis’s art practice. The ‘active’ places she refers to mirror the fragile human experience of movement, instability, rhythm, reflection and change. In her work, geological time and human perception merge into a single spatial experience and take us closer to a sense of the world as our place.

You can also view Julia’s work produced during an IASKA’s residency in Western Australia, SPACED: art out of place, 2010

Julia at SPACED: art out of place


 

Stefhan Caddick

ABOUT THE ARTIST

 I am interested in the savagery of the natural world, misremembered episodes from political history, the three-minute single and not knowing the way. My work, whilst taking a range of forms from film to installation, drawing to performance, is unified by an intellectual and aesthetic rigour. I approach the act of making work with an interest in the process itself and will sometimes invent ornate, often ridiculous systems or methodologies as a mode of production. My work is at once darkly melancholic and blackly comedic.

Stefhan Caddick is a Wales-based artist who works in video, installation and performance. His practice is often a collaborative engagement that sources its materials from institutions, communities and individuals. With an interest in process itself, Caddick invents ornate systems of production that are both melancholic and comedic. He is the recent recipient of the Major Creative Wales Award from the Art Council of Wales (2013), and has been commissioned for various artistic projects including Pickle Lane (2013) at the Fourth Wall Festival, Ghost Parade (2012) at the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad Festival and The Magician’s Cat (2004) at the Welsh National Opera. Caddick is currently a visiting lecturer in Creative Sound and Music at the University of Wales College, where he also earned his MA in Documentary Photography.

 Stefhan Caddick,  Drowned World , 2014, Plywood boat. Cradle and bespoke wallpaper, Birch plywood, wood, cloth, miscellaneous materials, wallpaper

Stefhan Caddick, Drowned World, 2014, Plywood boat. Cradle and bespoke wallpaper, Birch plywood, wood, cloth, miscellaneous materials, wallpaper

ABOUT THE WORK

 “The low night sounds of the jungle drifted over the water; occasionally a marmoset gibbered or the iguanas shrieked distantly from their eyries in the distant office blocks. Myriads of insects festered along the water-line, momentarily disturbed as the swells rolled in … slapping at the canted sides of the pontoon.” JG Ballard

Taking as its starting point Ballard’s novel of the same name, Drowned World comprises a functional, scaled down prototype of a junk rigged floating survival craft. The craft sits at the centre of a fictional, faceted environment, reminiscent of early video games. Like Ballard’s 1962 novel, the installation asks questions about what happens to people when the edge is redrawn; and the enduring allure of natural catastrophe – ‘the-end-is-nigh’-ism – as evident in the biblical flood story as it is in contemporary debates about climate change. It also stumbles into issues about migration and whether there’s a survivalist thread hidden within the contemporary ‘maker’.

www.stefhancaddick.co.uk

 

Gemma Copp

ABOUT THE ARTIST

I work predominately with film and installation, often filming in isolated and secluded places or places perceived to be so by the viewer. My work aims to raise a flux of visceral emotions relating to identity and basic human emotions and concerns.

Gemma Copp is a Welsh artist, who currently resides in Swansea, her city of birth. Graduating with a BA in Fine Art from Swansea Metropolitan University in 2006, Copp went on to complete an MA in Contemporary Dialogues in 2009 at the same University. Copp has recently taken part in the Glynn Vivian’s Artist in Residence program. Copp has shown work nationally and internationally and has recently exhibited work at the Talbot Rice Gallery in Edinburgh, and at the Mannheim Film Festival in Germany, where she received a special commendation from the judges. She was awarded Welsh Artist of the Year in 2012.

 Gemma Copp,  Leaving Tide , 2014, Film, 40 mins.

Gemma Copp, Leaving Tide, 2014, Film, 40 mins.

ABOUT THE WORK

With its continuous body of salt water covering most of the earth’s surface, the sea is seen as a geophysical body with the tidal rhythms acting as its lungs. The sea is a constant reminder of life, where its continuous tidal motions breathe existence into nature’s habitat and fuel the cycle of regeneration. But what if that were to stop? Life is given value because of its transient and impermanent nature, and the coastline can be just as fragile and ephemeral. What if the rhythm were to be damaged and the cycle broken? Would nature’s balance disappear with the low tide, never to return? Within the piece you see a melancholic, motionless figure, dressed in black, with her back to the viewer. It appears that she is stood, balancing on top of the sea, as the waves repeatedly roll around her. The sea appears to be in balance at this point but as the once high tide turns to low tide and disburses around the figure, it gives the impression that something menacing is about to happen. The colour and focus of the horizon, that once was clear and inspiring, creating feelings of happiness and limitless possibilities, instead now offers the viewer visceral feelings of concern and desolation.

 

FERN THOMAS

ABOUT THE ARTIST

Fern Thomas is based out of Swansea, Wales, UK. Rooted in the processes and principles of Social Sculpture, her work explores the potency and transformational capacities of the image in its broadest sense and interrogates her relationship with the ecological, archetypal, and mythological world. Manifesting in action – live or documented – her process-led and intuitive explorations often take the form of a physical interaction or ‘meeting’ between herself and a place, a dream, a history or another being.

Thomas is the winner of Mostyn Open (2011), was a recipient of the Arts and Humanities Research Council Award (2011/2012), was awarded the Interdisciplinary Arts Prize (2013) at Oxford Brookes University for her work during her Masters in Social Sculpture, and received a Creative Wales Award in 2014 to support her ongoing research into participatory forms and their relationship with sustainability. Thomasreceived her MA in Social Sculpture from Oxford Brookes University, working with Shelley Sacks, where she developed the post-apocalyptic research unit Institute for Imagined Futures & Unknown Lands.

She co-initiated the collaborative and pedagogical groups Art’s Birthday Wales and Forever Academy, works closely with her key collaborator Owen Griffiths, and is a member of the Social Sculpture Research Unit based in Oxford, UK.

 Fern Thomas,  From the Watchtower Radio Station , 2014, Audio. Spoken word/ sonic interpretation, Publication: Printed by Like Lichen 

Fern Thomas, From the Watchtower Radio Station, 2014, Audio. Spoken word/ sonic interpretation, Publication: Printed by Like Lichen 

ABOUT THE WORK

From the Watchtower is an unfolding process-led research work that will develop across the duration of the Ephemeral Coast exhibition. It will see the transformation of citizen into learner/observer, into active participant.

Expanding on a daily practice of watching the sea from her top floor flat overlooking Swansea Bay, the ‘Watchtower’ will be activated by Thomas through a series of day-long observations of the sea.

Across several weeks, set days will be dedicated to the act of observing the sea or ‘keeping watch’ from a high window overlooking the sea where shifting tides, colours, and unknown phenomenology will be observed. Set within the context of an ‘Ephemeral Coast’, From the Watchtower will explore our relationship with the sea, the potential future of the oceans and the processes of understanding through observing. Working with an imagined future, the work will also question what ‘keeping watch’ of the sea might mean.

At the end of each day observations and thoughts will be transformed into a spoken word/sonic interpretation of the day which will be made available online as a download from the From the Watchtower Radio Station. Participants are encouraged to upload the sound works to their mobile devices and take a walk across Swansea Bay.

Those who also view the sea from their homes will be invited to participate in a ‘shift’ at the watchtower, where they can share with Thomas their observations.

A small publication, published by LikeLichen Press, will be made available at the end of the exhibition.

View the updates and download the sound works from: www.thesefuturefields.eu/fromthewatchtower