Environmental art and climate justice

Nighthouses
As Donna Haraway writes, we have got ourselves and the natural world into ‘Lots of trouble’. Here are three of my responses to the mess we are in. I made the first one, Tidal Village, on the Severn Estuary, and the other two are drawing based. One shows some site specific drawings and the other is Multispecies Drawings, where I am using natural processes as a creative partner.

TIDAL VILLAGE
Tidal Village is a piece of work exploring ideas and images about flooding and loss, made on the high tides of the Severn Estuary. Climate change not only sows seeds for conflict, but it also makes displacement much worse when conflict happens. An annual average of 21.5 million people have been forcibly displaced by weather-related hazards each year since 2008. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees many of those who are displaced across borders as a result of climate change may not meet the refugee definition and get the support that they need.

The tide is coming in fast and I quickly chose a place to site my three houses. I like working with the stuff of childhood and am reminded of playing by the pond when I was little, but the estuary has a current that sweeps in with enormous force. The smallest house is picked up and carried to the end of its anchor line, and the two bigger houses capsize. I think about low lying countries likw Bangladesh, and how we may all end up being sucked into the rising tides.
3 night houses

I take the cut paper dolls from my basket and drift them into the water, which is already starting to recede. My houses come to rest back on the mud and I pick them up by their anchor lines and carry them back to the car. We go to the pub for cider and crisps, and sit looking out across the estuary where water and land shift so fast they seem to be interchangeable.

Paper dolls in water at night
Tidal Village 2

MULTISPECIES DRAWINGS
These drawings explore assumptions of human supremacy, and the many overlapping communities that humans and non humans co-exist in. I put organic materials onto sheets of watercolour paper and kept it all damp for several days to encourage the transfer of marks. I then rinsed the paper and let the drawings emerge from the traces the organic matter had left behind. Below are some details from these drawings.

This drawing was prompted by a large visitation of wasps to the allotment. Initially I wanted to get rid of them, but then I became so fascinated by them that I was (almost) sorry when they left.
Worker was detail
George Monbiot (2016) writes, ‘We fetishise progress: a continuous movement in the same direction. We impose our lines on the messy, contradictory and meandering realities of the human world, because otherwise we would be completely lost in it.’

I made this drawing (detail below) to explore the similarity of shapes and patterns that occur in the human and non-human world.
spine and frond detail
Akin

SITE SPECIFIC DRAWINGS
I am never happier than when I’m out making work in the mud. The water trough is just below my allotment, and in the spring I harvest young nettles, using some to make delicious soup and drying the rest for plant food and tea.
Nettle
Nettle detail

I was brought up near Dungeness and we used to watch the beam from the lighthouse swing across the darkening marshes as we rumbled home on the school bus. This map is of the longshore drift at Dungeness, which is gradually moving the shingle eastwards. Lorries work night and day rebuilding the beach so that the power station does not cast its nuclear load into the sea.
the-sea-walks