Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Deborah & David

The Lemon Challenge

The collaboration between artist Deborah Hewson and scientist David Kelleghan invites you to think big and act small to influence the future in a positive way. 

Show Your Lemon Face highlights ocean acidification, sometimes called osteoporosis of the sea. Participants pledge one small act to reduce their carbon emissions and challenge friends to do the same.  They then, bite a lemon wedge and share their image/video on social media with the tag #showyourlemonface.

The production of greenhouse gases such as CO2 is accelerating climate change. We are all active participants in this universal process. This project’s scientific paper (available here) highlights the need to both manage natural resources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If we ever expect to see a positive change, we must take action now before it’s too late.

The oceans contain 96.5% of the earth’s available water. Consider then, their influence on everyday life as they ebb and flow. They contribute to the air we breathe, provide us with food and regulate our climate.

One of their many functions is the absorption of carbon dioxide (CO2). Increasing levels of CO2 from human activity alters their chemistry. This in combination with other impacts from increased CO2 can have serious consequences for ocean life.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Sally and Jethro

We have been meeting at the foreshore - intrigued by muddy edges, by changing marine environments and human ways of relating to other natural beings. Sally’s work as a consultant looks at the archaeological heritage of the Severn Estuary - and area where Jethro has also been working as an artist to explore changing senses of place. Her doctoral research looks at whale bone records and human relationships with whale species. Jethro’s masters in geography is looking at the idea of matter as being alive - or rethinking the distinction between humans and the rest of nature.

We have been doing a series of sessions, exploring our different interests and how they come together. The text below is from our most recent session, playing with estuarine mud and with techniques from each others’ practices, at Severn beach and Aust Cliffs. Our next session will take a closer look at what lives in the mud - and maybe also delve into Sally’s bone research…

Find out more click this link... 

Uncertain Shores I

Sally Evans, Archaeological Scientist - Jethro Brice, Artist-Geographer
Severn Beach and Aust Cliffs, 1 August 2015

The outgoing tide leaves a compelling glimmer of soft mud drawn out between the rocky beach and the receding waters. We traverse its surface cautiously, muscles alive to its shifting textures, holding our centres of gravity low, becoming attentive to its impulses and irregularities. As it moves beneath our feet, nuances become available - here mud moves wetly, alarmingly, across the smooth, compact firmness of older deposits; here mud offers traction where it clings to grassy stems. The apparent unity of the foreshore is constituted through multiple differentiations. These are not unitary components - the overall effect is not reducible to its constituent parts. Rather it is a felt effect of multiple processes of becoming, processes to which we, too, become attentive through the corporeal act of making ourselves vulnerable, open and present.    

The shifting of mud’s ways of becoming in accordance with changing climate and sea levels makes present to us the corporeal inheritance of the past and its future potentialities. We explore the possibility that this is not just a cognitive process (that by reading the record of past events we can extrapolate patterns to inform predictions of future events) but a corporeal one, in that matter itself makes and marks the possibility of, for example, changes in human apprehensions and actions.

Our method today is an exchange of skills. We play at sampling procedures - collecting mud from the upper and lower shore, and  testing for soil type and consistency. It is a messy process - mud has a tendency to get where it hasn’t been invited, and to take you places you hadn’t anticipated. We go through the motions - gestures that self-consciously evoke and suspend the analogy of disciplinary routines. Systematic rigour dissipates rapidly in awkward conditions; tension alleviated by laughter, and by the sensory pleasure of mud’s rich smoothness. Mud’s affective presence, and not its effective classification, becomes the matter at hand.    

There is something inherently provisional, messy, tangential about the shared process. The idea is to collide and unsettle our respective practices, to see how each might be enriched or supported by the other. The chosen approach is to provoke a bit of a mess. Artist and scientist play each at becoming the other. Play in its exploratory, problematic, generative capacity; an immanent critique. Processes become confused, outcomes uncertain. In the play there is a willing suspension, a space of manoeuvre. Neither the art nor the science is executed quite right - what is enacted instead is a space of possibility, the idea of thinking and doing science, or art, differently. It is not all comfortable - the difference can be unsettling. Deterritorialisation of familiar regimes comes with a risk: “If you don’t order it then you can’t see the patterns, so you can’t discuss it.” “Things are so much slower when you leave them in a mess.” [1]

In the difference, however, we find commonalities, too - commonalities that speak to the limitations of familiar disciplinary lines of approach. Matter speaks to the archaeological scientist through reduction and isolation of its properties. But what it speaks of is its ecologies, its relational pasts: “percentage of sand to silt to clay tells you what the environment was like.” Categorical modes of thought elicit knowledge at an ever finer resolution. And yet in the process of getting close, boundaries dissolve. Distinctions become arbitrary, and leave out something important in the process: “even for a stone spatial definitions don’t really work, because it will always be becoming something else - through its relationships.”

Corporeal thinking-doing induces an attention to processes of continual differentiation and becoming, to the dissolution of categorical boundaries, and suggests a mode of working with uncertainty as a habitable space of practice. “What you were saying about boundaries disappearing when you get up close - and about gradual change - that’s really resonant with climate change.” As a mode of practice, it resonates with the ungraspable and indeterminate science of changing climates, and speaks to the difficulties of making present the sense of change to others. It also offers respite to the dysphoria and isolation of the scientist working to understand uncertain and deeply distressing futures within rigidly bounded knowledge regimes. This isolation is at odds with the notion that knowledge requires amenable environments to persist and grow. Both scientist as individual and ideas as material affect are diminished by operating within a constricted affective milieu. Play - the space of encounter, of intensity and of uncertain outcomes - is customarily written out of the picture: “to get to actually play with the mud… I never get to do that …”

Ideas take shape within an affective ecology - to cut them off is to change what kinds of knowledge are possible. Play offers a method to bring the mess of affect back into the process of knowledge generation - producing also those ‘joyful affects’ through which our collective capacity to be alive - to affect and be affected - is intensified and enhanced.

[1] All citations from field notes, worded collaboratively by Jethro Brice and Sally Evans, 1 August 2015. This text in its entirety is reproduced from: Brice, J. (2015) Uncertain Shores: Towards and Ecological Mode of Practice [Masters Dissertation, unpublished], University of Bristol.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Fiona Harrington: Growing Culture

The first piece of the PaperMakers project entitled 'Growing Culture' by Fiona Harrington is now being exhibited at the Zoology museum at the University of Glasgow. 

The title of this piece references the scientific use of the petri dish as an instrument to grow and study cell culture. It is also a comment on the need within society to grow and develop a culture of awareness regarding how we as humans impact our environment and the natural world.

This piece is constructed using 200 year old Irish Lace techniques. The lace is made using a tiny needle and a thread as fine as a human hair. The three petri dish samples took approximately 130 hours of intricate hand stitching, creating a network of minute pattern systems.

The design is inspired by the natural microcosms which exist along the Irish coastline. Upon close inspection, they reveal a self-contained world, a world of miniature. Each of these however plays a vital role in maintaining balance and stability within a shared environment.

Through this work Fiona's aim is to highlight the delicacy and fragility of our ecosystem and the importance in preserving and protecting our inherited world.

Check it out.

Sunday, 30 August 2015


We have been working hard over the last few months and now we are pleased to announce that the Paper Makers creations will be on exhibition at the Hunterian Zoology Museum from September 2015 to January 2016.

What will you see?

The exhibition will be continually changing, with each of our 6 pieces being on display for 2-3 weeks. Each creation has been inspired by our marine environment - its history, our connections with it, and its uncertain future. Each piece uses a different medium ( poetry, lace, salt, chalk, for example) but all convey an environmental message that can be understood and discussed by all.

This is our ultimate aim: to create stories and discussions about changes within our oceans.

Located within the zoology department at the University of Glasgow, the Hunterian Zoology Museum is part of Scotland's oldest public museum. What's more, it is completely free and open to all! Click here for more information on the museum.

Specific dates of each art work are to be announced soon. Find out more about each art-science project and subscribe for updates at our website.