RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2015

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231 Wet Geographies III (1): Water-worlds – art practices and wet ecologies
Affiliation History and Philosophy of Geography Research Group
Convenor(s) Veronica Vickery (University of Exeter, UK)
Chair(s) Veronica Vickery (University of Exeter, UK)
Timetable Friday 04 September 2015, Session 1 (09:00 - 10:40)
Room Queen's Building - Lecture Theatres 4.1 & 4.2
Session abstract Water is in many ways an enigma.
Puddle, trickle, stream, river, estuary, sea, ocean
Aquifer, springs, oasis, wells
Ice, water, vapour.

Whilst we depend on it for our survival, it also threatens to drown us. Despite the seas and oceans covering 90% of the earths ‘surface’, these vast tracts of water remain in many ways unfathomable and represent the last vast tracts of the unknown within our immediate world. It has been said we know more about outer space than we do the oceans. Our relentless quest to understand, fix and arguably control the planet on which we live extends to the oceans. Whilst technology is allowing us to map the ocean depths in ways hitherto un-thought of, it also encapsulates new political issues that need to be critically addressed. Anthropogenic sea level rise presents very real threats to living with, across and under water with an estimated 40% of the world’s population at risk from rising sea levels, likely to impact disproportionately on those societies with the least potential resilience.

The presentations in the first part will take the form of a series of performance talks in which participants will move between and across the registers of the academic and the more creative text and those of sound, moving and still image. The second session will continue the discussion around the intersection of art practice and water-worlds, this time through a discussion of the films screened during the conference. The work, film, performance and art, will unfold and striate across the materially processual and eventful nature of water-worlds, human patterns of living with and the political imperatives encapsulated within these complex geo-physical circulations and ever re-forming environments. In the second half of the session to draw things to a close, we will be convening a panel of representatives from across the series of Wet Geographies sessions to discuss key themes that have emerged during these watery debates.

This session is part of the conference Water-worlds arts programme, details of which you will find in the programme
Linked Sessions Waterworlds Arts Programme - Exhibition
Water-worlds: Arts Performance by PIDGE
Waterworlds Art Programme - Film Screening (1)
Wet Geographies III (2): Water-worlds – Wet Geographies Panel Discussion
Waterworlds Art Programme - Film Screening (2)
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2015@rgs.org
Minty Donald (University of Glasgow, UK)

The presentation evokes and reflects on an itinerant performance, watermeets, undertaken by me with my regular collaborator, Nick Millar, and with streams and rivers in central and southern Scotland, for the Environmental Arts Festival Scotland, August 2015. watermeets is a series of actions at/with river confluences that engage with the human and other-than-human values of sites where waters meet. watermeets explores the practical, historical and symbolic significance of river confluences as drinking, gathering and fording places, as sites of ritual and loci for events of political significance (the signing of land rights treaties, or declamation of manifestos). In watermeets, ‘meeting’ is taken as a more-than-human activity. Human and other-than-human behaviours and conventions are playfully interwoven in a strategic and provocative co-option of anthropomorphism. For instance, we impose human etiquette onto the rivers, formally introducing one branch of the watercourse to the other. While glasses of (untreated) river water are clinked and drunk in a toast of greeting, or passed between mouths in a kiss. These actions foreground the absurdity and inadequacy of our attempts to ‘meet’ the other-than-human. But they are also affective experiences, which reconfigure us within the more-than-human world, opening us to the risk of waterborne disease.

Minty Donald is a Glasgow-based artist and lecturer in contemporary performance at the University of Glasgow. Her practice (with Nick Millar) explores human-water intra-action through an evolving series of experimental performances, collectively titled Guddling About. http://donaldmillar2014.tumblr.com
Drop in the Ocean
Jess Allen (Independent Artist)
Drop in the Ocean will be developed as a studio performance for the conference, from an off-site walking performance that forms concentric circles around an accompanying installation: the ripples around a drop ((( . ))). Outdoors, the performer carries water in buckets on a milkmaid’s yoke as a visual provocation to effect encounters with strangers. She invites them to make a wish by placing their hand in the water of one bucket, taking a stone and transferring it to the other. In between, she asks them to hold the stone in their wet hand while she recites a sonorous score – poetic instructions for how they might think about water in all its guises from the domestic to the sublime. Indoors, participants echo the performer’s pathway, walking around a 5m2 circular labyrinth of sea shingle to a wishing pool at its centre, accompanied by an ambient soundscape of aquatic audio recordings. In asking participants to submit to submersion – literal, aural – Drop is a subliminal conceit to facilitate a sensual, sensorial and material (re) appreciation for an element which we over-abstract. Ultimately intended to facilitate space(s) for contemplation of our troubling, dichotomous relationship with water, the circular form of both walk and labyrinth is also an acknowledgement that there is no easy, linear resolution.
Underwateredge - Walking the historic shoreline of The Pevensey Levels
Charlotte Still (Independent Artist)
Clare Whistler (Independent Artist)
The Pevensey Levels East Sussex, was sea, estuary, haven, salt marsh and for several centuries it has been farmland, drained and divided by dykes and sewers
A landscape where people have been adapting to and managing the interactions of water and land for thousands of years. We are exploring the old shoreline by following the contours of the land, meeting land and water experts and local inhabitants, hearing facts, fears, history and myth. Absorbing the landscape of now and imagining its past and possible future under water.

The Waterweek project is seven days of information, conversations and reflections celebrating water. Waterweek brought together many of the people we met during our exploration plus others with diverse knowledge and passion for water and its landscape. The week was an attempt to learn more about water and how it relates to the evolution and future of our local environment. Our performance during this session is a response to our experience of walking this edge, contemplating its uncertain future and includes spoken word and projection.

Artists Clare Whistler and Charlotte Still have been collaborating since July 2012, exploring their local water sources, streams and springs in East Sussex. As Scholars in Residence at Bader International Study Centre, Herstmonceux Castle they began work on ‘Underwateredge’ a project about the Pevensey Levels. www.underwateredge.wordpress.com
Carol Laidler (Independent Artist)
Pat Jamieson (Independent Artist)
In WATERMARKED we explore how content and context might impact upon each other to produce meaning. We used the river as a geographical and historical location for a series of interventions interrupting the expected order of the place. Whilst the River Frome has been safely culverted and concreted over, the River Exe represents the power of water, the tension and drama between the system of flood defences and the swelling of the river.

We put together a sequence of single words with more than one meaning relating to water and printed them up on A4 sheets of paper to create a paper trail of words. By flyposting these words along the river we were able to examine some of the ways in which the imposition of specific laden words might restrict, define and interrupt the spectators perception of the landscape.

The emergence of an unintended narrative connection between the individual words raises questions about where this comes from. Do we make narrative connection because we seek for meanings that have some resonance to our own experiences? The work operates both as actual words to be encountered by the side of the river and as an installation in a gallery or other interior space.

Carol Laidler and Pat Jamieson have worked collaboratively on a number of art projects. They are founder members of alldaybreakfast, an art collective who use public spaces to create evolving, immersive site responsive installations, exhibitions and events.
Wandering Shards
Susan Trangmar (Independent Artist)
This presentation takes the form of a performative reading accompanied by a short film. The context of the work is the foreshore at Greenwich where the River Thames is framed by the historical monuments to Britain’s past maritime power on one bank and the current financial district of Canary Wharf on the other. Here, the river continually throws up osteo artefacts, the ‘waste’ remainder of industries which once lined the southern shore. ‘Wandering Shards’ explores the uncanny pull of these objects not through a drive to archive or establish a fixed osteo -archaeological identification, but rather to consider their attraction as transformational objects that conjoin with the dynamics of the river and our own organic past and present. The presentation further suggests that through the acts of writing, speaking and visual imaging, overlooked ‘remains’ can be considered to generate imaginative and material renewal, a practice of ‘bringing to life’ which is inherently contingent.

Susan Trangmar is an artist living and working in London and the south east of England and is currently Reader in Fine Art at Central Saint Martins. She is interested in how local material factors of geography, nature, human inhabitation and climate can be understood through artistic practices of space, performative event and temporality explored through lens based media, sound and writing.
Performance programme
Jess Burford (PIDGE Theatre, independent artist)
Sapphire Urwick (PIDGE Theatre, independent artist)
Lynn Imperatore (University of the West of England / HATCH Drawing Research Project)
Artists involved in other aspects of the Water Worlds arts programme will join those who have presented in this session to take part in an informal discussion after the main presentations.