About the project:
'Wrecked on The Intertidal Zone', is an art and citizen science collective inquiry that has uncovered and highlighted local knowledge about the changing ecology, society and industry of the Thames estuary. The project was conceived by artists YoHa, Critical Art Ensemble, Andy Freeman, Fran Gallardo, and arts organisation Arts Catalyst, and developed in partnership with local people in Southend and Leigh-on-Sea.
This website is an archive of videos, links to artists blogs, updates and research into the Thames Estuary collected between 2013 and 2016.
Traditional marine based industries for centuries provided employment for the Estuary’s communities, yet this heritage is rapidly declining. Instead new schemes for the area have been devised by Whitehall and corporations including the London Gateway (the largest deep water port in the UK). This rapidly changing situation and intense economic interest in the area is of great concern to local communities, who feel they have had little or no say. Using art as a critical and investigatory tool, we wanted to see if, with our networks and with a growing group of local individuals, we could make a difference to how the estuary is thought about and help it to survive the pressures that confront it.
One of the many exciting things about Thames estuary culture is that it offers a different lens with which to view the terrestrial. As the land ends, the coast becomes the realm of the unbound, unconstricted and offers a freeness. Laws and customs become loose in proximity to the sea, giving rise to Southend-on-Sea and its associated drunken revelry that takes place at weekends in the summer. People who work in the sea fishing industry for London engage in the world around them differently to those who spend their life on land.
Journeys at sea depend on tides, planetary motion, and winds, and - unlike those on land - leave no trace. Sand bars and fishing grounds move to the whim of non-human agency. This life-threatening milieu of the sea has led fisherman and others to hold beliefs that are at once non-modern, superstitious, and animistic, dating back millennia, and at the same time require them to become ultramodern in using technologies of navigation.
By fostering a critical creativity, through a series of public artworks, participatory workshops, a video, publication and various social media outlets, Wrecked in the Intertidal Zone offered visitors to Leigh-on-Sea and Southend the chance to engage with a lens from the sea and for local people explore how art can represent/initiate local knowledge into the realm of governance that presides over the Thames Estuary.
When we consider the estuary as a commons - the primary proposition of Wrecked on the Intertidal Zone - we can involve other forms of structuring information into knowledge. Our collaborators' situated knowledge has arisen through the more informal processes of observation and action, such as fishing, sailing, walking, and bird watching. These less formal methods of knowledge production usually fall outside of the decision-making process, yet yield great impact on those living within reach of the estuary.
Sponsorship and support:
The Arts Council England, The Wellcome Trust
Many thanks to Leigh Town Council. the Institute of Environmental, Health and Societies (Brunel University), Belton Way Small Craft Club, BioHackspace London, Essex Wildlife Trust, Natural England, Temporary Art Projects (TAP), Southend Council, Focal Point Gallery and Metal (Southend).