The Torbay Urban Geology Residency
.. this is what happened ..
British Geological Survey Sheet 350 was the starting point for artistic research into the science of geology, communities and environment in Torbay. The focus was on the biota and landscape of Torbay and how these have changed over time (both geological time and every-day time) and how humans, as part of the current biota, have come to occupy Torbay. The intention is to look through time, making visible relationships and patterns that are otherwise hidden.
The project is not about the world of the screen it's about the geo-spacial, physical world, the world in which we live.
Torbay Limestones: Sharkham Point, Berry Head and Cod Rock
October 27th 2016
BGS350 began life as an idea about using a mechanism or device from the world of science to frame an artistic enquiry. The British Geological Survey printed map of Torbay is number 350.
Lying deep in the project are questions about knowledge and belonging: can geology change our perception of place and environment? What would be different if we had a clearer picture of the events that have formed the land we call home?
Torbay’s sea-line cuts a fine section through the geology and its movements in the last 45,000 years track periods dramatic climate instability and relative calm. The sea-line has had a defining influence on human occupancy.
In this thought the project gained its frame, the five meter contour:
“a line on a map joining points of equal height above or below sea level.”
The first activity in this project took place on the 29th and 30th May 2016, scheduled as part of the English Riviera Global Geopark, Geopark festival, taking place within days of the Arts Council award. Focusing on audience involvement, I devised an accessible drop-in session for children, 2½ years and older, now called ‘Street Art Fossils’.
A link between the earth and the potential power of material transformation was made by using commonplace resources; ‘mud’ and ‘burnt wood’ to create higher value drawing pastels using a low-tech, accessible method. Raw material was sourced from three geological periods present in the Bay: red from Watcombe Clay (Permian), white chalk, not local (Cretaceous), beige from Kingsteigton Clay (Quaternary) and black from locally produced hardwood charcoal (Anthropocene). The basis of this period is still debated by geologists.
A simple idea, speak the “anthropocene”, explore usage and question its value.
In June 2016 Torre Abbey was also opening up their Learning Lab to artists to develop work and gain a public audience.
I had one weekend slot 26th and 27h June 2016, which I called the Learning Lab Mini Residency. Continuing to engage kids in activities while querying adults about their understanding and views on the Anthropocene, the Geopark and climate change:
During the rest of the summer artistic research continued: Ordnance Survey (OS) digital mapping technologies including thier topographical, open source and user defined mapping.
The largest scale printed maps supplied by the Ordinance Survey are in a 'retired data set' and are out of print. Copies of these 1:10,000 scale maps are available for viewing in the Devon Record Office. I photographed the Torbay sheets in attempt to locate the 5m contour. Learning that this data set and indeed the latest OS Terrain5 data set, both have 1.5m errors (which almost negates their value in times of sea level rise) drew the project towards a Global Positioning System surveying component, accurate to +/- 0.0025m.
I was given access to Torre Abbey topographical collection, which contains depictions of Torbay dating back to the 1660s. Several Geology field study days were carried out with Dr. Chris Proctor.
28th and 30th August 2016, bank holiday weekend. Footsteps from the anthropocene, seemingly coeval marks, foot marks (a game of foot-print tracing) .. the oldest hominid footprints are 800 thousand years old, found in Happisburgh in Norfolk. They appear as if made by mud-larking children, very similar to marks made today, as you see here, traces left by joy, offering a quiet resistance to dominant articulation of the knowable:
The mystique and magic of geology lies in the discord between the every-day, almost valueless pebbles and rock upon which we walk and the vast eons through which they have traveled, and from which they were born.