Earlier this year I had some work featured in an international collaborative exhibition between Aberystwyth Printmakers and Brisbane Printmakers in Australia. Organised by Judy Macklin the exhibition, ‘Mythscapes in the Watery Realm’, aimed to ‘explore the significance of river histories, particularly the legacy of catastrophic flood events, for communities. This highlights the often fickle relationship they have with the watery realm that can either sustain or destroy lifeways’ (QCA). It was shown at Aberystywyth University School of Art and the Project Gallery at Brisbane College of Art.
At the time I was asked to make the work I was mainly working digitally with archival film, so it was a good opportunity to reconnect with the physicality of printmaking as well as working within a conceptual framework. It was not long after Aberystwyth seafront had been damaged by severe storms and and flooding. I became interested in peoples’ reaction to the event and in particular, their desire to document it.
The storms and their aftermath seemed to take on a double life, there was your own physical experience of them, the weather and the damage but then there was their growing digital footprint. On social media people were sharing their photos and videos, organisations were sharing information and graphs of the areas where the worst flooding was expected. Your email inbox was full of updates from the university about which student residencies were being evacuated they were even producing and sharing YouTube videos on the measures they were taking to keep their students safe. As images and videos were shared and picked up by news sites it became a feedback loop where you were exposed to the same images again and again.
One story that did catch my attention was a piece showing archival footage of similar storms in the 1930’s, the funny thing was Aberystwyth didn’t look that different. This got me thinking about how the differences and similarities between the experiences of those witnessing the storms back then and ours today. I decided to explore this by combine archival photographs of the storms in the 1930’s with contemporary responses to the 2014 storms sourced from social media.
Below are the 3 prints I showed in the exhibition with my artist statement:
My practice explores our complex and often contradictory relationship with technology. I find printmaking, particularly its alliance with both obsolescent and emerging technologies, the perfect vehicle to explore the role of technology in both Utopian and Dystopian views of past, present and future. I am especially interested in examining the role of cultural concepts such as obsolescence and the rhetoric of progress play in our increasingly fragile relationship with the environment.
Following the large scale flooding to the seafront in Aberystwyth and accompanying media coverage caused by storms in early 2014, this body of work explores how our perception of an event is inevitably warped by the lens through which we experience it.
Increasingly the plight of communities affected by flooding and environmental change is experienced in a digital space. The physical event often echoed by a second, digital, flood of information, as articles, images, opinions and hyperbole are distributed, shared and retweeted globally. Do these insights, popping up on newsfeeds between adverts and cat photos, make us more environmentally conscientious global citizens, or, do they desensitise us, forming just another part of the accumulated visual detritus of the internet
Combining nineteenth and twentieth century archival images of Aberystwyth with contemporary responses to the storms sourced from social media this work aims to highlight to tenuous link between image and meaning and how this can be warped through appropriation and decontextualisation.
I was really thrilled to be featured alongside so many talented printmakers in a international exhibition and it is well worth looking at the other artists’ work in the Catalogue.
More images of the show can be found on Aberystwyth Printmakers’ Website .