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Drifting Ecologies: Can the practices of drawing, swimming and writing address the lived experiences of rapid coastal erosion?

On the Suffolk coast in the East of England, the foreshore holds an identity as a site of leisure and as a contested zone where political, social and economic factors are at play. This geographical area is subject to weather, tide, and longshore drift, creating a changing liminal profile that is regularly both dramatically and insidiously re-mapped, rendering a proportion of the local population at risk of losing their homes to the sea. Bearing witness to the destruction of nature, by nature, is emphasised by a prolonged connection with this location, borne of walking the unstable coastal path and sea swimming.

Foregrounded by considering bodies, experiences and behaviours in liminal space to seek out interstitial spaces of knowing, this research seeks to discover if drawing, swimming and non-fiction writing can illuminate and support an environmentally adaptive and productive relationship in a fragile context. Can and how do these productive processes of feeling change, and as a result a recognition of the challenges of preventing or controlling change, become a route to acceptance through these outputs and to what extent? Roger Ackling makes active material connections between natural forces and the body, translating time and tangible object in an inter-dependent relationship between found materials, and charred surface from directed, magnified sunlight. His use of material ingrained with histories ‘rescued from the edges of our everyday lives’ (anon., n.d.) with collaboration between the unpredictable and a carefully planned creative process reveals new ways to understand everyday shifts and forces. Working from Ackling’s investigations, I am proposing a fluid mode of production built on a pre-conceived plan, as a means to reveal place. I aim to discover what holding on to and fixing volatile forces can offer in the face of physical and psychological loss, and if and how drawing, swimming, and writing contribute to this process. Within this, I am seeking to recognise possibilities within art created out of insistent exchanges between body and natural world, to reveal ecosophical approaches to change and adaption to living with precariousness and loss.

Coastal erosion is characterised in Suffolk by patterns of loss and gain along the coastline. Arnold-de Simine (2013) and DeSilvey (2017) recognise altering archives, where memory offers a context for respecting and marking the past to meet the future. Continual revision of the Suffolk coast, an interrelational site of spatial and temporal encounter, challenges memory making to mark place as an enabler towards constructive futures. DeSilvey (ibid) notes that in inter-relational sites of spatial and temporal encounter, physical preservation of the status quo is fruitless. This part of the coastline is characterised by the presence of a number of locally mobilised actions to preserve and protect the foreshore, including those that are privately funded. Arguments placing human action and impact upon the world as defining the era known as the Anthropocene (Butzer 2015, Crutzen 2006) suggest humankind is at the centre of the earth. Contradictions surrounding the role of humanity where nature is situated on the one hand and the human on the other, a choice for or against anthropocentrism, a centre, or rather two, man and nature, between which one supposedly has to choose (Latour 2018) provides a useful frame for this enquiry.

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More about Caroline

Caroline Wright is an artist and practice-based researcher exploring the connections, entanglements and relationships of eroded coastal material and the sea swimming body where sensation and bearing corporeal witness to a disappearing coastline may articulate understanding of change and adaptation. She has exhibited work internationally and has completed commissions for festivals, galleries and universities including ITV, Cambridge University, Norfolk and Norwich Festival, London 2021, PSi19 @ Stanford University and The Scott Polar Museum.

MA Fine Art, Norwich School of Art and Design 2002 (now known as Norwich University of the Arts), BA (Hons) Fine Art, Norwich School of Art and Design 2000

Programme Leader for Fine Art (post-and undergraduate), Open College of the Arts (Distance Learning) 2011-, Senior Fellow Higher Education Academy 2018. Lecturer and external examiner , various institutions inc. Liverpool Hope University, University Centre Colchester, University College London, Anglia Ruskin University, University of Greenwich.

Bryan Robertson Award Nominee, 2017

Trinity College Cambridge Fellowship Nominee, 2016

a-n Bursary, professional development award, 2016

Arts Council England Grants for the Arts/ Cambridge Science Festival 2016 (for Breath Control)

Firstsite Collectors Group Award, 2015

Arts Council England Grants for the Arts/ Performing Rights Society Award for Out of Water score and performance, Sasakawa Fund, Japan - travel & research grant, Asagaya School of Art Tokyo, 2010

Arts Council England Escalator Visual Artist, 2009

Turnstone Grant, 2009

Arts Council England, 2003

Artsadmin Artist’s Bursary, East England Award, 2003

Ray Finnis Charitable Trust Award, 1999

Trellis3, researcher/artist collaboration with Dr Tim Adlam, Dr Ben Oldfrey, Dr Youngjun Cho and Maryam Bandukda, 2021-

Commission, International Fair Trial Conference Award (touring) 2021

Re-Frame: A nomadic response to W G Sebald [on Orford Ness] Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery, UEA, National Trust 2019

Old Cold, research performance with Dr Carla Rees, Toynbee Hall, London 2019

Breath Control: Osmosis, performance & installation, The Coronet Theatre, Notting Hill, London, produced by Artsadmin 2019

Temporal, Cambridge Judge Business School, Cambridge University 2018

Breath Control:Osmosis, performance, Latitude Festival, Suffolk 2017

Royal Ulster Academy Exhibition, guest artist, Northern Ireland 2017

Breath Control: Notes, Space to Breathe/Utopia, Somerset House, London 2017

Breath Control, performance, Cambridge Junction/Cambridge Science Festival 2017

Sawdust and Threads, exhibition, UCL Anthropology. Dept 2016, Breath Control, performance, le Collectif BLAST, Angers, France 2015

Sawdust and Threads, Norwich Castle Museum & Gallery, The Scott Polar Museum and University College London Museums and Collections 2014

My Home is my Museum, performance, online public collection, publication and public event for Curating Cambridge, Cambridge University Museums 2014

Out of Water, performance, (with Helen Paris), Escalator East to Edinburgh, Summerhall, Edinburgh Festival 2014

Impossible Changeling, installation, Undercurrent Festival, Shoreham 2014

Out of Water, performance, PSi19 Conference, Stanford University, USA 2013

The Inishlacken Project, invitation residency, Inishlacken Island, Galway, Ireland 2013

2016 Contributor to Rowles S, Professional Practice: 20 Questions: Interviews with UK Undergraduate Fine Art Staff Exploring How Students are Prepared for Life After Art School, Q Art London, 2016

2015 Chapter co-authored with Dr Helen Paris, Out of Water endings and beginnings: a DIY Love Letter to Performers, DIY Too, The University of Chichester

Uses of Lament: a symposium around the Irish Famine & legacies of trauma, Stephen Lawrence Gallery, University of Greenwich, London 2019