After almost two years of research and discussion, the Mosses and Marshes project was officially launched on World Wetlands Day, February 2nd 2021 with preview videos of some of the preliminary work that Kim V. Goldsmith and I have been creating together. Watch them here:
Kim V. Goldsmith & Andrew Howe, The Tone of Things, HD video with sound, due: 0’33”
A taste of what’s to come, The Tone of Things is a video and sound mix layering handmade paper made from the reeds of Whixall Moss (UK) with underwater footage from the reedbeds of the Macquarie Marshes (AU), accompanied by tones generated in post-production from field recordings captured on both sites, atmospheric sounds from the wetlands, and hydroacoustics of water plants with their roots deep in the mud. Click on link above to preview video
The Mosses and Marshes project questions how we think about and value natural environments through works centred on the raised peat bogs of Fenn’s Bettisfield and Whixall Mosses NNR on the border between England and Wales and the iconic Macquarie Marshes in New South Wales, Australia.
The project has been awarded a grant from Arts Council England, which we are combining with funding secured from Regional Arts Fund grant through Regional Arts NSW and a two-month crowdfunding campaign in Australia. This will allow us to create artworks and run events and exhibitions in their respective local communities, as well as nationally and internationally.
Kim and I will continue to co-lead the project exploring each unique site and environmental challenges we face on opposing sides of the planet. I am partnering with Shropshire Wildlife Trust and Natural England as they carry out their scrapyard restoration and peatbog conservation projects, while Kim has been partnering with the Macquarie Wetlands Association, as well as tapping into the knowledge of various wetland and water management specialists to explore elements of the Macquarie Marshes.
We are delighted and hugely grateful to Arts Council England for this public funding from the National Lottery. This enables us to work with five other artists: Elizabeth Turner and Keith Ashford, Dr Sue Challis, Kate Johnston and Lydia Halcrow, artist/curator Gudrun Filipska of Arts Territory Exchange, Mediaactive Projects CIC and local partners Wem Youth Club and Shropshire Wildlife Trust.
We are using scientific research, site visits and field recordings to develop ideas, exploring some of the more hidden values of the wetlands; those values not often considered in the fight to preserve them.
Kim says, “Andrew and I use similar processes to explore sites, really getting to know both human and ecological perspectives by spending time there – while my focus is the use of technology to dig deeper into the landscape, Andrew is a walking artist working in a range of media. We’ve both been very interested in weaving the stories behind the wetlands into the works, drawing out the commonalities that often have to do with shared hopes for the future of these environments.”
We hope this will develop into a longer-term project, establishing a platform for future artist residencies. This first phase includes new artworks for public exhibition, workshops, walks and talks, and a project publication due for release prior to the first exhibition at Qube Gallery, Oswestry in October. Australian exhibitions will follow in 2022.
Future posts will feature some of the other artists involved. Here are some brief introductions:
Keith Ashford and Elizabeth Turner
Elizabeth Turner and Keith Ashford have a collective site-based practice exploring manmade and natural landscapes through sculpture and video. Each brings complementary influences to this way of working and through a shared observation they focus on the specificities of a place. They were both co-founders and directors at Participate Contemporary Artspace CIC.
Together, Keith and Liz will create temporary sculptures as way-markers for the self-guided art walk that I will put in place at Whixall Moss. The sculptures will respond to the landscape and its history, and will be sensitively located at key points along the trail in consultation with Shropshire Wildlife Trust and Natural England. They will provide a physical complement to the digital work in the art trail which will otherwise be accessible online.
I worked with Keith and Liz on their Scour II project in Redditch in 2019. Read more about their work on that project here.
Dr Sue Challis
Sue Challis and Kate Johnston will work with me and in partnership with Shropshire Wildlife Trust to create art resources and run workshops with Wem Youth Club. Wem is a small town in North Shropshire, about 6 miles from Whixall Moss.
Sue Challis is an experienced participatory arts worker and video artist who has shown work in the UK and internationally. Her focus has often been making work collaboratively, especially mixed media and video installation and for the past five years she has worked closely with Wem Youth Club. This project fits well with the Youth Club’s own ‘Out in the Rain’ long running project to help rural children connect with, understand, explore and safely enjoy the countryside around them.
With 20 years’ experience of working in the arts from theatre, community and environmental arts, Kate sees her role as a facilitator, educator, collector and curator of ideas. She is passionate about enabling people to create art, sewing seeds of ideas and developing people’s potential. She is interested in the alchemy of the creative process, unearthing stories, knowledge, making discoveries and going on a journey. She is constantly drawn to being outdoors and exploring the wonders of the natural world. Her works is predominantly people focused, and she creates installations large and small in scale, working in unusual settings often off the beaten track.
Gudrun Filipska will contribute to the project via Arts Territory Exchange and as artist providing advisory and curatorial support to me and Kim when presenting our work in exhibition and online.
Gudrun founded Arts Territory Exchange, a global network of artists and art practices which respond to the geography of their territory of production. Arts Territory Exchange exists to both germinate dialogue between remote and disconnected practices and to bring to an audience a global artwork in the form of an accumulating library of artefacts and debate, it is therefore well placed to support this project.
Gudrun’s own artist practice is interdisciplinary, working across a range of analogue and digital visual technologies. She is interested in alternative ways of mapping and recording place, and she researches in wetland areas of the Fens.
MediaActive Projects CIC
Mediaactive will provide advice and assist with research into: appropriate routes for community engagement; digital tools and platforms for presenting and sharing work; and working creatively in response to the landscape.
Based in North Shropshire, MediaActive has had a long-standing relationship with The Meres and Mossess Landscape Partnership Programme. MediaActive has specialist knowledge and expertise in the fields of creative digital production and exhibition; co-producing with communities, and contemporary arts practice. It also has a particular interest in the relationship between artists’ practice and community engagement.
Lydia is an experienced artist, lecturer/ tutor with Open College of Arts and PhD researcher and Associate Lecturer at Bath Schools of Art and Design. Her work aims to open up ways of collaborating with a place through her walking body, creating processes that form alternative maps made with a landscape.
Lydia will guide the evaluation of the project.