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Michael Rakowitz: ‘April is the cruellest month’. A Waterfronts commission with Turner Contemporary for England’s Creative Coast. Photo © Thierry Bal2

Michael Rakowitz: ‘April is the cruellest month’. A Waterfronts commission with Turner Contemporary for England’s Creative Coast. Photo © Thierry Bal2

South-east coast creative adventures

It is gratifying how people, businesses and the creative industries have defied the rigours of Covid while retaining their optimisim and energy.  HOT’s Lauris Morgan-Griffiths was pleased to discover that seven south east coastal towns have come together to celebrate their stories, histories, community and creativity in outdoor installations.

As we are soon to be released from lockdown, England’s Creative Coast project, commissioned by Waterfronts, couldn’t be a more perfect socially-distanced, outdoor art event for Covid times. It is positive, when many people were mourning the UK’s separation from Europe, that post Brexit it is the artist community that is reaching out and overcoming political barriers. The south coast faces France and any suggestions that England will turn into a parochial and inward-looking country are, hopefully, exaggerated.

Holly Hendry: ‘Invertebrate.’ A Waterfronts commission for the De La Warr Pavilion in partnership with England’s Creative Coast © Rob Harris

Waterfronts curator Tamsin Dillon explains, “It offers audiences the chance to consider the natural, historical and political aspects of England’s porous coastline through the eyes of seven artists (Andreas Angelidakis, Mariana Castillo-Deball, Holly Hendry, Jasleen Kaur, Katrina Palmer, Pilar Quinteros and Michael Rakowitz) from five countries. Each artist spent time exploring the layered histories and complexities of their partner’s specific locations, bringing to these their own unique working methods and personal perspectives on this liminal space between land and water.”

The resulting art project offers a new take on this diverse region’s rich history which stretches from the Thames Estuary to the Sussex Downs, encompassing Britain’s busiest trading and immigration routes and popular seaside resorts: Southend-on-Sea, Gravesend, Margate, Folkestone, Bexhill, Hastings, Eastbourne and the white cliffs of Dover. The project has mined the area’s history, geology, geography, political and natural history. It is a powerful canvas as the coastline has always been vulnerable to the sea, potential invaders and now climate change.

According to tourist polls visitors want quality; authentic experiences; informative stories; to interact with  the coastal backdrop; to be inter-generational in a not too crowded environment; and to have a digital element to it.

Memorial statue of Iraq war soldier

Towner Contemporary, Eastbourne, instigated and led the project and now all the art installations are now in position and will remain until the middle of November. They are all very different as they respond to different aspects of the area’s stories and features. Michael Rakowitz’s sculpture was the first to be installed at the beginning of May in Margate as a meditation on the nature of the ‘conventional’ memorial statue.

It is modelled on a young soldier, Daniel Taylor, who served with the Royal Artillery in Basra in the Iraq War. His figure is cast out of concrete, calcite, sand and earth from Basra with chalk from Margate in which is embedded with fossil-like items that embody trauma: military medals and other votive offerings that have been donated by Taylor, members of Veterans for Peace UK and residents of Margate.

Soft coastal defences at Hastings Contemporary

Andreas Angelidakis: ‘Seawall’ A Waterfront commission with Hastings Contemporary © Thierry Bal.

Andreas Angelidakis: ‘Seawall.’ A Waterfronts commission with Hastings Contemporary © Thierry Bal.

Outside Hastings Contemporary Andreas Angelidakis, who describes himself as “an architect who doesn’t build,” is concerned with spaces, buildings, and the society that inhabits them, often creating environments for people to activate. He has  created  Seawall, which resembles concrete accropode blocks, or Dr Who daleks – structures designed to resist the action of waves on coastal locations. Up close, these sea wall blocks reveal themselves to be soft sculptures. Arranged convivially in the courtyard space, the blocks can be comfortably reclined on, reconfigured to form a wall, or used like toys forming a playground to climb on. So, rather friendlier than daleks. Angelidakis is entirely non prescriptive; it is entirely for the visitors to decide.

Monster worm invades De La Warr

Holly Hendry at the De La Warr Pavilion has created a giant monster of a composite worm-like creature. The monster marks its trail through the building as it has  munched its way from the seafront, up the lawn and through the building. The invertebrate form is a metaphor for change and the precariousness of life.

Evolving over the course of its presentation, Pilar Quinteros’ monumental and interactive Janus-faced chalk head will gaze both across to Europe and inland to the town of Folkestone; whilst Mariana Castillo-Deball re-invents an archeological story of an ancient woman, literally weaving it into the the streets of Eastbourne and the South Downs.

Katrina Palmer’s offering is entitled poignantly, Hello and Retreat. She works with stories that are distributed across found sites, audio environments, printed matter and performance. At Southend she has referenced sound-mirrors that are dotted around the coast and a powder magazine, exploring stories of Englishness in a landscape of defensive military ruins alongside recreational coastal culture.

Besides all this, and much more, there is the world’s first art Geo Tour and Geocache. Enabled by geocaching and the GPS, this is digital treasure hunt technology, designed to explore for hidden treasure and local amenities. In each area groups will come together to create reactions to living there and the stories they have to tell, personally and historically.

In Hastings six different groups from the  community, rough sleepers, local primary school children and refugee groups, were invited to share their personal stories and memories of Hastings and to make those into artworks. They researched, devised and created artefacts to hide in various locations. They all take on different shapes and forms dictated by their different hiding places and the stories each group wants to tell about themselves and the location of their cache. Three caches are in the town itself and three in country park and nature reserves.

This is not a spoiler but the hiding places are not underground so no land will be dug up in the search for treasure. Go and explore and have a bit of an adventure.

The Waterfronts installations are in Hastings, Eastbourne, Bexhill, Southend-on-Sea, Gravesend, Margate and Folkestone and will be in position until the middle of November and can be seen at any time. Plan your visit here. Download the geocaching app for your mobile device and visit the England’s Creative Coast GeoTour page.

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Posted 21:32 Saturday, May 29, 2021 In: Public Arts

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