Discussion of work including Power in the Land at Oriel Môn

Last night I was invited to speak to a group of people interested in contemporary art (CCC Môn) at Oriel Môn, Llangefni. The meeting provided an opportunity to talk about my work around running and the body, Power in the Land and also the upcoming residency in Chile. The meeting was in welsh and it was great to be able to talk with artists, the Director of Oriel Môn, the Collections Manager (Ian who supported us with the archival exhibition) and many others about the various work and in particular Power in the Land. There was a good discussion afterwards including the future of Wylfa (both sites) and issues surrounding it. Many thanks to Brenda and Tecs.

My research continues around Lithium and its production in the Atacama Desert – requesting entry to one of the plants in particular. Lithium is termed as the ‘new petroleum’ given its vital role in the manufacture of rechargeable batteries for electric cars. It is a highly desirable mineral! Chile and Bolivia are currently major producers and the effectiveness of producing lithium carbonate from salt brines is so favourable that most hard rock mining operations have been priced out of the market.

Lithium production in the Atacama Desert

Lithium Production Plant, Atacama Desert, Chile

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The Life Scientific: Steve Cowley on Nuclear Fusion @bbcradio4

From BBC Radio 4 today:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b097918v

Steve Cowley has said that “fusion is arguably the perfect way to power the world”. But he’s had to add that “it is hard to make fusion work. Indeed, after more than 60 years of fusion research, no device has yet made more energy than it consumes”.

But Steve Cowley isn’t giving up. He’s spent over 30 years working towards making nuclear fusion a viable way of generating energy. Steve Cowley has done theoretical research on how to contain the incredibly hot material you need to get fusion going. As the Director of the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy he guided the British contribution to research. And he has led the UK’s participation in ITER, an international experimental reactor being built in France that is planned to be the next step towards making nuclear fusion commercially viable.

Jim al-Khalili discusses with Steve Cowley, now President of Corpus Christi College in Oxford, why nuclear fusion, which has such promise as a clean form of energy with no dangerous waste, has proved so hard to achieve.

 

Drawing on the Land :Archaeology at Wylfa

 

Wylfa is currently the site of one of the largest archaeological digs in Europe, as a statutory requirement of the proposed new power station development. Volunteers are here digging a section of a neolithic henge, a massive circular ditch around the crest of a hill.DSC_0173Each ‘event’ on the site has to be accurately recorded by meticulous measured drawings. Here, below, artist and fellow volunteer Trish Bould has prepared the site for detailed recording of a round house just outside the circular henge. This has been identified after first of all a geo-physical survey, secondly, a visual identification of slight variations of colour in the soil, ringed in spray paint, and then many days of patient scraping away at stake-holes to reveal the individual stake holes in their circular form. The process of digging is like sculpture in reverse while the process of revealing and recording is like drawing on the land.DSC_0165DSC_0134DSC_0164Even the little measured recording drawings of each stake-hole have their own fascination as we enter into the discipline of another kind of drawing process.double stake holes

Some thoughts on our time in Allenheads from Bridget

robinnent

Robin in amongst the spoil heaps at Nenthead Mines.

 

Despite all that technology can offer in terms of long distance communication, there is nothing quite like meeting up, sharing food and exploring new places together. Now this may sound like a dating website strapline but, in fact, it is the winning formula for our collaborative creative research practice.  What strengthens Power in The Land is the amount of shared experiences we have had over the years. Granted it is not always possible for the whole group to meet on every occasion and some experiences (especially those of a subterranean character) are not attractive to all. The 6 artists who managed to meet up in Allenheads this September agreed that is remains an extremely productive and stimulating framework. Amongst many other things, the weekend has raised the issue of collaborative field work for me and its importance in my practice.

Although a number of the artists involved in Power in The Land are still interested in Wylfa as a site for continued exploration, the meeting at Allenheads gave us the time and space to extract and examine wider issues; both within the works that were produced for the touring exhibition and current works in progress. We are looking for possible routes for development both in the individual works and also as collective research. In a way, we went back to basics, everyone expressed their desire to continue under the heading of Power in The Land, talking about how this title had first attracted us to the project and that we felt it had potential to encompass issues and areas beyond Wylfa. We discussed ideas of industrial imperialism, as well as geographical and political exclusion zones, both in relation to Wylfa and the wider Nuclear industry. Annie’s forthcoming residency in the Atacama Desert and her interest in the Lithium mining industry in Chile offers the potential to explore rapidly expanding technology and its impact on the environment. Past – Present – Future, this phrase kept being repeated. The Atacama Desert, like everywhere, has layers of history, geographical, political, cultural, some visible and some deeply buried. Although never overt in the works for Power in The Land, political dispute and disquiet is never far from the surface. Chris is grappling with international politics head on as he seeks to deal with the uncertainty of Brexit and considers the consequences within the Nuclear industry. He is exploring the self-contained hyper reality of current political narratives through sound works and animated digital video.

How apt that we might be discussing the exploitation of the earth and its resources in Allenheads, once part of Europe’s largest lead mining industry. Past – Present – Future, this phrase kept being repeated. Robin’s work was discussed in terms of future archaeology; his concrete casts memorialising small areas of the site around Wylfa that are now almost impossible to access unless you are willing to undertake a lengthy correspondence with Health and Safety officials. The prints and casts from discarded industrial packaging that he is currently working on in the studio speak also of societal waste products; all contributing to the physical manifestation of the Anthropocene. Helen is engaging with archaeology in a very direct way as she takes part in one of the largest archaeological surveys in Europe. The site around Wylfa is currently hosting over 60 professional archaeologists as they record finds on the proposed site for Wylfa Newydd. Her contribution to the National Eisteddfod this year used the language of archaeology to present objects from an imagined future combining fragments of artworks from several Power in The Land artists with maps and drawings.

Engaging with the materiality of the environment is something that links several artists’ work. The physical impact of mining past and present, the act of digging for archaeological purposes and the drilling down to extract core samples are all actions that have interested us. As well as the acts of moving or disrupting the environment we have also been exploring the material qualities of the earth itself, the minerals contained within it and the changes they undergo over time. Jess in particular has been experimenting with chemical reactions and metals, using simple geometrical patterns her recent pieces evoke The Big Bang, creating a space that is simultaneously expanding and contracting; coming to life but already decaying. Pure energy expressed through base materials.

Transformation is something that artists are engaging with regularly, whether it is recording ideological transformations within societies or physical transformations in the landscape. I continue to transform recycled copper wire into delicate woven pieces, I’ve created several new small loom works. Combined with objects found in the landscape around Wylfa and woven in situ, the weavings are displayed on roughly constructed looms. These small delicate pieces challenge the scale at which the energy industry operates and convey a sense of how different cultures might employ survivalist tactics in a post-apocalyptic scenario. I have also been working in the landscape around Sellafield, with a view to making the link between Wylfa and the final resting place of its spent fuel rods. Transformation, manipulation, casting, constructing, weaving, weathering; trying to respond to a world in flux. Ant, who works with one of the least obviously physical mediums: sound; has been transforming data into visual representations and is currently working on a visual representation of radiation. Although he couldn’t be present at the meeting the presentation he sent showed that he is continuing to build his extensive skill base, mastering video mapping and 3D projection amongst other things, as well as working on large scale productions and showing internationally.

The feeling amongst those present seemed to be that there is more to be gained from our collaborative ventures. Our diversity is our strength. Now that we have a fuller understanding of each other’s practice, the trust built up over three years of working together and the confidence in our ability to deliver high quality shows and events the question is, as ever, where do we go next? I am going to pursue my research around Sellafield and would welcome the company of any other Power in The Landers as does Helen as she continues her work at Wylfa. I am interested to see how we can build on our collective skills not just as organisers but as creative practioners. I am fascinated by the idea of collaboration and how this might penetrate our creative practices more deeply, how can or will this verbal exchange effect our work on a more physical, material level?

Power In The Land Research Residency @ACAAllenheads – Allenheads Contemporary Arts in Northumberland.

Following the recent success of delivering Power In The Land as a touring exhibition and publication – last week we took up residence at Allenheads Contemporary Arts, a rural arts centre in Northumberland.  As a group of artists who live geographically far away from each other in the UK and abroad, meeting together at ACA gave us the opportunity to re group, evaluate and discuss plans for further developing the project.

Allenheads

Image shows Allenheads village set within the North Pennines landscape

Allenheads is a rural and industrial landscape in the North Pennines, which is located far away from Wylfa Nuclear Power Station in Anglesey – which was the starting focus for Power In The Land as a project back in 2014. Meeting in a different environment and away from the now decommissioned nuclear power station allowed us to objectively reflect on our interests in revisiting Wylfa and Anglesey as a nuclear landscape, as well as talk about how we can bring in influences from our wider art practices.

The residency centred around each of us giving presentations about our own research and the work that we have been producing as artists alongside Power In The Land whilst also allowing time for questions and constructive conversation amongst the group. On the other days we discussed the strengths and criticisms of producing Power In The Land as a body of work, whilst reflecting on the outcome of the exhibition tour and the practicalities of how we could further work together as a group of artists. Informal conversation continued during cooking meals and exploring the wild industrial landscape of Allenheads.

Power In The Land will now take the form of a research platform while we develop the next phase of the project.  Thanks to our ACA hosts (www.acart.org.uk) Alan Smith and Helen Ratcliffe.

Sellafield

20170915_092745On my way up to Allenheads Contemporary Arts to meet up with X-10,  I swung by Sellafield in West Cumbria. Astonishingly large site but quite hard to get up close to take it all in. It really is a small city of its own and one with the now familiar nuclear culture – no photos of course except from the publicly accessible views like this one. Here is where the fuel rods from Wylfa will end up once they have been extracted from the power station as part of the decommissioning process.