I made this puppet almost twenty years ago. She was too heavy to use in a show and after some time became my muse for the hispering, then moved to my ancestral altar where she’s been sitting amongst family photos, an urchin, other sea finds and some ribbon for the past few years.
When I was asked if I would contribute to the Aqueous Futures exhibition in the Midland Hotel Morecambe it seemed this was her time to shine. I was asked because of my artistbooks, but I’ve been wanting to stretch beyond books for a while, even beyond how artistbooks stretch the book form.
She rises from the top compartment of an old oak bureau made by my gandfather which I’ve carted from house to house not really liking for years, but kept because he gave it to me and some other less articulated reason. The cabinet was used in an outdoor exhibition last August near Plover Scar light, and shared my love for the area with anyone interested, and asked for more info on theirs in return.
The Sea Shrine is a scaled down / shrined up / simplified / less linguistical version of that iteration. She takes centre stage amongst waxed thread and eroded limpet shells. She crowns a mountain of periwinkle shells gathered from the bay. She aims to capture the collaborative sense that is ocean, the weedy, frondy, easily overlooked, less than explicit, absolutely hereness of the body of water that covers two thirds of our plants, just as the flow of waater occupies two thirds of our body.
I wanted to make something that invited others to contribute to the making. I wanted there to be space for others to consider what the sea means to them. If we are to think of aqueous futures, how might we think beyond the disastrous? It’s too easy to swing to doom scenarios rather than sitting in the uncertainty of what is to come. What we know is where we are, now. The future is seeded in our present actions – actions being our speech, thoughts and behaviours. Our intentions, our aspirations are the scaffold for those actions. We all have the agency to shape the futre, our future, a future. And perhap no being more so than the ocean, upon whom all life depends.
I’m increasingly interested in the value of collective wisdom and in making pieces that rise from that collaboration which crosses time and space. After all, we are here as a result of that collectivity.
And because I’m also becoming more interested in silence as much as words I wanted there to be an option to share a silent wish, not to put pressure on people to artciulare their feelings. When our hopes, aspirations, emotions and sensations are at their most raw they are pre-verbal. It could be said that in articulating them they lose power. When the finger points to the moon, we can become distracted by the finger rather than see the moon.
This particular incarnation of the spirit of the ocean explains the value of the sea in text that runs up and down her legs. This text was printed at the new Morecambe Riso Press during an exploratory workshop that was my first time with the machine. I’ll be back. This scan of the pink does not do its glorious brightness justice.
The invitation to make silent wishes on the hag shells or word wishes on paper can be for her or for us. There is, ultimately, no difference. What we wish for ourselves is what we wish for the world.
She was in the exhibition space, as the tide came in and out over three unseasonably hot days and accrued some touching wishes. With windows either side of her I’m hoping the sense of the sea was evident for those who did make wishes, or just spent some time with her.
and plenty of wishes that are not so pinned down
I hope she’ll continue to gather wishes we have for the ocean and all the beings who live in and from her. And welcome invitations from other venues who’d like to host her.
Meanwhile, if you’d like to email a wish, then you can here: seashrine.ofthebay [at] gmail.com and I’ll make sure it catches the air and send you a picture of it in place.
If you’re curious, her measurements are: width: 530mm; depth, closed: 160mm; open: 520 mm; height, full: 1230mm; to the desk: 720mm.