Living Collections

My new installation ‘Living Collections‘ is currently installed at The London Wetland Centre until the 14 November 2021. Wetlands Unravelled is a year-long program looking at the paradoxes of conservation in the wetlands environment.

I worked as co-curator on this project and discussions began back in 2017 and then funding in place in 2019. Little did we know that as we were about to install the first season of commissions that we were about to go into lockdown, and so we cancelled installation of the first season.

My project took a few twists and turns with the pandemic stopping everything in it’s tracks, so too did my project. My initial response was to create a performance working with the local community and a choreographer to develop a large scale performance. 

Visitors would encounter people dressed as part birds, part creatures, emerging from different spaces in and around the wetlands.

In the end with so many movable things going on it became easier to focus on creating an installation.

Detail from ‘Living Collections’ photography by Julian Abrams

“Living Collections’ was inspired by the conservation term, imprinting, early on in our visits to London Wetland Centre, we learned about how the site adapts to support migrating birds from across the world. 

The impact of climate change was being played out right in the hub of the wetlands. The site is carefully managed with changing water levels adjusted to support incoming birds further into the marshlands and wild side of the site.

The site is constantly battling both native and non-native species, which brings up interesting ethical and challenging questions on which species should be allowed to thrive and survive.

Images of work in progress as I began developing my ideas.

My work draws upon this dichotomy, the new arrivals are both of the site and not. They try to transform and morph into beings that would suit the wetlands, but also stand out, not quite fitting in.

There is a performative feel to the work, in part due to my original intentions and also through their construction, the capes submerge the body, keeping it safe, it could potentially change to cover the figures entirely, offering shelter as well as protection.

The installation also draws on two previous works of mine Tree Boys and Bird Children where figures are transforming and becoming birds or trees.

The exhibition is on at The London Wetland Centre until 14 November 2021.

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