Tidal Culture: An Introduction

Performance and ephemeral objects suggest elements of time and impermanence. In my work I use these elements as metaphors for the vulnerable, temporal nature of the collective human experience. In Tidal Culture, I’m interested in using aspects of time and impermanence to address and reflect upon current conditions of the world as well as the relationships between and among cultures.

Tidal Culture is a long-term nomadic work (2004- ) using the Atlantic Ocean as a focal point and primary resource. Part I begins on the shorelines of Maine. The work continues in several countries bordering the North Atlantic Ocean: Newfoundland, Greenland, Iceland, and the Hebrides. These sites, because of their proximity to the arctic ice cap, have become grounds for observing climate change. I’m drawn to these landscapes for their character— sometimes austere, sometimes lush, often connoting isolation.

There are two primary components to this work: "performance" and object making. In the performative work I use video to document very still sittings. (More specifically, I am relatively still while the ocean remains active.) My back is turned to the camera or viewer while facing the water. The act of sitting at a shoreline, observing the ocean may seem unremarkable. I'm concerned with what is not readily visible; what takes place over time; and how states of mind, like conditions of the earth, require time to experience, observe and understand. Each site is documented with similar sittings, which are recorded in real time and then exhibited using single-channel video projections. All of the videos are one hour long with no edit cuts. My particular “positions” on the edge of the world are intended to question personal perspective and to invite dialogues between one place and another.

The other significant aspect of this itinerant work is the material evidence of these sites. Considering the contemporary preoccupation with borders and border control, I’m interested in using the ocean and algae as metaphor and investigatory tool for asking questions pertaining to identity, influence and isolation. Seaweed, which does not honor human-established boundaries, is my primary medium both for making what the nomadic existence requires (food, clothing, utensils) and also as a means of referencing the ways in which cultures influence one another.

Aside from the video and photographic documents much of the work resulting from my visitations will eventually disintegrate. What may remain is a memory of a place, a practice, a sense of purpose and connection.


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