Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Deptford X 2010 - work has begun

“The Thames...can be considered to be a museum, containing a collection of material finding its way into the river, where it is sorted and classified according to the river’s own internal physical dynamics, those of transport and deposition, tide, current and flow.”
Extract from Disjecta Reliquiae The Tate Thames Dig, Robert Williams writing about artist Mark Dion’s Tate Thames Dig in Archaeology, pp75-76 (Black Dog Publishing)
See my post on Dion back in February here.

At the end of June this year, I put in a proposal for an installation for Deptford X 2010:

Venue: Deptford Creek (via Ha’Penny Hatch)

Some modern Willowware is placed in the mudbanks of the Creek to replenish older material removed by mudlarkers. The new pieces will be subjected to the river’s dynamics of tide, current and flow, perhaps eventually ending up on the Thames foreshore as battered fragments to be discovered by future beachcombers.

On 9th July I got confirmation to go ahead with the idea.

Since then there has been progress afoot...Permission was sought from Creekside Centre to get access to the Creek. I told a friend, Emma Redstone, about the idea. Emma's parents are keen ceramics experts and had already kindly identified fragments I had collected from the Thames foreshore (see my post in December 2009 here). Emma is also a natural mudlarker, having grown up close to the Thames. She came on a Creek Walk (run by the Centre) with me on 15th July to help me install an experiment. This was to see if the plates would stay put in the mudbanks for any length of time, before being washed away by the tide. Nick Bertram was also on hand, on behalf of the Centre, since we were not at that point covered by the Centre's insurance.

We placed ten (one broken in half) modern Churchill microwaveable plates (17" and 12") into the mud. The next day, our footprints had vanished, but the plates were still there...we viewed them from the bridge.

We left them there three days, then went down into the Creek again to remove them. Whilst down in the Creek washing the plates to carry them back, we noticed how they shone brightly underwater and began to figure out how they might be kept there, since the current in the centre of the river Ravensbourne is very fast and strong and the tide would surely drag them up or down river.

Emma, a trained theatre technician and carpenter, came up with a couple of solutions as to how we might keep the plates from being swept away, and went away to experiment, using resources available at her workplace. 

We reconvened a couple more times in the Creek to test Emma's ideas, and hopefully we now have a solution that also passes the rigorous Risk Assessment required by the Creekside Education Trust.