Awash (2016)


“this drowned world lies beneath a skin,
of moving water, as within ;
The glassy surface of their frown
The ladies’ grieving passions drown
And can be seen to ebb and flow
In Crimson as the currents go”
Christabel LaMotte, The Drowned City in Possession by A.S.Byatt 

“Dare we talk about art and social modelling?”
(Roy Ascott, 1967)

“But what matters most is the aspiration to live in balance with nature, “walk lightly on the land”, treat the earth as a mother”
(from Ecotopia, Ernest Callenbach, 1975)


In contemporary ecological discourse, early systems theory is often invoked as a panacea for our world’s debilitating conditions – an inclusivity that sees our species as a part of an equation governing all of life helps us realize that harm we inflict on our environment ultimately washes back on our shores. But we know these systems are much more complex, and in most cases, chaotic.

One area where these most poignantly combine is in the plight of the ecological refugee – a nascent term to describe migrants fleeing their homes due to the effects of climate change; where governmental policies on migration entangle with economic and social apprehensions. Poetically, this is also where the proverbial struggle between nature and culture is enacted; where utopian ideologies of Eden conflate with the veracity of such notions as home, distance and belonging. For those afflicted, the balance (and unbalance) between nature and ideology is most pronounced, most deeply felt, and unfortunately, also the most unnoticed.

Awash is a project that use data science and social media to create metaphors for the behaviour of natural elements– the aim of which to merge what is natural and environmental with a sensitivity to ongoing social conditions that are tenuous and in need of representation, and in a format which we consider to be daily, quotidian and perhaps most effective.

This project extends the archetype of journeying and discovery to imaginary Ecotopias. Inspired by the writings of Ernest Callenbach, these imaginary cities are created through the ebb and flow of social media data.  It also draws attention to an increasing use of social media to mitigate and in many cases, aid disaster relief efforts.

Searching for twitter feeds directly related to floods, tsunamis and other site-specific irregularities in tidal and coastal conditions, the project generates a digital tide based on the intensity and content of the data that becomes the impetus for a multi-channel audio installation. The audio installation alternates between a database of audio recordings of coastal activity and simulated submersion.


Physical Components (Proposed)



Graph_DailyFlowGraphic representation of the synthesized tide charts based on daily data collected from Twitter feeds

[Soundscape prototype of tidal action]

The soundscape is constructed through a 6 channel speaker setup.  A synthesized tide soundscape is created that flows through the gallery space (from one end to the other)

Video Screen/Projection:
A screen displays the aggregation of the Twitter feeds into a 3D geometric shape (as seen in the following video) and separate smaller screens (between 3-5) line the wall of the installation space, displaying a live feed of the twitter broadcast.

A gravel pit sculpture is also proposed that references the washed up remains of a city.  Users are invited to step on the gravel and walk around on it, adding their footsteps to the sounds in the gallery space.  The size of the pit will be designed when spatial allocations can be confirmed.