Artist Mark Clare reflects on a residency in Wexford in 2019 which focused on climate change
L-R The Urgent Enquiry Team Eileen Hutton, Liz Burns, Kelly Hickey, Mark Clare, Joanna Hopkins, Denise Reddy, Megan Moriarty, Caroline Cowley, Ruairí O Cuív, Fiona McDonald. Photo: Brian Cregan
I am interested in the potential of science, philosophy and aesthetics to enrich my thinking on climate change and global policies. I want to make art work that keeps our attention focused on what’s going on in our environment.
In May 2019 I got the opportunity to participate in An Urgent Enquiry, a three-month art and biodiversity residency in Wexford. More background information is available here.
While there I had the opportunity to explore the effects of climate change and habitat loss on local biodiversity through interactions with environmental specialists, scientists and local communities.
I met the Climate Action Regional Office, curators at the Natural History Museum, local Biodiversity Officers and Conservation Rangers and worked closely with Liz Burns, Wexford Arts Officer. The staff in different Wexford County Council departments were essential in making connections and engaging the community.
To get to know the locals and introduce them to the work, I organised a number of free public workshops for adults and children, working with specialists in a variety of fields to deliver them. These included a wild food walk in the grounds of Tintern Abbey, a seaweed forage on Baginbun Beach and The Little Things Matter, a workshop on the important role of Phytoplankton (microscopic sea plants) on our ecosystems.
I am interested in the potential of art to open up dialogue and highlight new possibilities and alternative perspectives; allowing us to ask questions of ourselves, our place within our community and the broader environment.
At the end of the project I collaborated with local ceramic artist Mairead Stafford. We wanted to engage as many local residents as possible in a conversation about Osmia aurulenta, an endangered species of solitary bee found along the East coast that nests in snail shells. Solitary bees pollinate more flowers than any other group.
Participants made their individual ceramic ‘shell’ artworks which were later fired in Mairead’s kiln. Everyone donated one ‘shell’ to our on-going project The Unavoidable Interconnectedness of Everything. Our ambition is to expand the project nationally to make a million shells and produce a large-scale public artwork to represent the threat climate change poses to our local biodiversity. One million species are currently endangered.
The other artist’s participating in An Urgent Enquiry were Fiona McDonald, Dublin and Mary Conroy and Jonna Hopkins in Fingal. We met up on a number of occasions to discuss the development of the project as a whole. I found these meetings invaluable, hearing how they were getting on and in which direction their research was going, bouncing ideas around and getting feedback on my own research.
An Urgent Enquiry offered me an opportunity to embed myself in a community and work alongside other professionals, on a topic of significant personal interest.
Now, more than ever, new visions and narratives are needed in order to harness the power of scientific knowledge to intervene constructively in the course of our collective future.
An Urgent Enquiry is a partnership project between Wexford, Fingal and Dublin City Councils and funded under the Arts Council’s Invitation to Collaboration Scheme, 2018 and 2019.