Mother’s Lament

Artist Michael Gresalfi‘s painting of past, present and possible future states of our coral ecosystems – the ‘rainforests of the seas’ – points to a grim outcome if we cannot rapidly implement international strategies. He finds inspiration in the “elegant tit-for-tat” coral-algae relationship of shelter, food and, photosynthesis: “the algae also paint their coral hosts with their famous colors — the riotous colors of a reef are actually a symbol of one of the world’s oldest alliances.”


This painting depicts the tragic deterioration and loss of our oceans’ coral reefs since the advent of the post-industrial ‘Anthropocene era’. I have presented this science-informed vision within a three-panel view of the past, present, and possible future viability of these so-called ‘rainforests of the seas’.

Michael Gresalfi is an artist who seeks to incorporate art with climate change data, and whose work in encaustic medium, glass paint, oils and acrylics includes ‘Our Changing Planet’.

 

Increased ocean temperatures and changing ocean chemistry are the greatest global threats to coral reef ecosystems. These threats are caused by warmer atmospheric temperatures and increasing levels of carbon dioxide in seawater. As atmospheric temperatures rise, so do seawater temperatures.

This painting depicts the tragic deterioration and loss of our oceans’ coral reefs since the advent of the post-industrial ‘Anthropocene era’. I have presented this science-informed vision within a three-panel view of the past, present, and possible future viability of these so-called ‘rainforests of the seas’.

Coral ‘bleaching’ occurs as a stress response to both increasing ocean temperatures and pollution. The mass extinction of these critical ecosystems is envisioned within the third panel. This grim future is unfortunately a realistic outcome unless humanity works together to quickly design and then rapidly implement internationally agreed-upon mitigation and adaptation strategies.

The coral-algae relationship is an elegant tit-for-tat. The algae find shelter in the coral’s exoskeleton, and use its waste to perform photosynthesis. In exchange, the algae gives the coral oxygen and energy-rich sugars, plus a built-in waste management system. The algae also paint their coral hosts with their famous colors — the riotous colors of a reef are actually a symbol of one of the world’s oldest alliances.

When a coral is stressed, it can take drastic measures and expel its photosynthetic roommates. This removes the need to share nutrients, but also takes away the coral’s main food source; according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), up to 90 percent of the sugars that algae produce are donated to the coral. If the algae don’t return within a few weeks, the coral will die.


Mother’s Lament is a 36′ x 30′ acrylic painting on framed canvas

You can find more of Michael’s work at his website. And in our archive, you can find his previous Creative Showcase pieces for ClimateCultures: “What Man Has Wrought”, a seven-panel installation using styrofoam with melted wax, acrylics and a heat gun to reflect a world we risk if we fail to make restoring our Earth our shared priority; and Our Changing Planet: a video presentation of his artworks with his own narration, offering educators and advocates one example of personally communicating the science of climate change through a creative medium.

Picked Up the First Pieces

Artist and writer Ursula Troche showcases a video using washed-up discarded fishing rope, recovered and stitched together, to explore the growing threat of ‘ghost gear’ and the haunting of our seas by plastic waste. Picked Up the First Pieces has become the start of a series of video works using imagination to tell plastic stories.


A surreal theme emerged, as the ghost gear seemed to take on a life of their own: they acquired new characters in their ‘second life’ outside of the ocean, and the backyard behind my house — in which I filmed the first and the middle scenes — began to suggest a good stage for them, before being stitched into new works (their third lives).

Ursula Troche is a visual artist and writer working with space and place and moving between work, text and locations to explore hybrid and ‘intertidal’ spaces and interrogating edges.

 

My ‘Pick Up the Pieces’ project coalesced from my ongoing work with plastic waste, from stitching up plastic packaging, to my performance art show ‘Reverse Osmosis’, to collecting pieces of washed-up fishing rope from my local beach and up and down the coastline.

The title seemed perfect to refer to both the act of ‘litter picking’ as well as to contributing to restore our ecosystem to a better state in the light of our climate crisis. Discarded fishing rope from the sea is called ‘ghost gear’ — an amazing name that says many things: how it keeps on ghost fishing, and how it haunts them and us: the ghosts of our throw-away society, the ghosts of a kind of colonialism, hinting at the vastness of hidden practices, leaving one to speculate what caused them. Every item of ghost gear washed up will be there, ‘up for grabs’ only for the duration of a low tide, so it is important to grab it right there and then. Looking out for them, picking them up, washing them, then stitching them up into artworks began a process of immersive work. I wanted to show this and so made this video, Picked Up the First Pieces.

The film’s title ‘First Pieces’, was to hint at this being a kind of ‘first episode’ of the overall project. There is more I want to say, and so I am planning to make more ‘episodes’ of this my ‘ghost series’.

A surreal theme emerged, as the ghost gear seemed to take on a life of their own: they acquired new characters in their ‘second life’ outside of the ocean, and the backyard behind my house — in which I filmed the first and the middle scenes — began to suggest a good stage for them, before being stitched into new works (their third lives). I didn’t stitch up all of them though: their life in the backyard stage prompted imagination, thinking, theorizing and stories about them, and so my performance piece ‘Fishghost’ emerged.

Another theme in the film, and in my work, is the railway: it runs all along the coast, and so I reach my destinations with it — an ideal coastal line, and essential because I don’t drive. So, like me, the ghost gear comes on the train.

Once, I found a very large bottle, and I filmed it as it was ‘travelling in the train’. I also had footage of a plastic bag and ball. The International Day Against the Plastic Bag was happening the following week, and so it presented the perfect day to launch this next film. It’s a little-known International Day, but I knew it from the previous year, and so I could highlight the day with the film as well.

Filming on the beach and on the railway on the one hand, and the creation of more and more objects stitched up from plastic waste on the other, led to more video-making. The first series I made for children was made with two of my smiley characters made from plastic packaging travelling with me on the train. I wanted to give my coastline a fictitious name, and the title ‘By the Beeby Sea’ emerged.

All of my films are environmental in some way, even if comical, they advocate train travel for example. And even my so-called ‘Road Movie’ is a kind of anti-road movie, where the road disappears in the end (maybe that’s wishful thinking but it’s actually happening in the film….).


You can find more of Ursula’s new video pieces — including Road Movie and By the Beeby Sea — at her YouTube Channel. And there is more to explore at her websites, ColourCirclesite and Ursula Troche art thought poems photos being. The latter includes Ursula’s PUTPie newsletter, which features more on the Pick Up the Pieces project.

For more information, please get in touch: ursulatroche[at]yahoo.co.uk

1.8

1.8 takes a critical view on the approximately 706 million gallons of waste oil that enter the ocean every year”. Katrin Spranger‘s piece powerfully uses performance with oil itself to bring home the global impact of pollution and waste on our oceans and wildlife, visually depicting how much crude oil we consume and release daily.


Juxtaposing beauty and ugliness, the physical properties of oil and the marks being left on canvas create a metaphor for humanity’s struggle and highlights the tragic awareness of our inability to control the effects of environmental destruction. Whilst some marks quite literally depict a ‘carbon’ footprint, most other marks witness traces of a fight with a slippery liquid material that could not be controlled.

Katrin Spranger is a visual artist working on the intersection of sculpture, jewellery, and performance, exploring dystopian narratives that engage with environmental issues including the depletion of natural resources.

 

Formed millions of years ago, yet only used for around 200 years, fossil fuel reserves are emptying very quickly. With current and expected future levels of usage, oil reserves are in decline and cannot meet our population’s needs in the long term.

Global consumption of crude oil, based on the 2021 world population breaks it down to 1.8 litres per capita per day with the forecast of an increase.

1.8 takes a critical view on the approximately 706 million gallons of waste oil that enter the ocean every year. With over half coming from land drainage and waste disposal; for example, from the improper disposal of used motor oil, the other remaining parts come from offshore drilling, production operations and spills or leaks from ships or tankers.

Oil spills present enormous harm to deep ocean and coastal fishing. Oil spills at sea can kill large numbers of seabirds and have the potential to wipe out entire populations where these are small or localised. Oil can stick to birds’ feathers, making them lose their water-proofing and potentially leading to hypothermia. When birds try to clean their feathers they ingest oil and are likely to become poisoned. Birds can be cleaned, but this is laborious and expensive. To rehabilitate a single bird takes up to 45 minutes.

Apart from the problems of offshore oil drilling, mining and oil spills, an additional tragedy is that, unfortunately, much of the world’s plastic has ended up in the ocean, where, dispersed by currents, it becomes virtually irretrievable, especially once it has fragmented into microplastics. Computer models suggest that seas hold as many as 51 trillion microplastic particles. Some are the product of larger pieces breaking apart; others, like microbeads added to toothpaste or face scrubs, were designed to be tiny.

To take the viewer on a rigorous journey to visually depict how much crude oil in the form of plastic products and carbon emissions we consume and release on a daily basis, the protagonist of the 1.8 performance wears a feathered jewellery piece with the exact amount of 1.8 litres of oil hidden under their wings. Their performance follows a trajectory, starting from a beautiful, immaculate state of being with slow, majestic movements, onto more struggling gestures and emotions of reluctance to accept loss, to an eventually uncontrollable mess, leading to the inevitable, horrific death. Juxtaposing beauty and ugliness, the physical properties of oil and the marks being left on canvas create a metaphor for humanity’s struggle and it highlights the tragic awareness of our inability to control the effects of environmental destruction. Whilst some marks quite literally depict a ‘carbon’ footprint, most other marks witness traces of a fight with a slippery liquid material that could not be controlled.

1.8 aims to assess and rethink our daily oil consumption in the form of trying to consume fewer plastic products and packaging materials, and ultimately reducing our environmental footprint at scale when traveling and commuting on a daily basis.

Art direction and jewellery: Katrin Spranger
Performance artist: O.K. Norris
Styling and costume: lambdog 1066
Videographer: Louis Thornton


You can explore more of Katrin’s work at her site — and look out for details of the 1.8 Recycle Workshop Series:

“Of all plastics used, worldwide just about 9 % is recycled. As a matter of fact, even when trying to cut down on packaging materials, consumers not always have a choice when shopping, as items usually come wrapped and packaged in non-recyclable materials. Whenever it is not possible to reduce consumption, we may consider re-using and transforming such materials to reduce waste.

“Following my 1.8 performance piece commenting on crude oil consumption, I am going to run a series of workshops in 2023 that inspire action and provide practical solutions to dealing with ‘waste’ products. Each participant will be asked to collect and bring 1.8 kg of plastic and crude oil waste products to the workshop where we’re going to assess and explore those materials. During the workshop we will recycle and transform the materials using various processes including heating, melting, pressing, cutting (for example heating plastic bottle caps) in order to co-create new artworks such as jewellery pieces or objects. The aim is to create work that does not resemble the materials that it was made of.”

There are a limited number of workshop places, so if you would like to take part, please email spranger.katrin@gmail.com to express your interest.

To explore some of the issues Katrin addresses in her work, see:

Melt & The Hispering

“Both books speak to my ongoing need for connection and intra-veloping with the growing world. They explore how I experience what I breathe, how water, soil and grasses unfold from me and I from them.”

In melt and the hispering, Sarah Hymas encourages us to rethink, blur, mix up, remake the stories we’ve been told.

In the unfathomable dark
of my closed eyes
microscopic life surfaces
to feed on digested sunlight

(‘Moist’ from melt)

Sarah Hymas is a poet, performer and artistbook maker focusing on the sea, its ecosystems and its interdependence with people, and the impacts of climate change and pollution.

In the first lockdown of 2020 I was one of many writers wondering how publishing a book was going to work in a pandemic. melt was originally due to be published in the spring of 2020. Eventually appearing in December, it is the outcome of four years of reading, living and writing around my encounters with the ocean, its currents, ice melt, plastic debris and many other of its upwellings. the hispering, by contrast, popped out over four weeks in April / May 2020. Rising from a thirty-year-old experience, it demanded my attention during the world’s rupture, an almost obsessive revisiting, retracing and retelling of what had happened to my twentysomething-year-old self in West Sussex, Donegal and some strange netherbridge strung between the two.

In part the books seem quite different: one poetry, exploring how line, space and image can fold and unfold across oceanic movement; the other a pamphlet of prose-poetry-like glimpses of a dreamt / dream-like meadow. Still, they both speak to my ongoing need for connection and intra-veloping with the growing world. They explore how I experience what I breathe, how water, soil and grasses unfold from me and I from them. Both books play with folklore, social history, a desire for belonging, a fear of disconnection and strive to embrace what is unknown or weird or threatening with an open spirit.

They both play with form, restless in the flat page conventions of a book. As a maker of artistbooks I’ve been playing with how text can break from the dimensions of a page, how it can stretch across pages, and how pages and folds can ask unexpected things from readers. Both books ask for reciprocity: between book as object and reader as subject, or vice versa.

They reflect a life-long fascination with how imagination upholds our worlds, how what we dream, in waking or in sleep, feeds and enriches thinking, doing, seeing. I’d hope that anyone who opens their pages also finds new worlds opening up to them, within and without of themselves; and is encouraged to rethink the stories they’ve been told over the years: the true and imagined ones, the scientific and historical ones, the personal and collective ones, and to remake them, to blur them a bit, mix them up and shake out new possibilities for what might be to come.


More about the processes and obsessions that informed melt and the hispering can be found at Sarah Hymas – writer and maker

melt (2020) is published by Waterloo Press and the hispering (2021) is published by Black Sunflowers Poetry.

You can follow Sarah on Twitter and Facebook