3% - The Art of Trespass
A multi-screen invitation to fictional public disobedience by crossing a semiotic ‘Private – No Entry’ line and trespass of a post-digital river. An activism of embodiment through digital sound and space.
When crossed, a fictional ‘No Entry’ line taped across the floor depth sensor activates the screens using Touch Designer to switch from ‘Private Land’ signs to a river swim submersion in colour, light, and sound. If one or more people cross back over the line, the screens return to ‘No Entry’, and the film is paused.
Birdsong plays throughout.
In collaboration with musician Louie Cooper, a trespass heart rate forms the basis of a rousing and contemporary multi-channel, spatial score. Based loosely on Gabrielle Roth’s musical ‘wave’ and 5 Rhythms movement practice, the score begins with slow hydrophonic and ambient sound reflecting the trepidation before trespass (and wild river swimming), building in musical depth to encourage participants to move during the three-minute piece.
A practice-led collaboration with dancer and movement professional Dr Sharon Smith forms a live iteration of the experience, an improvised movement piece for an invited audience.
A call to action appears at the end of the piece, explaining in a few words our lack of access to rivers in England, and the subsequent lack of our right to care for them.
Unlike Scotland and many countries in Europe and the rest of the world, people in England have uncontested access to just 3% of the rivers and 8% of the land. Access to the remaining 97% involves potential trespass.
Without a connection to natural resources, what are we? How can we protect and love the natural world? What is the physical and mental impact of not having access to blue and green spaces?
Amplification of this information to ignite connection to and action for.
In an autoethnographic context, submersion in wild river bodies presents the potential to move from mind into body and for presence. Much like meditation, it offers health and well-being and recovery, an opportunity to become other or more than human. A water body, in a water body.
The disparity between land ownership and non-ownership in England has created the illusion that green and blue space is only for the rich.
‘By far the largest, most difficult boundary to cross is the one in your own head. After a thousand years of manipulated semiotics, the conception that we are committing a crime by walking in woodland or swimming in a river is so strong that it can be hard to overcome. Get over that, and you can get over pretty much any wall.’ ‘The Trespassers Companion’.
The line is a construct.
Inhabit the noun - Flåneuse - wondering and gathering, slow looking, slow listening, with presence, where meaningful outcomes reveal themselves. Submergence in space and time, logging human and non-human life centred around rivers in England. Deploy learning from Design Without with Neville Brody and Cecilia Wee by taking care of each tiny gesture, where everything has meaning and intent.
To connect with people and listen, be open to opportunities.
Not pointing at the politics - interpret and translate the experience, and be authentic to the nature, of the nature.
Mary Rudy, an archaeologist, introduced me to Freeman Tilden’s work ‘Interpreting our Heritage’ from the 1950s.
Through interpretation, understanding. Through understanding, appreciation.
Through appreciation, protection.
Flow. Go to the rivers.
Semiotics - the soft sound of the river beckons in a quartet with birdsong, and the sunshine encourages you to submerge. The sign says, ‘Private property - no entry’.
Colour, sound, light.
Balancing poetics with politics.
Limited use of text on the screens and no spoken word creates an inclusive proposition with unlimited interpretation potential. Wheelchair user access and two-fold presentation experiences offer an opportunity for a greater depth of understanding of the piece.
Potential for spoken interpretation of performative presentations of the piece for visually impaired audiences.
A digital trespass of the piece by Dr Sharon Smith and Q&A with nature writer and campaigner Amy-Jane Beer was live streamed onto the Right To Roam campaign social media Instagram on February 24th 2023, from OUTERNET, London. Right To Roam has 37,100 followers on Instagram, creating an opportunity for wider and more diverse audiences to experience the work.
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