We are currently looking for inspiring women working in the field of deep sea and space exploration to be the voices of this new artist’s film project.
Human / Nature is set around two critical frontiers of today: deep sea and space – romanticised stages, which are at the same time present-day borders of conquest for mineral resources and territory. The work will ask questions about the fantasies we construct and investigate the intimate relationship between exploration and exploitation.
Shot on location in underwater training habitats, these rehearsal spaces provide the visual backdrop for the film’s fragmented dialogue that interweaves narratives from the history of space and deep-sea exploration – real and fantasy. The script will explore how reverberant layers of industrialisation and colonialism have affected the way we relate to our environment – both immediate and distant. Narrated by female pioneers of deep sea and space exploration, the work will open up alternatives to these legacies in a poetic montage, which in turn poses questions about our current state and how we should move forward into these frontiers.
Human/Nature is being developed as part of the Culture & Climate Change residency, which is supported by The Open University Open Space Research Centre, The University of Sheffield School of Architecture, the Ashden Trust, Jerwood Charitable Foundation and the Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures.
Recent commission for Opera North Projects
In conjunction with Opera North’s epic presentation of Wagner’s complete Ring Cycle, a new sound and film installation The Water Sinks Down with Them by artist Emma Critchley comes to Leeds Central Library from Monday 16 to Thursday 26 May.
The installation will accompany Opera North’s Ring cycle on tour to:
- The Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, London: Friday 24 June – Sunday 3 July
- BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, in association with Sage Gateshead: Friday 8 – Sunday 10 July
Admission at all venues is free, with no booking required
Emma Critchley takes her inspiration from the opening bars of Wagner’s 16-hour epic, beginning where the composer began with the primeval energy of the River Rhine: ‘The fact that the Ring starts and ends in water is central to my response with this work. It’s an exploration of this Wagnerian idea of a pre-existing cosmos in which human consciousness takes form. The water is primordial and evokes an expansive sense of time, before and after our own existence. Through the film a timeless, ever-changing space unfolds that seems at times colossal, at others microscopic.’
Sound designer Nicolas Becker, who has worked with filmmakers including Roman Polanski and David Cronenberg, and received his second Golden Reel award for his work on Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity, has been collaborating with the artist. A recording of Opera North’s Rhinemaidens – the first and the last characters seen in the four-opera cycle – will form basis of the soundscape. “It’s inspired by the opening bars of Das Rheingold that evolve into the first sung word, which is Wagner’s metaphor for the evolution of consciousness” says Critchley.
The artist, a qualified commercial diver whose fascination with the submarine world can be seen throughout her work in photography and film, admits that she is a newcomer to the music of Wagner: ‘It’s been a steep learning curve – I spent Christmas getting to grips with recordings of the cycle and the libretto translations, and reading around the myths and the philosophy that fed into Wagner’s work.’
She cites Ludwig Feuerbach, the German philosopher and contemporary of Wagner, as an influence on the new installation. Feuerbach’s belief in the supremacy of nature, which ‘has no beginning and no end’ and ‘is at once effects and cause, acting and reacting on all sides’, was taken up passionately by Wagner as he wrote the Ring, and in an early draft the cycle concludes with the so-called ‘Feuerbach ending’.
The Water Sinks Down with Them is part of an extensive programme of special events and commissions, including talks, film screenings, live broadcasts and family workshops, in celebration of Opera North’s performance of six complete cycles of the Ring in cities across the country this summer.
Emma Critchley will give an informal artist’s talk in the exhibition space on Tuesday 17 May from 5.30pm to 6.30pm. Admission is free and no booking is necessary, but space is limited so early arrival is recommended.
The Somerset levels floods of 2013/14 left many people living semi-aquatic lives for months on end. Once familiar family homes were transformed and the levels became the subject of a story which drew attention from across the UK and around the world. Despite the overwhelming buzz of media attention, it was an experience that left many feeling isolated; caught in an otherworldly displaced space, where time stood still. The floods sparked great controversy about how and why they occurred and who was to blame for their scale and duration. Why ‘they’ let it happen and the way ‘they’ handled the situation became the subject of contentious debate and confrontation. THEY responds to stories collated from interviews of those affected; it reflects on the accounts people gave which brought to view a sense of forced adaptation to an otherworldly existence; on view yet disconnected from the outside world.
THEY will be screened at the Royal Geographic Society annual conference at the University of Exeter at a public event: ‘The Many Faces of Flooding: Policy, Science, and Art’
Wednesday 2nd September 2015 at 6.45
THEY was commissioned as part of the research project The 2013/14 Winter Floods and Policy Change, at University of Exeter.
Director: Emma Critchley
DoP’s: Gail Jenkinson & Emma Critchley
Editor: Adam Lavis
Sound Design: Ed Critchley
Performer: Abby Evans
Assistants: Keith Scott, Ollie Green & Jess Cox
Location: Band Studios, Bristol
Special thanks to Mark Dollery & Esprit Film Services