My current PhD research explores the potential of collaborative fieldwork between artists and archaeologists. In addition, this project asks how the development of place-specific and collaborative methods ‘in the field’ enable new ways of highlighting current discourses around nuclear energy production and the multiplicities of actors and forms of knowledge that run through as well as inhabit the Blackwater Estuary in Essex.
Emerging from the Dengie Peninsula, the Blackwater Estuary in Essex crystalises complex issues around history, heritage, ecology and the geo-politics of energy production. In 2002 Bradwell A was the first UK Magnox nuclear power station to enter the ‘care and maintenance’ phase of the decommissioning process. Consultation and planning are underway for a new nuclear programme, Bradwell B, on the land adjacent to the decommissioned Bradwell A. As an estuarine landscape, the Blackwater's interrelationships are planetary. Tides ebb and flow; each winter, birds such as dark-bellied brent geese migrate around 2,500 miles from Siberia to the sucking mud of Essex shores. The Chapel of St. Peter-on-the-Wall sits atop the remains of a half-submerged Roman fort; in nearby Maldon, the well-known ‘Maldon Salt’ is panned and processed. The Estuary’s involvement in the nuclear military-industrial complex rubs against the sustainable practices of the Othona community.
Having lived in Essex and worked extensively with others to produce place-specific work, my project will develop ways to engage the Estuary’s global entanglements; such discursive and embedded strategies have potential to create space for discussion and action on land use and energy production, beyond state/corporate interests. This research project takes the proposition of an ‘archaeology of the present’ from contemporary archaeology as a means to interrogate the co-production of knowledge and material culture in the field of contemporary art.
Leaky Transmissions is a new body of art and research undertaken in the first 18 months of my PhD. This practice related enquiry began by thinking with ‘radio’ as a means of communication, collision and interference. While the radio spectrum is increasingly politicised, codified and privatised, many types of human transmission commingle on the Estuary: cellular networks with wireless connections; electrical substations with Bluetooth signal; slow-scan television with ham radio transmissions. Meanwhile, non-human forces persist, invisible and unrelenting: from the Estuary's conductive geology, to background radiation, and the Earth's vast electromagnetic fields. Using ‘radio’ as a generative tool, I continue to explore and unpick the uneven, contradictory and often violent relations: from industrial uranium mines to ancient saints and fluted oyster colonies, to cash crops and the irradiated graphite cores, enveloped deep within the body of the decommissioned power station.