OSR Projects
South West England

Weather Station (Part 1) marks a new step towards an ecological rhetoric; one in which our tangential relationship to nature can be made visible. The works demand a distinct awareness of humanity’s reciprocal influence on climatic conditions, functioning as a wider metaphor for viewing the Earth as a whole system. In addition to these global issues, it solicits the audience’s living memories of the severe flooding that effected Somerset in 2014. As a result, the audience’s perspective is drawn from the local, to the climatic and back again in an exhibition that is disorienting, yet never incoherent.

The Weather Station in question, a ‘zorb’, appears as a totem of its past exploits at the entrance to the exhibition space. Raised on a makeshift scaffold, it encompasses the actions and views of each of the artists: Alexander Stevenson, Jethro Brice and Simon Lee Dicker. The ‘zorb’ is irrepressible in its size and status as an artificial contrivance, emphasizing the intramundane realities of being separated from the environment. It is at once a perfect vantage point, but one that is totally insulated and confining – typifying our current hypocritical relationship with the natural world. If Weather Station contains a metaphor for nature and society’s ills, then the experiential confinement within its body provides the treatment. Functioning as a plastic globe, it provides a microcosmic terrarium for climate models, the participants feel first-hand the effects of their existential processes – breathing makes the restricted atmosphere warm; claustrophobic. Consuming more and more oxygen, the realities of climate change are brought into uncomfortably close quarters.

Dicker first took the Zorb out in the early hours of the morning to draw the horizon at sunrise. Marking sites that had previously felt the impact of flooding in Somerset. The documentation, reminiscent of the German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich’s iconic image the Der Wanderer über dem Nebelmeer, sets the tone for the latter contributions. Stevenson took the zorb to Hestercombe Gardens using the marks left by Dicker as navigation tools to traverse the landscape. The separation of man and nature is made ever clearer by the tracing of simple shapes of flora; Nature on the outside, a hollow line drawing on the inside. Brice rejects the ‘zorb’ as a heightened experience of being separated or removed from nature, re-acting only to its form. It becomes sculptural and exaggerated as Brice tracks the effects of the environment while taking it for a boat trip.

Inside the gallery, our eyes are drawn down the rectangular space, focusing on Simon Lee Dicker’s billboard poster, an appropriated archive image which in its scale and placement draws you in. The billboard provides the visual component of Red Sky in the Morning – an oral account by Dicker’s parents of their experience in the tsunami which struck Sri Lanka in 2004, killing near two thousand people traveling by train. The billboard’s wheat-paste has dried leaving wave-like bubbles and folds, it is an eerie backdrop to the tale, as if saturated by the very force of the ocean which shook so many lives. To the left: a stale Sri Lankan Egg Hopper, a chair, and two iPods rest on make-shift stands. The iPods contain accounts from Dicker’s parents each calmly retelling their stories from the moment the wave struck. While listening, the artifacts become contextual and symbolic of narratives both personal and profound. The billboard image of the busy train carriage and a single silhouette looking out to sea, give a sense of the Burkeian sublime with a banal reality. This is a human narrative rapped up in the vivacity of the natural world.

Drifting to the centre of the space, we are met by a rowing boat. Jethro Brice and Seila Fernandez Aconada’s traditional ‘flatner’, a flat-bottomed boat which looks at the creative responses from communities in reaction to the disastrous flooding which hit the Somerset Moors and Levels in 2013/14. Entitled Some:when 2014/2015 it proposes practical survival through an object rife with social history as we get ready for a wet future. The boat is stationary, oars cast out ready and waiting, it is more than a metaphorical ark of humanity, it is a likely a lifeline to us all.

Brice’s second work Prototype for a counter-geographical memento 2015 is a timely observation of water distribution across the Israeli-Palestinian border, looking at the impact of water as a political tool towards Arabic households, as they are the first to be cut-off in times of unrest. Styled like blueprints for a new souvenir product, Brice takes on a consumerist-driven medium as a means of furthering his critique of capitalist structures. It has a strong message to the responsibilities of man’s claim to natural resources and there use for futile and trivial forms, water here is a social force distilled with the ideologies of whomever controls it.

On the opposite wall, Alexander Stevenson’s video piece Vstříc Divočině (translated from Czech as “towards wilderness”) is set in a clearing of a forest, Stevenson begins a series of literal gestures, smearing his hands with soil, carrying branches on his back – the camera controlling our gaze shifts from tele-photo shots to close scenes of Stevenson parading around the forest. It borders the ridiculous as he attempts to become ‘one with nature’, but these actions are designed to fail; there is a pseudo-poetic gesture here about how disconnected we are. An intrinsic connection of man and nature is forged as Stevenson forces soil onto his skin, or more accurately humus – the layer of earth in which organic matter is recycled and which holds more organisms in a single tea spoon than there are people on the planet. Stevenson’s intervention with ‘nature’ here is an allegory for our lost understanding of the natural world as we all depend on the first few centimeters of soil for our existence, but pay it little attention. Our continued survival is underpinned by nature at a fundamental level.

Stevenson’s second work and the last we arrive at is a Noel Fielding aesthetic tipi, penetrating into the ceiling space. Large enough to enter, it is a patchwork of neon colours, bold and daring yet it only fully discloses itself once you enter the contrasting internal space. Calm, dark and celestial – the totem conceals an array of marks and symbols, tuned to a subconscious understanding that they have always been. Entering the tent-like object, one becomes enveloped in a night sky and the primordial visual language which oscillates between familiarity and obscurity.

Weather Station (Part 1) marks an apotheosis, a shift towards an ‘overview effect’ in one’s understanding. Commonly associated with the first image of Earth from outer space, it instigates the understanding of our planet in a bigger context – a blue dot on a black slate. The proliferation of projects which embrace this ascendant cosmology as a necessary step towards a post-Galilean view, suggest there is a consensus being reached towards an ecological necessity to consider more than our immediate surroundings. Weather Station does not force this agenda: one does not need to have their head in the clouds to understand or enjoy it; put simply, Weather Station is an explicit statement of our place. However we might perceive it.