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Ex Lab – art, science and the coast

Date uploaded: November 2, 2011

Ex Lab – art, science and the coast  

Artists and scientists begin work together to investigate the unique coastal landscape of the Jurassic coast.

Ex Lab (Exploratory Laboratory), an exciting venture from visual arts collective Big Picture, has won a major award from Arts Council England to commission a series of new artworks responding to England’s first natural World Heritage site, a 95 mile section of stunning Dorset and East Devon coastline known as the Jurassic Coast. 

Artists Simon Callery, Mat Chivers, Zachary Eastwood-Bloom, Simon Ryder and creative studio Proboscis, have been selected from over 200 submissions to collaborate with scientists on the creation of a series of temporary site responsive artworks. Following an extensive research period, the works will be presented at various locations across Dorset, all set against the inspirational backdrop of the Olympic and Paralympic sailing events, taking place in Weymouth and Portland 2012.

Interpreting landscape has long been a primary focus for many artists, who increasingly work with specialists from other disciplines to explore what landscape means to us today. Historically, artists have acted as scientific observers, using painting and drawing to document landscape processes - long before the advent of photography - and have always contributed to our understanding of how landscape is formed. The Jurassic Coast is a rich resource for our selected artists to respond to.

The Jurassic Coast has itself been described as a linear laboratory for the earth sciences. Its rocks - beautifully exposed and accessible along its length - sequentially record 185 million years of the Earth’s history, openly displaying a superb range of active coastal processes. Whilst the public explores the wonders that this coastline has to offer, scientists are busy gathering data to help understand its formation and inform its future management. Ex Lab will bring these earth scientists together with artists to investigate our understanding of this special coastal environment.

Sculptor Mat Chivers will work with the National Trust at Purbeck to create work for Bournemouth town centre, bringing the countryside to the town. Mat is delighted to have been selected for this commission: “I have always been fascinated by ideas of change and flux. To be working in response to a landscape that makes it possible to experience transformative processes in the natural world on such an enormous scale, and in such a beautiful context, is going to be a great challenge and pleasure.”

Zachary Eastwood-Bloom is a multi-material artist combining both traditional and contemporary processes and will be in residence at Durlston Country Park, working with the Applied Science department at Bournemouth University. Zachary looks forward to exploring the diverse possibilities of using scientific data and instrumentation to stimulate form creation. “The prospect of working and being in dialogue with scientists is a very exciting notion”.

Portand Bill will engage artist Simon Ryder in an exciting challenge to address the variety and complexity of Portland, dealing with the many layers that coexists there - geological, historical, ecological, military.  Simon says “ I have also been fascinated for some time now by the Jurassic Coast and the way it plays with time, compressing millions of years into a few kilometres of coast.”

At Hive Beach, Burton Bradstock, creative studio Proboscis will focus on the social science of the area and how people relate to this very particular place. They are inspired by the rich mix of physical and social history, folklore, scientific knowledge (amateur and professional) and contemporary stories unique to the area. 

Painter Simon Callery will work on a commission that links the geology inland with that visible on the coast. Simon will follow a geological journey from Sherborne to the sea, creating an artwork that reflects the experience of walking these landscapes and engaging with people who live along the route.

Over the next few months these artists will be working alongside scientists and the public in the research and development phase of the project. Numerous public events and activities will give everyone the opportunity to follow their progress - check the website for updates and news of how you can get involved. 

Follow the progress of the project and download the Ex Lab Phase 1 Handbook here

Simon Ryder – computer visualisation of birdsong

Simon Ryder – computer visualisation of birdsong