National Theatre Wales
& Sheffield Hallam University.
Site-Specific Community Project
Research & Development, Aberystwyth
01 September - 01 November 2019
In an age of anthropogenic climate change and concomitant sea level rise, what form would the flood take? How would we create our ark? What skills knowledge and traditions do we need to draw upon in order to make it? What new ones should we invent? What do we take with us? What do we leave behind?
This socially engaged theatre & performance project seeks to address these questions & stimulate dialogues around climate change and migration. It invites community members and artists to engage in the process of planning for the 'flood' and in so doing, seeks to establish the foundations for a future participatory artwork and large scale public performance. ARK is intended to be developed in multiple sites or cities, where each flood and each ark will be unique to the specificities of the city in which it is located.
The flood and the reasons for it in one location may be vastly different to its manifestation in another part of the UK. ARK seeks to stage spectatorial orientations & disorientations in relation to multiple sites - physical, geographical, philosophical, political, thematic and digital - as a way of staging the complexity of the Anthropocene as immediate, visceral and intimate, and a process that is bound up with the slow passage of geological time in specific locations.
ARK was initially conceived in 2015 as part of the Arts and Humanities Research Council's (AHRC) Towards Hydrocitizenship as a community engagement project intended to facilitate dialogues around climate change in the mid-Wales seaside town of Aberystwyth. ARK has since been developed with National Theatre Wales and with support from Sheffield Hallam University.
In Autumn 2019, lead artist, Dr Tom Payne (Doppelgangster), engaged in a series of dialogues with local Aberystwyth community members, experts and artists with the aim of collaboratively conceptualising an ark for the 21st century in mid-Wales. Four experts were commissioned as part of the Research & Development Team and invited to undertake extended conceptual/creative ideation in response to the project questions:
Dr Sam Chrisitie (Filmmaker)
"An ARK is an ARK is an ARK. An ARK is a boat. The deluge is either good or bad communication... The boat when moored becomes a stage. The community can watch from the edges of the marina. The community groups, local theatre companies, youth groups, can all offer a performance if they can do two things: perform on the subject of ‘an ARK’ and perform on the deck of a boat."
Professor Adrian Kear (University of the Arts, London)
"What is this object? A monument? Evidence? Testimony? An artwork? What is the scene that it indexes? Shipwreck? Suffering? Trafficking? What is the event it encodes? Death? Migration? Politics? Art? What are the economics of its production and consumption? For whom is this staged, and why? Why is it ‘our’ boat? What is the ‘we’ to whom it is addressed?"
Rosie Strickland (Greenpeace)
“The audience-participants build the ARK of information and communication as it travels. It is a collaborative sculpture, a vessel and a vehicle of democracy that connects communities with a shared purpose and message. A protest boat becomes an ARK, a boat that delivers a flood of voices to parliament ”
Jenny Hall (Crafted Space)
“The Ark could be a small concentration of the essential rather than a large vessel that attempts to contain everything within. Could it be the core of a larger interconnected system? If the Ark is a small box or item that could be carried by 4 people or even 1 person, could it be the heart of a community?”
In September/October 2019 the lead artist held initial conversations with a major cultural organisation in Coventry, exploring a co-production that could take the form of parallel events or a sequence of events in which ARK is realised in one place after another in different years. This collaboration would lay a foundation for future iterations of the project in other parts of the UK and internationally at major events and festivals.
Research & Development Team Aberystwyth (2019): Rosie Strickland (Greenpeace); Dr Sam Christie (Filmmaker); Jenny Hall (Crafted Space); Professor Adrian Kear (University of the Arts London); Lucy Wood (Invisible Dust).
Thanks to the following mid-Wales community contributors: Toby Bragg (Extinction Rebellion); Bea Cass (Climate Youth Strikes); Avi Allen (Capel y Graig); Professor Mark Whitehead (Human Geography, Aberystwyth University); Louise Amery (Deputy Director, Aberystwyth Arts Centre); Dafydd Rhys (Director, Aberystwyth Arts Centre) Fern Smith (Emergence); Phil Ralph (Writer); Paul Allen (Zero Carbon Britain); Professor Stephen Tooth (Geography and Earth Sciences, Aberystwyth University); Alan Cookson (Aberystwyth Beach Buddies); Mohamad Karkhoubi (Blacksmith); Rachel Lilley (Geography PhD Candidate, Aberystwyth University). Ben Lake (Plaid Cymru MP); Dinah Mullholland (Labour Party Parliamentary Candidate); Lindsay Cardwell (Aberaid); Dr Piotr Woycicki (Theatre Studies, Aberystwyth University).
Top image: Jenny Hall. Photography of Aberystwyth: Dr Sam Christie