‘Home’ – Marine Conservation Zone Undercliff Path Sculptures
Exploring the Marine Conservation Zone through sculpture
‘Look out to sea! Who lives beneath the waves? The ocean and the chalk seabed off the coast from Brighton are home to starfish, seahorses, cuttlefish, catsharks, anemones, crabs, lobsters, sea snails, mussels, oysters and many other creatures, as well as seaweeds including kelp. The chalk gullies, habitats and wildlife here are protected as part of our local Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ).’
This is the signage text that accompanies ‘Home’ – two brand new sculptures by local artist David Watson celebrating the unique habitats and species of our Marine Conservation Zone, which runs alongside the Undercliff Path.
Schools without Walls and ONCA collaborated on ‘Home’ – an environmental education and art project that celebrates the local Marine Conservation Zone. The project was supported by the Adur and Ouse Partnership, Rampion Offshore Wind, Arts Council England and Brighton & Hove City Council.
Building on this process, local artist David Watson made two ‘Home’ sculptures, with accompanying signage, whose purpose is to delight and engage people on the Undercliff Path with the Marine Conservation Zone and The Living Coast. The sculptures are made from waste, including amongst other things, salvaged aeroplane wheels. Installed on the Undercliff Path at the Marina and Ovingdean in October 2021, they not only enhance the experience of visitors, but increase appreciation of the precious world hidden beneath the waves just beyond the beach.
Introduction by artist David Watson:
What does home mean to you? It could make you think of:
- A place of safety to nurture family and welcome friends
- Space to grow and flourish
- Current issues – refugees, homelessness, and climate change (Earth as home)
- Homes that nurture our spirituality (churches); on the coast to protect us (Martello towers); at sea (lighthouses); vessels to explore (sailing ships, the Nautilus, and space ships)
- Homes to play and escape (beach huts, sheds)
Our minds and bodies.
The children were presented with the theme of habitats and homes and provided with information and materials. They began to use their imaginations to write, draw, paint and build wonderful places for imaginary creatures and communities to live. Their sense of storytelling was inspiring and limitless. Embedding stories provided the starting point for the project and echoed the hidden stories found along the Undercliff walk.
Some of the connections below were used to decide the forms, materials, colours and content of the artworks:
- St Bartholomew’s Church, Brighton – a local, popular, urban myth says its dimensions are based on those of Noah’s Ark. This links it to stories of sea level rise and flooding.
- The colour purple – used by royalty and priests for centuries as a symbol of wealth, purple dye was made from millions of sea shells. Blue and red have been used in the sculptures instead!
- Holes made by the wonderful boring piddocks.
- Lenses – in order for us to apply our own values of home to other creatures we probably need to completely change our perspectives. When we are born the lenses in our eyes turn the world upside down and we see it that way. After a while our brain turns it around again. This is a wonderful visual metaphor for innocence and the lenses used in ‘Homes’ turn the images upside down. Lenses encourage us to look in the direction of the MCZ and imagine what is beneath the waves.
- Climate change – The materials used have mostly come from ethical sources: the wood is from offcuts, the circular discs in the plinths are from old aeroplane wheels, the metal flanges come from waste water services, the concrete is from old paving slabs, the ballast is made of pebbles.
- A love of the Undercliff Path – the materials and forms have been sensitively chosen to visually belong to this beautiful, inspiring, brutal and sometimes scary place.
When you look at or through the sculptures, perhaps you will think of the habitats of those creatures under the sea and connect to your own feelings of home.
Special thanks to the pupils and teachers at St John the Baptist, Longhill and St Margaret’s Schools.
‘Home’ used creativity, play and nature connection to inspire young people about marine conservation and celebrate biodiversity in The Living Coast. In sessions with children from three East Brighton schools (St John The Baptist, Longhill and St Margaret’s) in summer 2019, participants built dens and habitats, and imagined what ‘home’ might mean for the more-than-human residents of the Marine Conservation Zone. The workshops raised awareness about the marine environment – in particular about the MCZ’s intertidal zone, chalk gullies, reefs and extraordinary wildlife – whilst encouraging children to spend time outdoors.
Homes are essential for us and all living things. This project is about the habitats of those creatures at sea in the Marine Conservation Zone – an area identified as having a fantastic range of biodiversity and in need of protecting. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine what’s there – but we can find clues:
- Rock pooling on the chalk beds reveals amongst other things shell fish, crabs, starfish, seahorses and the wonderful boring piddocks (angel wings) that live their whole life inside a hole they have drilled in a rock.
- Beachcombing might present some mermaids’ purses (baby shark homes)
- Chalk – where does chalk come from? Millions of tiny sea creatures!
- Flint – where does flint come from? Why does it form into these knobbly shapes? Wow, what a story!
- To inspire young people about marine conservation and celebrate biodiversity in The Living Coast.
- To raise awareness about the marine environment – in particular about the MCZ’s intertidal zone, chalk gullies, reefs and extraordinary wildlife.
- To encourage consideration of natural habitats as homes for plants and creatures.
What’s been achieved?
- Using creativity and play to explore complex themes of habitat
- Exploration of our cultural and environmental heritage and comparisons between natural and man made architecture
- Installation of 2 site based sculptures utilising reclaimed materials