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EXTRACTION:
Art on the Edge of the Abyss.

Silt

I live at the mouth of the Great Ouse at King’s Lynn, a town in West Norfolk established in 1101. The Great Ouse flows here into the Wash, a square bay and estuary that opens into the North Sea. It is an important conservation site, designated for protection by multiple bodies, including RAMSAR and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Lynn’s position at the juncture of waterways between Europe and England made it the kingdom’s most important port town in the 1300s, as it served as one of England’s centres of commerce as a member of the Hanseatic League – a powerful trading alliance that linked 195 European cities including those in modern-day Germany, Poland, the Baltic states, the Netherlands, Russia and Belgium. It continues its maritime tradition as a centre for fishing and shipping.

Humans have drastically reshaped this part of the river over the centuries, starting with Dutch engineers who excavated it in order to drain the boggy Fenlands to the south, reclaiming fertile land for agriculture. However, the coastal plains in this region live with the ever-present threat of flooding. Since then the river has been moved, contained and dredged in order to suit the needs of the time. Today, with the expectation of rising waters due to climate change, local authorities are considering building a barrage that will protect the town. Of course, this will come into conflict with the desire to preserve the ecosystem and landscape – the paradoxical position humans have put ourselves in when it comes to how we relate with nature.

For now, nothing will stop the wild forces of water here. Tides at this spot flow hard and strong, sucking water all the way out at low tide to reveal banks of shiny silt. This fine mud creates ever-changing shapes, sculpted by water flow and marked by birds’ feet and stuck debris. I photograph the shape-shifting interaction of land and water as a daily activity, marvelling at – and taking comfort in – its endless transformation.

Silt (2019)
Images from a long-term photographic project documenting the dance between land and tides at the intersection of the Great Ouse and the North Sea.
Photos: Karen Frances Eng

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Sprygg is a Gildedsplinters project
© 2020 Gildedsplinters All rights reserved

where artists, technologists and communities gather to inspire Acts of Genius
where artists, technologists and communities gather to inspire Acts of Genius

Sprygg is a Gildedsplinters project
© 2020 Gildedsplinters All rights reserved