Art can ask questions, stir our imaginations and offer the opportunity to look afresh at ourselves, to see anew the reality around us.
Consider a work of art that addresses the ethical issues of sustainable development and environmental awareness of the seas, oceans and coasts: a thought-provoking collection of twelve chairs set round a large table made entirely from driftwood.
The fast pace of human life and the consumption of fossil fuels are acknowledged to be responsible for climate change, global warming, the melting of the ice caps, and the rise in sea levels. To progress, we must assess the energy provided for social needs, with the waste that is generated, against any environmental impact upon the planet. A sustainable future is therefore critical.
We must learn to look at objects in a different way, to pause and consider their place and purpose from a wider and deeper perspective, with a greater emphasis on craftsmanship, quality and permanence in a throw-away society. That is why designs made from re-cycled materials can be appealing to our eyes and our conscience.
This installation is made of driftwood, a natural material shaped by the elements, dispersed around the oceans of the world by tides, currents and wind. Driftwood invites speculation as to its origins, it gains character with age and it fires the imagination. Who can resist seeing figures and faces in its sinuous twists and curves? In seeing something new in something old?
This is fundamental to the project. The concept has been to travel to four key coastal communities around the world that encapsulate the richness of our environment and the realities of the threats facing these special places, in order to gather beautiful examples of driftwood. The four geographies are British Columbia, Belize, East coast Africa and Malaysia. The venture has invited input from local communities, NGOs and sponsors, who all share a sense of ‘ownership' with the project. Community involvement has been facilitated by developing relationships with the communities before, during and after the installation is developed. The visits to each site also included meetings and events with key community leaders, schools, NGOs and local businesses. The installation will serve as a means of telling each community's story to a broader audience, so empowering and inspiring them with a sense of the bigger global picture of the value of natural resources. At every stage, from initial sourcing of the raw materials to the unveiling of the finished piece, the work has attracted positive interest from the press and broadcast media, spotlighting local environmental issues, and connecting the concept reflected in the art to the global community.
Design and Function
Eventually the wood was shipped to the UK where the cargo was used to create the table and chairs, crafted to the highest standards for comfort, strength and longevity. The seats woven from re-cycled paper.
Although the chairs all share the same classic proportions, each one has a unique and distinct identity with character that representing a different part of the world. The installation conveys a global message: a united group, brought together that will inspire, raise public awareness and stimulate those who sit down to talk.
On a literal and practical level the completed work is a conference table, placed in a prominent position and used as a meeting point where people can engage in fruitful discussion to change the future of our world.
As an emblem and work of art however, the intention is also for people to walk around, look and contemplate. It will be a dramatic statement on the environment, a bringing together of different cultures, a reminder of the fragility of mangroves and coral reefs, an evocative symbol of past and present, connecting land with sea - bringing the natural environment from the outside, to the inside for discussion and consideration.
Placed in the context of The United Nations International Year of Biodiversity, the messages from this project will be at their most potent. People will be enticed to sit down and talk. The concerns and issues of global co-operation and a sustainable future will be brought together in a symbolic sculpture which would mirror a visible commitment to positive change in environmental protection, global and ecological awareness, sustainability and regeneration.