When one conjures an image of Nova Scotia, it surely includes the ocean. Likely a pristine view of white foamy waters colliding with large grey rocks, or perhaps an orange and purple sunset where far reaching rays caress the long sandy beaches. Perhaps Bluenose is riding along the horizon. Yet, these days, views like this can only be true in imagination or fiction. The overlooked reality is that the true views of our oceans don’t align with our quaint maritime fantasy anymore.
This project endeavors to bring awareness to the inconvenient, yet inescapable reality of what makes these serene ocean visions impossible - the pollution in our oceans.
Worldwide, humans put at least 14 million tons of plastics and other waste into the ocean every year through various means. In Canada, we account for approximately only 0.4% of the worldwide ocean pollution, which means our seas are far cleaner than less privileged areas of our planet. Yet, still the amount of trash and plastic debris we find on our eastern shores is appalling. One trip to a beach or shore is all it takes to see the widespread evidence of this ever-growing problem. We are quick to complain about our problem when it encroaches on our own ocean experiences, when it intrudes on our occasional trip to the beach, or that rare excursion we take on a family friend’s boat, but how much do we really reflect on our ocean garbage when it’s not ‘in our face’?
When we encounter the problem with our own eyes, we are literally only seeing the surface of the problem – that which floats to the top or washes up on shore. So much more of our waste is adrift on tides we shall never see or lurking in the depths.
Additionally, even less known than the pollution that we can see, smell, and touch is that which is intangible – the noise pollution that we emanate into the waves with our constant activity. Our cargo ships, ocean liners, fishing boats, and cruise ships have powerful engines that reverberate sound far and away under the rippling surface of the seas. These sound vibrations interfere with all manner of sea life, and are capable of throwing off the migration habits of whales and responsible for the deaths of young fish whose sensitive ear drums burst from the noise.
For the creatures that inhabit our oceans, those which spend the whole of their existence in the sea, their ecology is immensely impacted by our overwhelming presence and dominion over the waters. Who knows how deep the repercussions of our reverberations may go?
We have not only dirtied the waters of our planet with our endless production and irresponsible disposal of our waste, but we take little to no consideration of how our overseas trade and leisure cruises can cause detrimental effects to the natural habits of the life that resides in these sensitive ecosystems.
The purpose of our project is to offer an inescapable view of what humans have done to our oceans over the last century. Our intention is to produce an immersive experience into this watery-garbage world we’ve fashioned. Yet, the goal is not to highlight the irresponsibility of our ways – although this may be a byproduct – but to serve as a reminder that humans create out of a desire to produce beauty, not garbage. We strive to produce wonder, not waste. We long to connect in all manner of ways all over the planet, not destroy the oceans that gave birth to us.
The highest purpose of this work is to bring attention to the colossal mess which is everywhere we set our eyes, yet overlooked due to its inconvenience, and that this new attention may inspire others to be more mindful of the glory of our oceans, the life-giving waters of our only planet, the most important ecosystem on the planet. Perhaps if we are offered a chance to witness this mess we’ve produced from another perspective, we’ll feel more inclined to make different choices in our production and consumption habits.
Text by Jeff Erdman who also wrote an essay 'But what do I do about it?' on the subject.
Displacement, utilizes ocean sound samples combined with visuals is projected upon a whale painted on sailcloth. Both natural and human made, it is an ambient piece intended to be an immersive reflection about how the seas behave sonically and how we chose to connect with those sounds.
Inspired by a conversation with Desiree Stockermans of Ocean Sonics, a company based in Truro that create world class underwater microphones (hydrophones) that are designed to record the levels of audio activity in the ocean. We were both amazed and disappointed at how much underwater noise pollution there is - this is something that impacts ocean sea life, and yet we are hardly aware of it because we are rarely immersed in the ocean.
My tiny quilts, Sea Blankets, include symbols on how we record and represent sound on a visual scale, and include references (both in the titles and with imagery) of nautical flags which are used to communicate above water. Two jewellery pieces: Listening, and In the Silence they Left Behind incorporate driftwood found on the shores of Nova Scotia and reference the experiences of recording sound.
Displacement is an exhibition consisting of four parts: Jen Power has created a large-scale painting of a whale on a recycled sail, Kate Ward and John Kennedy have created an audio visual piece that will be projected upon Jen's whale, and Jeff Erdman has written a piece of creative writing on the subject of noise pollution in the ocean.
4 - 29 July 2022
Marigold Cultural Centre
605 Prince St, TRURO NS