Test Sites is Arts Catalyst’s series of inquiries into matters of concern connected with environmental change – such as flooding, pollution, and species loss – and their impact on local culture and the health and wellbeing of our ecosystems and ourselves. At each site, we are involving local people in art-led co-inquiries, working with artists, scientists, and other experts.
In the Calder Valley in Yorkshire, where flooding and water pollution have been issues for 200 years, we are exploring water governance in relation to health, wellbeing and the resilience of communities and ecologies, in partnership with many local individuals and groups. The core team comprises artist Ruth Levene, anthropologist Megan Clinch, artist group Invisible Flock, curator Anna Santomauro from Arts Catalyst, with input from Liz Sharp at Pennine Water Group, University of Sheffield, and the water@leeds group, University of Leeds.
We began in 2017 by making two research journeys by narrowboat along the Calder/ Hebble Navigation meeting local people, river/canal users, and experts with interests in water, the history of the river and canal, and water governance.
During 2018, under the banner of ‘The River College’, we organised workshops with local groups and hosted stands and events at local festivals, using walks, games, geological cake-baking, water testing experiments and exhibits of maps and models to spark conversations around the geology, ecology, history, pollution and uses of the water system, while exchanging ideas around water’s social, spiritual, political and environmental meanings. Alongside, we held many group meetings and interviews to gather people’s varied understandings about the Calder water system and its management.
In Summer 2019, we presented a series of art installations and public events at festivals and venues along the Calder Valley, sharing our findings and continuing the inquiry with many more people. Find out more about the Summer programme here!
In 2020-21, Arts Catalyst has been working with Matterlurgy (Helena Hunter and Mark Peter Wright) who have been developing an inquiry and web platform investigating the ways in which a river’s health can be examined and understood.
Ruth Levene is an artist based in Sheffield, Yorkshire working in video, performance, events, digital drawings, walks, installations and participatory work. Curious and concerned by the complex systems we live by, she is currently exploring water systems, farming and market driven developments of the countryside.
Dr Megan Clinch is an anthropologist and lecturer at Queen Mary, University of London. Her research explores how different forms of investigation, experimentality, evidence, and evaluation are understood (or not) and managed in the development of public health interventions.
Invisible Flock is an interactive arts studio based in the UK, making innovative artworks to be experienced and participated in by thousands all over the world. The artists create highly sensory installations and environments that ask us to re-negotiate our emotional relationship to the natural world.
Matterlurgy is a collaborative practice between London based artists Helena Hunter and Mark Peter Wright. They work in critical contexts of environmental change, across disciplines and media, combining the production of artworks with co-constructed events and live performance.
Anna Santomauro is a curator, educator and researcher in micropolitics and socially engaged art. She is Programme Curator at Art Catalyst.
Test Sites: Calder Valley is supported by the Wellcome Trust, Canal and River Trust and Arts Council England.
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