Semaphore

Photo: Error Aldeburgh ©Anne Lydiat Wainwright

Light, Sound, Performance

Part of The Sea Beneath project, Semaphore is a ‘blended’ performance/installation event which is planned for Hastings seafront on 17 May as the sun goes down, although the date is Covid and weather dependent. Developed with a host of local artists, Semaphore combines movement, light, original sound, spoken word, performance, film, puppetry and a choreographed semaphore display from young performers from the White Rock Theatre. The event will highlight exchanges of coded messages from Hastings, East Sussex, to some of the 27 other places in the world called Hastings. Between now and the event we may well find even more places called Hastings.

These exchanges with other Hastings are part of the Hastings Calling project, within Semaphore, which is managed by Reece Shepherd, an MA student at the University of Brighton, who is interning with MSL. In Reece’s blog he reflects on the process of making communication links between the other Hastings in the world and us.

See our press release for more details. Semaphore is a free event but it will be ticketed, so make your booking here: https://semaphorehastings.eventbrite.co.uk/

Semaphore revisits and revives work by the late Chris Wainwright, a respected photographer, environmentalist and Hastings resident. Chris’s partner and collaborator with him on much of his work, Anne Lydiat Wainwright, recently introduced the work they did together on a series of light works for the Semaphore creative team. Part of this was based on a short essay which Chris wrote in 2013 in which he describes how his use of semaphore links with his concerns about climate change and nuclear power. We have reproduced it here.

Waving not Drowning!
“In the technological age of the 21st century there is little, if any, significant use of semaphore as a means of communication and only a small fraction of the population is able to understand it. It is a system based on the use of flags, light wands or simply bare arms held out in a series of positions to represent letters of the alphabet and numbers. If, however, our complex technologically reliant communications systems were to fail or be rendered inoperative due to loss of power, as the result of catastrophic environmental disasters such as floods, earthquakes, acts of terrorism, technical malfunction, hacking etc, then semaphore would be our only non-technologically dependent form of visual communication.

My body of work ‘A Catalogue of Errors’ uses this communication system and in particular the sign for ‘Error’ which is sometimes also called ‘Attention’. Since 2008 I have created ‘Error’ signals in a number of locations that have geographical and political significance or are focal points of environmental sensitivity and trauma. The work falls into three sections.

The first section is the Arctic Region where I have witnessed the dramatic effects of climate change, easily observed and seen clearly to be escalating at an alarming and potentially irreversible rate. The Arctic remains the key indicator of the global condition of our climate, a living testimony to our errors, possibly since the time of the industrial revolution.

The second section is Japan and in particular the Tõhoku Region that I visited prior to and after the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011. Here, as well as the devastation in towns such as Minamisanriku, Ishinomaki and Kesennuma, and subsequent loss of life caused by the power and scale of the earthquake, there is an ongoing anxiety and environmental concern over the safety of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and the implications for a displaced population, increasingly isolated and stigmatised.

The works in the third section are from the UK and are linked to the Arctic and Japanese work in that they also focus on the nuclear presence and coastal areas where the threats of coastal erosion and sea level rises are becoming more probable and dramatic due to climate change. A key work from this series is ‘What Has To Be Done?’, a performance light piece made in 2011 on the shoreline at Aldeburgh, a few miles from Sizewell Nuclear Power Station on the Suffolk coast. It was made in response to an earlier work by the German artist Joseph Beuys in 1980 called ‘What Is To Be Done?’ commissioned by The Demarco Gallery in Edinburgh as a series of interventions and debates about the relationship between nuclear power and alternative technology.

In the intervening 33 years the debate about energy supply options, carbon emissions and resource extraction has continued to come in and out of focus and has gathered momentum, but little has changed to quell the overall desire for increasing levels of energy and power consumption. Our planet is under ever-increasing pressure to support ‘civilised’ lifestyles largely based on an energy greedy and exploitative attitude to the natural world and a determination to measure its wealth and improvement by a process of out-of-control consumerist acquisition, leading to a potentially fatal depletion of the world’s most valuable natural resources.

History reminds us of our catalogue of errors – how will our future errors be seen?”

All photos by Anne Lydiat Wainwright

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