What We Thought Was Ebbing Was Actually Flooding

This solo show was the culmination of a five week residency in Ormond Studios Dublin. The work’s thematic focus lies on the relationship between communities and the ocean, specifically from an Irish perspective. The artist focuses on seaweed as an integral element within the coastal ecosystem, while also embodying a canary in the coal mine for maritime pollution and the indicators of its destruction.

The tradition of seaweed foraging was once an activity that involved entire communities; people would gather, forage by hand, tell stories, sing and eat together. This process was also inextricably connected with death. High tides, stormy seas and freak waves would often overcome foragers, resulting in tragedy. In this way, the water provides livelihood and leisure, but must also be reckoned with as an unquantifiable source of power and danger.

“The sea came and lifted the heap and ourselves, and we were covered in seaweed. We barely had our heads above water, trying to keep the water out of our mouths. But we got away.” - Anon, Seaweed Memories: In the Jaws of the Sea, Becker. H (2000)

This ambivalent relationship is reflected in the contemporary context, with oceanic activity having become increasingly unpredictable. Man-made pollution threatens the stability of ecosystems, affecting ocean levels and temperatures, threatening to displace populations and contaminate the very food we consume. Renewed interest in the virtues of seaweed as a source of nutrition has prompted a demand for large-scale industrialised harvesting. This commodification threatens the ‘hands on’, and immediate relationship of Irish communities to this substance and raises issues around depletion and environmental destruction.

The accompanying audio piece is a take on the fading Irish tradition of keening, a practice where women would gather and wail at funerals to guide the dead to the afterlife, and laments the dying sea. The sound was recorded through an agar medium using a contact microphone. This is reminiscent of the passage of sound waves through water, and human radio interference in the natural environment of sound under the sea. 

The destabilising of this natural balance is referenced in Bloom’s work through her use of organic materials. Culled from the coast of Mayo, the seaweed has been contextualised by manmade and new media, in an effort to reflect how human activity inadvertently distorts the natural and familiar into unrecognisable specimens.