Call for objects to create art work highlighting environmental concerns

Scots are being asked to contribute objects they find in endangered coastal areas to an exhibition to highlight environmental concerns.

Amy Balkin et al., 'A People’s Archive of Sinking and Melting', (2012-ongoing), Anvers Island, Antarctic Collection (Neus, Burns, Kovats). Courtesy of the Archive.

A tub of toothpaste, broken mobile phone charger and a washed up dollar are to feature alongside natural coastal debris in a piece of art looking at the threats posed by climate change.

People living in Scotland’s vulnerable coastal areas are being asked to contribute items to the exhibition, by scouring places at risk from rising seas for eye-catching items that could be included. The show’s curators hope that people living in endangered areas such as the Hebrides, the Northern Isles and the Firths of Forth and Clyde will take part by sending objects they find to the Edinburgh art gallery where the exhibition will go on show in January.

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A People’s Archive of Sinking and Melting – begun by American artist Amy Balkin in 2011 – is a constantly evolving record of the approaching threats posed by climate change.

The crowdsourced collection of objects will be part of an exhibition called The Normal. Members of the public can send the gallery any object that they find at a threatened location – debris, flotsam or jetsam – as long as it weighs less than 225g. Gallery staff will arrange and present the objects with guidance from the artist. After the exhibition closes on 10 April, the items will be forwarded to Ms Balkin, who will add them to the archive, which now contains items from six continents.

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Alongside found objects from the natural world, the archive already includes everyday items from areas including Antarctica, Venice and New Orleans – including a tube of toothpaste, a broken phone charger and a US dollar. Each has been taken from places since ravaged by sea level rise, glacial melt, flooding, drought and other forms of extreme weather driven by changing climate.

The gallery will continue to collect objects for the archive in the run up to the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), to be held in Glasgow in November after being postponed this year.

Tessa Giblin, director of the University of Edinburgh’s Talbot Rice Gallery, said: “Quite a lot of objects have been gathered from around the world already and images of those will be shown as part of the archive to raise awareness of how many places are sinking and melting. We will be showing the archive and talking about why Amy Balkin has created it, but we’re also saying to the public ‘You can participate’.”

"I love the idea of a gallery being actively part of making the art.”

Curators are also happy to accept items from inland areas at risk from the effects of changing climate. The Normal, which opens at the Talbot Rice Gallery on 29 January, showcases a range of perspectives from established artists on pressing global concerns. It has been developed in response to what the curators describe as the ‘wake-up call’ of Covid-19.

Objects can be sent to the gallery, accompanied by a form explaining their origin, which can be printed out or filled in online.

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