WITNESS DUNGENESS

2029 Witness Dungeness is produced and commissioned by the other-art network.

Full release text below by Fearghus Raftery

2028 Witness Dungeness:

The shingle headland of South East Kent is a landscape thought to be the result of longshore drift; the slow accretion of coastal sediments over millennia into a triangular protrusion from the shore. A geological effect that seems to mimic the way in which Dungeness accumulates the souls of those particular human beings inclined towards mysterious and dangerous landscapes, often against their better judgement. It is as if there is just enough shingle and flora to act like a sieve for mankind, collecting at the island’s South Eastern extremity, all those who were floating through the central British landscape about to be poured over the precipice into the English Channel. The constant flux of Dungeness is the primary focus for the other-art network’s proposal Witness Dungeness, which stands resolute and seemingly out-of-step with its surroundings.

 

Envisioned as a sculpture finished for the year 2028 geographers are expecting that by this point the headland would have moved north-east along the Kent coast by about 60 meters, were it not for the efforts of a dedicated fleet of lorries whose task is to off-set the 90,000 cubic meters of shingle deposited in the north-east due to coastal erosion, by a third. Instead, the land will have moved north only by around 40 meters, a seemingly more tolerable amount given the futility of the task at hand. A senselessness that is appropriate for nowhere else other than this curious beach. Stuck somewhere between timelessness and transience the scales of Dungeness are at once magnificent and minute. It is a place suited for the inspection of time itself, perhaps the most immaterial of its’ constituent parts. The passage of time is nowhere more apparent than in the movement of the land beneath your feet, a condition of Dungeness that the other-art network has directly engaged with in their proposal for the insertion of an unimaginably heavy concrete mass that stands still, in contrast to the perpetual movement around it.

 

The ostensible permanence of this dark sphere is however not at all the motivation for its creation. Cast-in-place reinforced concrete has a lifecycle of between fifty and one thousand years. A property that this sculpture embraces as it will consciously give way to the inevitable onset of ageing and eventual death. The purity of the infinite geometry of the sphere will at first concede to an increasing patina, before eventually breaking down to return to shingle as organic matter returns to dust. It is intended that Witness Dungeness be positioned as a mediator to the lifecycles at play on the headland, which the popular understanding of as empty and barren couldn’t be further from the truth. The time scale of Witness Dungeness sits somewhere between the glacial pace at which the core of the local nuclear reactor decays and the buzzing static of the quotidian natural lifecycles that surround it. Home to over one third of the variety of plants seen across England, Dungeness is one of the best places in Britain to find insects and notably in 2012, has seen the re-introduction of the short-haired bumble bee by British campaign groups in collaboration with the Swedish government, after a period of absence in the UK for 25 years. It has been supposed that the successful re-introduction of the species was partly due to an area of the headland known by local anglers as ‘the boil’, a basin of warmer than average water due to the overspill of the waste hot water pipes from the local power station. The boil enriches the seabed and attracts wildlife from the surrounding areas. Great Crested Grebes, Gannets, Grey Wagtails and Dartford Warblers have all been sighted around the boil, firmly contradicting that obtuse and easy assumption that the nuclear power plant is damaging to the surrounding landscape. In fact, Dungeness is proof of quite the opposite. Whilst seabirds and bumble bees bask in the warm waters of the boil, next door Dungeness B; the descendent of Dungeness A which reached the end of its life as the short haired bumble bee began its’ own in 2012, hums on. It’s natural uranium rods glowing with heat in a cacophony of subatomic activity. A self-sustaining chain reaction of slow moving and ungainly neutrons bumbling into unstable nuclei, producing more of the same to repeat the process onwards towards its own inevitable death, in or around the year of 2028. The year in which, it is proposed, that Witness Dungeness is installed, to mark the committal of the power station.  The end of a life, which in the terms of this most enigmatic of places, is the beginning of another.