Above: Crossings, HD Video
Below: Installation views
Crossings is a short essay film that I made whilst exploring the intertidal marshes and mudflats near my home on Morecambe Bay during the Covid-19 pandemic. The work explores aspects of time in relation to place, my physical, mental and emotional relationship with the environment through walking, and mobile technology. I shot the film on my iPhone because its portability allowed me to respond intuitively to events taking place in the moment. Recording on such a small mobile device felt quite intimate and, at times, the work started to shift tentatively towards performance.
The work was shown as part of my MA show along with ‘Walking with shifting channels a universe unfolds’, 56 drawings on paper, and my archive of personal photographs, which were scattered across a wide, low level plinth. I hoped that visitors would explore the installation like one might explore the environment; crouching to pick up a photograph or approaching the work from different perspectives.
A note about Morecambe Bay:
I am never as aware of the flow of time as I am on Morecambe Bay. Well known for fast tides and quicksand, it is in a constant and very visible state of flux. Rivers spill from the land and out across the mudflats, whilst channels shift and transform whole areas in a matter of days. The weather covers The Bay with an abundance of moods, often bringing high winds and rapidly changing conditions. Is it any wonder that I have come to regard it as a living, breathing entity? I often think that the only constant and reliable thing about my experience on The Bay is that it is always changing. However, the tides bring a reassuring and reliable rhythm as they turn twice daily against the horizon.
Due to its very nature, therefore, The Bay should be approached with vigilance and respect. The unwary visitor may unknowingly place themselves in danger. It is most notorious for the cockling disaster in 2004 when twenty-three Chinese cockle pickers drowned working out on the mudflats after being trapped by the tide. These illegal immigrants, lacking in local knowledge, had been sent to work on The Bay by their gangmaster. There is also a public right of way that crosses the sands from Hest Bank in Lancashire to Kents Bank in Cumbria, the route of which traverses two rivers and is unfixed despite being marked on the map. In ‘The Old Ways’, a book about historic rights of way in the UK, Robert MacFarlane rightly questions the integrity of the footpath across Morecambe Bay. ‘What do you call a path that is no path?’ he asks, ‘A riddle? A sequence of compass bearings? A death trap?’ (Macfarlane, 2013, p.61).
Over time I have learned to anticipate the natural forces at work on The Bay, and to move with them, not despite them. I have developed knowledge and respect for the area that keeps me safe. I don’t stray too far, remain alert to changes in terrain and always know where the tide is in its cycle.
The main area of Morecambe Bay that I inhabit is in north Lancashire and encompasses the beginning of the public right of way. My route shifts with the tides and the sands; it can take me out to Priest Skear, if accessible, or as far as the River Keer. It is not possible for me to be specific.