Our friends over on the East Coast at the Lincolnshire Time and Tide Bell  like MAC are currently fundraising to site a Time & Tide Bell recently asked artists to create works in response to each of the 200 fish species found in the North Sea. Our own Johnny Bean and Shane Johnstone have contributed pieces for the project. Now, the works produced are being collated into an exhibition and a book. Biff Vernon of the Lincolnshire Time and Tide Bell cic told us more…

The first art exhibition, which is being held at the new North Sea Observatory, on the Lincolnshire coast at Chapel Point, opens on Thursday 23rd August. About two hundred artists have come together in a unique collaboration to represent the two hundred plus species of fish in the North Sea. With painting and sculpture, they seek to raise awareness and spark conversations about the state of our seas.

200 fish exhibition poster

The #200Fish exhibition is open from 10 am to 6 pm from Thursday 23rd August to Monday 3rd September 2018. Admission is free.

A hardback book, ‘#200Fish The Book’ (ISBN 978-1-9164465-0-2) is to be published on 22nd August 2018, price £20. In full colour, it illustrates all the artworks exhibited, the largest collection of art inspired by the fish of the North Sea. Texts by the artists provide factual information and creative responses, combining science, poetry and even a couple of recipes.

Most of the artworks are for sale, many by on line auction to raise money for future art projects.
More information at www.bit.ly/TimeandTideBell

The Lincolnshire Time and Tide Bell CIC is a Community Arts Group, bringing Marcus Vergette’s large bronze bell to the Lincolnshire Coast, one part of a permanent installation of Time and Tide Bells around Britain’s coast, rung by the sea at high tide. We are using the arts to stimulate thought about our coastal environment and the issues of global warming and sea level rise. We aim to spark conversations about the coastline’s past, present and future with a programme of art exhibitions and events.

There are about 200 species of fish native to the North Sea. This project records their existence through works of art. Mindful of the threats to the marine environment, global warming, ocean acidification, pollution, over-fishing and so on, we have invited a large number of artists each to pick one of the fish species and produce a painting, sculpture or other art-work therefrom. Artists have also been invited to write something about their fish. This is probably the first time that such a large scale community arts project dedicated to fish diversity has been attempted anywhere in the world. The exhibition opens our eyes to the mystery, awe, wonder and beauty of life under the waves. And to its fragility and vulnerability.

We are grateful to the many private donors, to the Arts Council England National Lottery Fund and the Lincolnshire Coastal Destination Business Improvement District for their financial backing and, most of all, to the community of artists, amateurs, students and professionals alike, who have contributed their time and talent so generously to make this project possible. If a few people gain a little more awareness of the North Sea’s biodiversity, it will all have been worthwhile.

For most of us, knowledge of the biology of the North Sea is woefully lacking, yet many hold strong opinions about how the waters should be managed. Politicians have exploited the ignorance, giving the long-term welfare of sea-life a low priority. Fish care nothing for national borders, sometimes breeding in one nation’s territorial waters, growing up in another’s and reaching maturity in a third. And we have the hubris to think we own them.

The summer of 2018 has seen heatwaves stretching over much of the Northern Hemisphere and record high temperatures in the North Sea. Some talk of this being the new normal but we have seen only about 1°C of global temperature rise so far. We are on a trajectory that leads to 4°C or more within the lifetimes of our younger children, and worse beyond that in a regime in which climate models become unreliable but where uncertainty leans mostly to the bad side. Many fish species are highly mobile and some will out-run climate change, but they will not escape ocean acidification. About half of all the carbon dioxide that humanity emits into the atmosphere from its burning of fossil fuels is absorbed by the oceans, reducing the pH of the waters. This acidification may become the greatest ultimate challenge to the biodiversity of our seas. An increase in acidity adversely affects any creature that secretes calcium carbonate to build bones and shells. Perhaps the lasting legacy of the Anthropocene will be the dominance of the jellyfish.

It’s a bleak prospect, yet this #200Fish project has demonstrated the resourcefulness of people. The imagination, creativity and skill of the over two hundred artists who have contributed to this project gives us hope for the future. The support and enthusiasm we have seen from so many more shows that people do care. Now we must act, making the deep changes in our lives that are required to ensure our art and culture can survive.

Copies of the book can be ordered via biffvernon@gmail.com

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