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This is a Playful Anywhere CIC project funded by Inner West Community Committee’s Youth Activity Fund.
Our floating work of art is called CADDIS – why?
Caddis or caddisflies are group of insects that spend part of their life cycle living underwater in streams, ponds, and canals and then emerge as adults to live above the water. The larval part of their life cycle is spent underwater and some species make cases that they live in to protect their bodies. The case is carefully made by the larvae from specially chosen materials that it finds in its underwater environment. The different species make identifiably different designs and the materials vary in size, from grains of sand to quite large twigs. The materials are fastened together by a material that the insect produces, similar to silk. Caddis cases are true works of insect engineering and act to funnel oxygenated water and food to the insect as well as providing protection and camouflage.
If you have ever been pond dipping as a child or with children (or if like me, just for kicks as an adult) it is likely that you will have found one of these creatures quirkily hauling its usually roughly tubular case around with legs protruding at the front.
When the idea of the project was first discussed at Playful Anywhere we were really interested in the metaphors that this clever and industrious creature brought to mind – using found local things but selecting and designing what we made, the idea of metamorphosis – change from an underwater form emerging to life above water, and this is a creature that lives in the very water-bodies that our project sought to explore. So we set out to build something a bit like the structure a Caddis larvae makes but made from information, collected stories, flood data – all things that we aimed to seek out and find from our local environment of Kirkstall.
I was lucky to be go along to an event by a group of Liverpool-based artists, Hwa Young Jung, Glenn Boulter and Ross Dalziel, collectively called Domestic Science for one of their OK Sparks! Events at Wray Castle back in May. The castle is a National Trust property that has had a fascinating range of uses and OK Sparks! sought to look at engaging people with the history of the place by re-presenting the science that had been part of the various tenants work. One occupier of the place had been the Freshwater Biological Association (FBA). Wray Castle is on the shores of Windermere and formed a perfect base for the society. They are now based on the opposite side of the Lake but have actively taken daily measurements of the lake for many decades to create a data set that provides great insight into how Windermere and climate has changed.
The OK Sparks! event that I attended was focussed on the FBA’s work and showcased many types of practical freshwater science including a hands-on introduction to may of the invertebrates that live in freshwater. By a very happy accident I met as this event the world authority on Caddis, Dr. Ian Wallace. Unbelievable!
Ian told me many very interesting things about Caddis and his admiration for the insect was contagious He also agreed to classify the type of Caddis that we make! I must remember to take him up in this offer, but I think in its current incarnation it could be one of these.
One of the tough nuts to crack for an organisation called Playful Anywhere is how to inject an element of playfulness into collecting responses to an event like flooding. If you have been impacted, its was probably not much fun and we didn’t want to make light of that. Also, we were very concerned to not lay claim in some way to the amazing community response to the floods – the glory very much belongs to those who did the messy, cold, hard work to get Kirkstall back onto its feet and continue to do so – we just want to find a different way of documenting it.
With this in mind, we took this question to Playful Anywhere’s People Place Play event held at ODI Leeds on 22nd April. This was a gathering of people “doing amazing stuff in neighbourhoods, city centres and with communities which bring smiles to peoples faces.”
The workshop part of the day gave opportunities to prototype how you might approach a community project in a playful way, so we used this as a chance look at how we might use origami boats to collect stories, ideas, advice – we called the idea “dreamboats”.
Thanks to everyone at event took part and helped us to work out whether making boats might practically work, what sort of questions might work well and how to approach a difficult subject. The teamwork paid dividends! There were loads of other brilliant ideas prototyped, including Elaine Cresswell from Blue Green Liverpool‘s and team’s crazy golf course!
Before releasing the dreamboats idea onto the world we further gamified it by adding a spin the bottle select a numbered question and we also decided to add the boats to a giant bottle – a ship-in-a-bottle message-in-a-bottle to the artist, Gemma.
We collected messages, drawings, advice, stories and plans, on specially printed paper, and then folded them into boats at the Flood Clean Up Party organised by Team Kirkstall, and at a 6-day residency in Playbox01 at Cardigan Fields Leisure park, right next to the River Aire (a site that flooded back on Boxing Day).
The messages in the bottle were sent to Gemma to be shaped into pieces of Caddis. More of that in our next post…
The next few blog posts will tell the story of how the Flotsam & Jetsam team have collected recollections, reactions, advice, objects and data about the floods that occurred on Boxing Day 2015 to feed into the design of a floating work of art called Caddis.
The floods were a landmark event in the story of Leeds. The flood levels were unprecedented in living memory and the impacts of the flood has taken local people on an emotional , physical and financial journey they really did not want to take. The flood has stimulated change in Kirkstall, the area our project focuses on, as well as an ongoing clean up process and a remarkable collective response from people from near and far.
In the process os creating Caddis we have sought to make an artwork that marks the floods and people’s experiences of it. We also invite consideration of what might emerge from this experience – like the caddis fly emerging from the water to live the next stage of its life.
Photo: Kirkstall Road, 27th December 2015 by Betty Lawless
Caddis artist, Gemma Latham joined the flood clean-up organised by Team Kirkstall back in May with the aim of collecting items to be included in Caddis. This was the first of a number of planned community clean up days to tackle some of the rubbish along the river deposited during, and since, the flood.
In Gemma’s words
It was amazing to see so many people turn out, people of all ages and backgrounds. It gave me a sense of community spirit that I imagine pulled people together in the flood clean up (with less of the devastation and urgency). The event was brilliantly organised, lots of tea and biscuits, essential ingredients which were gratefully received by all. I had intended to collect items that could be added to Caddis but the reality of the types of items being pulled out hit me quickly.
I was concerned by sanitation and physical bulk of items so decided to document items photographically to be included in the artwork in image form. I think this is a better representation of type of items that were actually there.
I have never seen so many tyres, and cannot believe they all came out of one small stretch of river, transferring them all back up the path to the collection truck became quite the challenge, rolling them by hand. I quickly became quite skilled at it but wish I had honed the skill of rolling a hoop with a stick when I was younger. The most unusual item I encountered – a statue.
The best part if the day was to be able to chat to people about their involvement in the flood clean ups and the caring of the river in general while working together to make the river cleaner.
The statue reminds me of the votive offerings often found by mud-larker extraordinaire Nicola White which, once found and recorded, she respectfully returns to the river. The range and number of offerings, often statues of Hindu deities, is fascinating.
We love following Nicola’s tweets @TideLineArt – as a mud-larker, she scours the foreshore of the tidal River Thames around London and collects items, some of which she makes into art. She is extremely knowledgeable about the items she finds, some of which are very old or appear with surprising regularity. Her excellent website, complete with blog posts can be found here.
Linking in with our name, Flotsam and Jetsam also a documentary film of beachcombers in Texel, an island off the north coast of the Netherlands. The graphic designer we have been working with, Justin Grasty, brought this film to our attention, and we are so glad that he did.
Here again, the water deposits items with stories – in Texel at the rate of two tonnes per day – some objects have stories which can be unpicked, some remain tantalising puzzles. The characteristic currents in this area of the North Sea mean that the shape of the object thrown in affects where is will wash up in predictable patterns. If you want to know how that shape of a shoe affects its destiny if thrown into the sea, watch this film!
The beachcombers and Nicola find many messages in bottles and this influenced how we devised a game to collect stories and information about the flooding in Kirkstall – but more about that in our next post.
Giles has been working with data sets for a number of years to give them a life and form beyond the limitations of a computer screen or graphical representation and is especially interested in appealing to a whole range of senses by making 3D objects to represent data. You can watch the really interesting talk on Youtube.
What does this have to do with a project about flooding on a boat, though?
Well, for part of the design of our boat-mounted, floating work of art, Caddis, artist Gemma Latham will be taking open data from the Boxing Day Floods and about the River Aire and other Leeds water bodies and making the patterns tat the data creates into 3D printed tiles which will be part of the Caddis. Other tiles on Caddis will embed stories and images from the floods, told and created by local people. The Flotsam & Jetsam / Playful Anywhere team attended the Flood Hack at the ODI back in March to see how open data sets about water management and human responses to the flooding were being used by developers and a whole range of Flood Hackers to look at the issue of water management in creative new ways and were inspired to incorporate some of the data into Caddis.
If you are interested in getting involved in the next Leeds Flood Hack event at ODI Leeds, you can find out more about booking a place here.
The final chance to get involved in creating a 3D printed tile for Caddis with Gemma Latham will be on Saturday 18th June at Seagulls Paint. It’s a free workshop and a great chance to see and get involved with 3D printing and other making activities. Click here for details
If you come and take a boat trip with us over the weekend of 2 and 3rd July, you can take a ride inside Caddis and be inside a physical manifestation of the patterns that the water data creates. I don’t know of too many other places where you can do that…