Richard Dawkin’s word ‘meme’ stands for ideas, believes, fashions which are taken up by society at one point in time and then dropped and forgotten when another idea, attitude takes over, e.g. today ‘Waste Not, Want Not’ has been discarded in favour of ‘Out of Sight, Out of Mind’. Litter, in the widest sense of the word, spreads through our environment like a virus for which we have no thought or cure at present.
The first work shows the uncontaminated Thames at low tide. It is very beautiful. The second work is of the urban Thames. Bits of litter are swirling around in the water and a red canister is bobbing through the painting. It is still beautiful.
The third wall-hung piece is River of Litter,
after which you enter a dark damp room. Gulls are screaming and waves crash on the beach, only this beach is rubbish that I collected from the Thames foreshore at Bermondsey. It is as if it has finally poured out of the paintings.
After the damp room, a sculpture suspended from the ceiling forces the viewer to push aside a bicycle wheel (retrieved from the river) to view a photo attached to a squashed bottle. This photo shows rubbish dumped in front of gate with the sign ‘Please do not obstruct’. The viewer is physically forced to engage with the rubbish.
For this installation (part of the Meme exhibition – see News) I collected litter from the river and found in some twenty-five bottles messages. I did not open them but managed to read one of the messages through the bottle. The bottles had not ‘sailed’ far; they had come from the nearby Riverside School. I invited the kids to come to the exhibition to see where their messages had ended up. They had a wonderful time running through the vast exhibition space of the former Peek Frean Factory and re-encountering their bottles.