Brighton Festival: film installation linking the human body to ice

Witness offers a film installation linking the human body to ice, through underwater dance, spoken word and scientific imagery.

Emma Critchley
Emma Critchley

Running from May 7-15 at the Brighton Festival, it comes from Brighton-based award-winning artist and film-maker Emma Critchley.

Premised on the examination of an ice core as the post-mortem of a glacier, Witness recounts historic events revealed within ice cores, which hold bubbles of air preserved from the Earth’s atmosphere from up to 2.7 million years ago.

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Weaving together these histories with scientific findings and human stories of glacial retreat, the piece considers the glacier as witness to events which have led to its accelerating decline. Drawing upon our collective, non-linear past to explore the interconnectivity of events, the film calls to account how we are all witness to the climate emergency that is unfolding around us, Emma explains.

Emma created Witness during the Earth Water Sky environmental art and science residency programme at Science Gallery Venice where she spent a year with a team of climate scientists on the Ice Memory Project, a global initiative to create an archive of ice cores from glaciers that are rapidly disappearing.

The film installation will be open and free during the day for its UK premiere; there will be ticketed evening screenings with the film’s spoken word soundtrack performed live in multiple languages.

“I wrote the script and it's very much about something that I came to believe is really important in my thinking, about the different ways of knowing. I mean the ways of knowing what is happening with the impacts in terms of the environmental changes that are happening. I remotely interviewed people in Peru and Kenya and the script weaves together with different narratives in the piece. The piece is premised on the idea that the ice core is a post mortem of the glascier. It is examining what led up to its demise. Really it is about the interconnectivity of things about all that has happened and is happening. It is about how everything we do has an impact on the environment around us and vice versa. It's a lament really. It is about a death. It's about taking stock about where we are.

“The piece that I made for Venice was a two-screen film piece but for the Brighton Festival I have worked on a three-screen film with live word performance. In the Brighton Festival during the day it will function as an art installation but there are also eight performances where I have been working with three performers who will narrates the piece.

“It all started from a residency that I did with Science Gallery Venice which was called the Earth Water Sky environmental art and science residency programme. I worked on the Ice Memory programme which is about creating an archive in Antarctica for future generations to analyse the cores. Scientists analysed them to find out what has happened in the past. The cores hold really important information and the scientists can use this information in lots of different ways depending on their area of interest but really also this is trying to focus on the relationship between societal and climactic events as well.”

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