Bringing This Endless Sea to Half Moon Bay
This Endless Sea by artist Chloë Smith is at Half Moon Bay from 10 to 18 June 2023. The installation takes the form of a coastal shelter containing a six-screen film exploring themes of grief and the sea. It is free to visit (11am-4pm) and staffed by a team of ‘keepers’ who are there to offer further conversation on the experience or just to listen. Curator Miranda Stearn shares the experience of bringing the installation to Half Moon Bay.
A neon orange flag flutters above a small, pale blue structure on the grass above Half Moon Bay. Attached to the structure, a similarly-orange buoy adds some nautical flair. “Are you building a beach hut?” asks a passer-by – and indeed it does have something of that vibe. Walking up to the road later, we overhear another person on the phone, speculating about what the hut might be. It is certainly piquing local curiosity.
This Endless Sea is an art installation by Chloë Smith. Chloe is based in Berwick-upon-Tweed on the North East coast, and in summer 2022 This Endless Sea was installed beside a beach in her hometown for five weeks. This is the first time the work has toured, and at Lancaster Arts we are pleased to have worked with Chloë to make this possible.
‘It is really exciting to bring the work to Heysham. And to see it in a new place. I have been interested to see if the work provokes similar reactions to those in Berwick, and that certainly has been the case so far.’
We knew we wanted to bring This Endless Sea to Lancashire for many reasons. For several years now, we have been working with artists and partners, thinking about how art can open up conversations about our experiences of grief. One example of this has been Fabiola Santana’s A Walk for Grief, an immersive audio walk drawing on the experiences of local women.
Born out of her own experience of bereavement, Chloë’s sensitive, meditative work enables us to continue exploring these ideas with our audiences:
‘After the death of my brother, I knew I wanted to make work about grief,’ says Chloë. ‘I found that both people I knew, and strangers, began talking to me about their experiences of grief and so I wanted to create spaces for those experiences to be reflected on and shared.’
This Endless Sea is the first time Chloë has made a film, and the film includes original music, spoken word and movement offering an immersive experience in the specially created coastal shelter. With a background in choreography, Chloë found herself drawn to film as she worked through how to create the experience she wanted for her audience:
‘I worked with an amazing team of artists to create This Endless Sea including filmmaker Lucy Cash and composer Kim Moore. I knew that film could allow for the reflective experience I hoped to create, and that it could speak to the non-linear experience of grief.’
For Lancaster Arts, part of the appeal of This Endless Sea was the opportunity it offered to bring an engaging artwork out of the gallery and into the local environment – to spark curiosity and bring us into contact with new people. We frequently collaborate to make work happen in unexpected locations, for example, last year’s River Tours at the skate park by the River Lune, and Fabiola Santana’s A Home for Grief in St John’s church, a beautiful disused building in the Mill Race area of the city.
Chloë’s work felt well suited for a coastal location, and we selected Half Moon Bay as fitting the calm and reflective mood of the piece perhaps better that the busy Morecambe promenade. It is one of the first times we have brought work to Heysham, so making connections with local people as well as visitors was also part of the appeal.
So far, the work has prompted lots of conversations and encounters. Locals have shared stories about what the sea means for them and their mental health, as well as stories about the role the place has played in making memories or remembering loved ones. There have been tears and experiences shared and, alongside the installation, two ‘Grief Cafés’ have taken place, enabling people to connect further over their experiences of grief. People have been particularly interested to talk more with Chloë about the connection between grief and sea explored in the piece.
‘In the short time we have been here, we have already had lots of interesting and moving conversations on grief and loss. People are welcome to stay for as long or as little as they like.’
This Endless Sea deals with a topic lots of us find it difficult to talk about. Being one of the ‘keepers’ (think lighthouse keeper) of the installation has been a real privilege, and has allowed me to witness at first hand the power of an artwork like this to open up the possibility of connecting and sharing our experiences with strangers. The work can be an intense experience, but also beautiful, and ultimately restorative, giving space for feelings, thoughts and memories we might usually push aside but which matter deeply to us.
With thanks to Half Moon Bay for making us welcome and to our funders and supporters who brought the work to life in Berwick and Heysham.