A new artwork by a contemporary Scottish artist chosen by writer Margaret Atwood as one of ‘the women who are shaping our future’ comes to Scarborough’s South Bay beach at the end of September.
Katie Paterson was one of a dozen women selected by The Handmaid’s Tale author alongside global figures such as Swedish climate change campaigner Greta Thunberg, Handmaid’s Tale actor Amanda Brugel, novelist Esi Edugyan and Yasmeen Hassan, the executive director of Equality Now. She praised the artist’s recent Future Library project, calling it ‘so hopeful’.
Katie’s artwork First There is a Mountain has been touring the UK’s coast since March and ends in October – the period of British daylight saving time. It involves the creation of ‘buckets and spades’ in the form of world mountains, from which the public are invited to build mountains of sand.
Led by the Scarborough Museums Trust Learning Team, the public is invited to contribute to the project on Scarborough’s South Bay, below the Spa Bridge, from 11am to 1pm on Sunday September 29.
They will build ‘sandcastles’ using pails which are scale models of five mountains: Kilimanjaro, Africa, Shasta, USA, Fuji, Asia, Stromboli, Europe, and Uluru, Oceania.
The artwork’s inevitable ephemerality points to concepts around gravitational attraction – awareness of Earth’s tilted axis during longer daylight hours and the UK’s eroding coastline. First There is a Mountain is a poetic vehicle that connects diverse world mountains to smallest grains of sand, participants holding the world’s geography in their hands, time/geology collapsing, and connecting through touch.
Katie Paterson said: “From early childhood we understand that sand marks time. First There is a Mountain builds on this concept, making us aware of mountain rocks’ erosion over millennia, rock shifting over continents’ evolution, forming unique fingerprints of sand across our modern coastline.
“The artwork invites the public to slow down, to consider the interconnectedness of the world, its immensity conveyed in miniature: the extraordinary existing in ordinary things, everywhere.”
Paterson selected each mountain range via exacting research and data from NASA’s Shuttle Radar Topography Mission and the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. The pails are made from 100 per cent fermented plant starch and are fully bio-compostable. At the end of the tour, they will be composted, reabsorbing into the natural environment from which they were created.
First There is a Mountain is a collaborative cross-disciplinary project; 25 new pieces of writing have been commissioned to accompany its evolution. The texts will form a digital anthology, bringing together celebrated authors, poets, geologists, earth scientists, ecologists, and art writers.
Each text will creatively respond to the artwork, and will be conveyed via spoken word at the start of each public event: writer Helen Pheby has written the Scarborough text and will be reading it aloud at 11am.