Angela Cockayne explores the interface between art practice, text, natural sciences and ecology to address issues of the future sustainability of the planet. Terms familiar from art and museology such as custodianship, ownership and stewardship, become both illustration and metaphor in regard to the need to address the future life of the world around us. Issues of gender and hierarchies of practice are integral to her work.
She deploys a variety of media and arenas of practice. Temporary installations marshal artefacts of many types: found and natural, those in collections such as ‘cabinets of curiosities’ created by the 19thc polymath naturalist collectors; and her own studio made work. Other media such as film, installation, performance, blogs and publications are used to re-present ideas.
Within this broad field of enquiry, specific ideas and imagery become conduits for provocations as to how we understand and express the issues. For example, with the whale as subject she takes in the recent history and myth making around the creature, from the story of ‘Moby Dick’ to current debates about sustainability and the biodiversity of the oceans.
On midsummers day 2017 in rural Cornwall, Cockayne filled a retired 44ft wooden fishing vessel named Embrace with 300 artworks, to form the Ark Embrace collection. A film, which archives this collection and selected works, was recently shown at the Newlyn Art Gallery in December 2107.
The Ark Embrace project asks how artistic and curatorial interventions can engage and enhance ecological public understanding, in particular, with the unpalatable implications of a sixth-mass extinction. Embrace explores environmental issues through interdisciplinary practice, dialogue and curiosity. The ambition to create an ethical chamber of wonders, which obliquely disrupts and questions our anthropogenic dominion, and discerns some of the vapour trails we leave in our wake.
Angela is a Reader in Interdisciplinary Visual Art and guest teaches at Bath Spa University, she has two publications Dominion and Provenance co-authored with writer Philip Hoare and is co-curator of the internationally acclaimed www. mobydickbigread.com