An attempt to interact with the local environment of Northern Scotland and its different species through the medium of biodegradable and edible plastic sheets, during the Nightshift Residency at the Scottish Sculpture Workshop. This residency was set up as a response to Frontiers in Retreat, a collaborative enquiry into the intersections of art and ecology in various European sites.

“It matters what matters we use to think other matters with; it matters what stories we tell to tell other stories with; it matters what knots knot knots, what thoughts think thoughts, what descriptions describe descriptions, what ties tie ties. It matters what stories make worlds, what worlds make stories.” Donna J. Haraway

A research based residency, experimentations were conducted by tweaking bioplastic recipes including elements from the local environment. Dyes from local broom plants and lichens were embedded to create colour and textures. Lichens are eaten by an array of animals, such as deer and the larvae of a number of Lepidoptera species (butterflies and moths), they are also used as nest material for a variety of birds (such as the long-tailed tit), and certain species of lichen yield different colour dyes too. Finally, they represent a multispecies world in which the poetics of sympoiesis are captivating.

The pieces were intended to be left outside for a few days by lakes or tarns (highland lakes), with a wildlife camera trap, to record how they interact with the local environment and wildlife.
Snow storms disturbed the spring weather, and all bodies of water froze and the installation of bioplastic pieces became difficult. Some attempts were however still made, with nevertheless interesting results. Jays were recorded ripping seeds embedded in a piece by a lowland lake. The bioplastic when collected had become wet from the sleet, and was found in various small pieces on the ground. It has served a purpose of feeding wildlife and started its decomposition process. Knowing deer roamed around the highlands I used a lichen embedded piece to attract them (lichen is an important part of their winter diet). Two days later I returned and found the camera lying in the heather. Footage shows a wild rabbit coming and going in the first hours, then a 40mph wind rose. The camera fell on its side, away from the bioplastic piece, and recorded hours of wobbly mountains and dancing heather.

While this recording was at first a little frustrating as the lichen-bioplastic was set up to attract the charismatic deer, it became evident this footage recorded a very important part of the setting. The weather, mountain and heather are key players in the tarn environment and deserved to be recorded as such. When the bioplastic was collected it showed tears and strains from the weather. It had lived two nights in the highlands with a 40mph wind. This experiment was in collaboration with nature, on nature’s terms.

Tarn - Extract from Marina Rees on Vimeo.