Thank you sea, for your placeless place-ness.

Tuesday 23rd October 2014

Today I travelled to Brighton to visit my Grandma in hospital. All hospitals are placeless. Not soulless though, oh no. Maybe, full of soul. Maybe, soul is everywhere because of all the urgency, compassion and reflection going on inside them. But I could’ve been anywhere. There is no culture that owes to a hospital, no ongoing, developing cultural life – except, I suppose, hospital culture, which is so unwanted by most that it could never be accepted enough to have a place in most people’s lives. For most people, a visit to a hospital places them far, far away from everywhere that is significant and dear to them. They have no input while they are there; they just submit themselves to a rigid framework of activity.

After the visit, I stepped out of the hospital doors and walked down the street – and then I looked up. I caught sight of the sea crashing at the end of the street and I remembered where I was, which town I was in.

I went down to the beach and stared at the tumbling mountains of waves and heard them crash on the Brighton Beach pebbles and saw the tiny kayakers out on their dusk excursions.  I realised then that the sea is also placeless, but simultaneously holds the most extreme sense of place. You could be anywhere in that sea; it is universally understood and would pick you up and put you down anywhere it might choose. When you put your hand in that sea, you touch every sea. But it is also, so distinctly and specifically, the sea that meets Brighton Beach. Every sea space and coastline is so distinctive to those who know it, and to those who don’t – they can still sense the reassurance that its nearness and familiarity offers the locals. It is the life-blood of the place, and the people who know and love it.

I thought to myself, and realised something I’ve been struggling with for a year or so in terms of my artwork. And that is this: This “placeless place-ness” of the sea is what good community art projects should be. A channel or a concept that is universally understood, but loaded with the powerful echoes of personal connection and social commons.



Article by Philly Hunt

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