‘Shifting Sands’ was conceived as the final project for my Design MA, but it is a project I intend to keep exploring and developing. It was made in response to my reading around geology, the idea of the Anthropocene, and the ubiquity of concrete.
Building materials used to be locally sourced and now we have no idea where they come from, we have become dislocated from the materials that make our world. If you look at OS maps of Bristol from the 1880’s, the whole place is pock marked with quarries, mines of various types, and brick kilns. Now those same places are covered in housing and have disappeared from sight and memory.
Sand mining is huge business, and great damage is being done around the world both by legal and illegal mining.
“The sand we got in the Port Washington sandbanks is fantastic. . . . It has life in it. It’s the best sand you could get for making concrete—just the right combination of coarse and fine grains. You go to the beach and you take that sand. And if you make concrete out of that it would fall apart, because there’s no life in it” (from ‘Sand – The Never-ending Story’ by Michael Welland)
Currently, ‘Shifting Sands’ consists of 28 concrete pebbles, each cast from the same mould, but from sand collected from a different location in the UK. The name of the location where the sand was sourced is imprinted into the surface of each pebble (as makers’ marks are imprinted into bricks). They are displayed with a 1960’s geological map showing all the locations, and a measuring cylinder filled with samples of all the different sands.
If you would like to read a PDF of my MA report about making ‘Shifting Sands’, please click here.