Confluence: York Open Studios

“An exhibition of stimulating and thoughtful performance based artwork exploring how the rivers of York have shaped the city. Through a process of performance research, Beth explores environmental issues and human-nature relationships. This new body of work considers how York’s rivers have been important to the heritage, industrial development and leisure activities of the city as well as examining the wildlife and wider ecology of the Ouse and its tributaries. The exhibition showcases images, film and objects created through performance research, as well as live performance each Saturday afternoon of the Open Studios. There will also be an opportunity to learn about water ecology and take part in a pond dipping family activity at the St Nicks Environment Centre.” – YOS Directory 2016

This year I was chosen as the York Open Studios Bursary Artist. I presented works in progress from my new project, Confluence, which examines the many facets of York’s rivers. The work was shown at St Nicks Environment Centre and included pieces inspired by my conversations with environmental researchers at York University.


A map of the streams of research that informed work shown at YOS as well as those I have yet to explore.

The exhibition consisted of images from my research so far, film of a performance responding to my conversations with scientists at York uni and of the river in flood and performances in which I made flood drawings with ink and river water.

The films were projected onto a screen made from cotton dyed by capillary action which was reminiscent of flood damaged curtains. The images were hung in ways which did not damage the space (existing nails/screws, or from banisters or artificial walls etc), and grouped in ways which I hoped would elicit questions, comments and discussion from visitors.

The flood drawings were performed each weekend, two at St Nicks and one by the River Ouse. I wet the paper with river water poured from a watering can before mapping the watercourses, towns, green spaces and pollution upstream of York in different coloured inks, applied with a pipette from a test tube. The inks were carried by the water and wet paper, forming marks and pools where the paper had buckled, distorting the map and creating ‘floodplains’ from the original line. These drawings were then allowed to dry over the course of the weekend; as the water evaporated new marks and lines emerged. The changes were documented in photographs. The changing drawings sparked a lot of interest and I was able to have some very in-depth conversations with visitors about their experiences of flooding and the rivers and also the issues about emerging contaminants and natural flood defences that I had researched. The mix of nature reserve audience and art audience also proved interesting, there were visitors of all ages and backgrounds some who wanted to talk about the issues and concepts explored in the work and others who wanted to discuss the materiality and process of the work.