There are some strange things ‘afoot’ in the beach hut during Emma Herman-Smith’s residency. Specifically, blue, rubbery slabs cut into the dimensions of Emma’s foot. What could these be? Emma tells me that they are imprints of interesting rock formations she encountered on the coastline between Belhaven Bay and Barns Ness Lighthouse, made by pouring liquid latex onto them (which she transported in her rucksack – and it is quite heavy!). The blue slabs are in fact inverted rocks, the moulds of the cracks, fissures, and ripples of the rockscape. Later in the week, she makes casts from these moulds using locally sourced ‘Lafarge’ white cement. Snowy white, these rock casts are ghostly in their memory of the coastline, and also faithful to the patterns and textures. In a sense, Emma has transported the rock formations from the coast to the harbour, inviting us not only to see them, but perhaps more importantly, to touch them. And is not touch the most immediate and intimate form of relating to our environment?
Much of Emma’s work during her residency is about the ways that people develop relationships to nature through sensory experience and reflection, both social and solitary. The rock casts, and the graphite rubbings she has made of the rocks, encourages the viewer to engage with her experience of specific rock formations on a tactile and personal level. On the last day of her residency (which coincides with the incredibly busy Lifeboat Day in Dunbar), Emma has placed the rock casts on the floor of the hut for visitors to handle. I like this, as to encounter them I must physically lay down at ground level, much like I would have done on the coast.
Emma is using her residency in Dunbar as a starting point for the 1,000 mile journey on foot she will make in August 2014 to trace John Muir’s 1867 ‘Gulf of Mexico’ path. There are only a few fixed plans in place: she will take a cargo ship from the UK to America, walk from Indiana to Florida, and in Sarasota, Florida participate in the International Breast Cancer Paddlers Commission’s Dragon Boat Festival – ‘A Celebration of Life’. What she will do on her long journey will be dictated by the people she will meet (and walk with) and the landscapes she will pass through. Emma’s walk will also raise money for the John Muir Trust.
Emma’s beach hut residency was from 14th to 20th July. For more information on her 1,000 mile walk to Sarasota, please see http://walkingtosarasota.wordpress.com/