Saturday 22nd May 2021 to
Sunday 7th November 2021
HELLO RETREAT by Katrina Palmer is a partnership between Estuary 2021 and Waterfronts (England’s Creative Coast). Through the dynamic of its two halves, Palmer sets up a conversation that explores the contrasting traditions of the English seaside and the relics of Britain’s military, shaped by the attendant estuarine confluence of currents, tides and undertows, of political, elemental, emotional and mechanical forces and their resistances, that in turn invoke and consider contested notions of Englishness.
HELLO is located on East Beach at Shoeburyness. It is a large emphatic concrete form based on a sound mirror (also known as an acoustic mirror). Sound mirrors dotted the English coast and were part of an inter-war years pre-radar enemy aircraft early-warning system. Although related to a now defunct defence technology, this is a counterfactual historic folly close by to MOD ruins of that same period. The sign HELLO on the mirror’s dish subverts its original intention, transforming it from an object of defence to a sculptural message of welcome that faces out towards Europe.
In response, RETREAT is a meditation on identity — or non-identity and how to move towards the future that shadows Palmer’s journeying by foot along the Southend-Shoeburyness shoreline. It explores the thwarted desire inherent to repeated and confined excursions; whether it’s the back-and-forth oscillations of the Southend Pier Train and the Funicular Cliff Lift, the circular rides at Adventure Island, or the pull of the tide. Accessed via a QR sign on the locked door of the Powder Magazine, a Victorian building used to house gunpowder at Gunners Park, RETREAT is a web-based piece of interrelated elements: a manuscript ( Short Story ) explores the emotional act of walking the area, and is complemented by an audio-visual piece ( Pier ) that emphasises a faltering idea of destination, along with an audio piece ( Waves ) that collages and layers waves of sound encountered on these journeys.
A lack of vitamin D risks depression (Shoeburyness), contextual documentation for ‘Hello’ and ‘Retreat’, Katrina Palmer’s Waterfronts commission for Southend-on-Sea. Co-commissioned with Estuary 2021. Courtesy of the artist and England’s Creative Coast.