Swansula, Relics of Estuarine Magic

Friday 21st May 2021 to
Saturday 12th June 2021

Swansula, Relics of Estuarine Magic

Swansula, Relics of Estuarine Magic is an ongoing world building and curatorial project currently presented online here. A fictional archive which frames sculptural, moving image, animated, painted, drawn, poetic, audio and digital artworks as artefacts from the future, excavated from the speculative world of Swansula. A project for the mudlarks, beachcombers and treasure hunting scavengers of the Thames Estuary.

Swansula is a portmanteau of Swanscombe Peninsula, the landscape from which the project is drawn. A triangle of mosaic land and marshlands that hug the River Thames in North Kent, where the J.B White Portland Cement Works operated for over 100 years. The project grew in response to plans of major new development proposed by The London Resort, which jeopardises the sites fragile wetland ecology and biodiversity. A rite of passage for a landscape in developmental purgatory.

Relics of Estuarine Magic is a framework that makes space for future collaborative and socially engaged work to be hung within it. Grace’s endeavour is to build the world of Swansula with the ever growing community of the surrounding area; to dream up an alternate future at this pertinent time. Making space for questions and reflections on how we can build and nurture a sustainable, symbiotic future with wetlands by the river.

The archive is classified into documents, objects and digital artefacts. Each relic has a fictional description, allowing the artist to engage with an exciting, archaeological way of storytelling and world building. Each relic is an instrument of magic: graphite drawings of amulets and sigils, ceramic infusion vessels, maps, notes of spells and incantations, stop-motion puppet poppets, narrative painting, prayer song and experimental animated works. When pieced together, the relics conjure stories of a future landscape conserved by a community bound by nature, art and magic.

All works are and will be made from washed up plastics cleaned from the site and organic and inorganic materials foraged from the landscape. Grace is working on recipes and methods to make paper from Common Reed and Reed Mace, ink from chalk and bio-plastics from Bladderwrack Seaweed. The project not only questions how we can build a sustainable future, but through its creation practices and implements the crafts, tools and processes to do so.

The archive communicates what Grace believes we need to foster in order to heal and nurture our bond to nature and build a sustainable future. Restoring our ancient belief systems in order to work through our contemporary environmental problems; placing the Thames Estuary at the heart of the green renaissance. Showing that there is magic, mystery and wonder to be found in even the most suburban of wildernesses.

About the artist
Grace Emily Manning b.1992 is an artist, filmmaker, animator and performance designer who grew up on the banks of the River Thames in Greenhithe, Kent. Her formative years spent combing the neighbouring landscape Swanscombe Peninsula has shaped her life and work. Through the close relationship with her homelands she has nurtured a unique methodology, working across disciplines to build galactic site-specific projects which move from the documentary to the fantasy; rendered through her surrealist, folk, fairy tale spirit. Every idea starts from a walk, reflecting on the materials she has collected, unpacking the stories they have to tell. From field work to fiction, her work is enchanted with personal, emotional reflections on themes of extinction and home. Through tactile making and animating processes she expresses and practices her deep faith in nature.

Grace graduated in 2020 from MA Experimental Animation at the Royal College of Art. Grace’s practice is highly experiential and collaborative. She has devised and facilitated art and animation workshops within a number of communities; at the Royal Opera House Production Park in Purfleet Essex, Discover Children’s Story Centre in Stratford, Richard’s House Children’s Hospice in Newham, London and with Beach Guardians charity in Padstow, Cornwall. Over the last ten years she has worked in art departments for film, television and live events. Her sculptural work has been exhibited at Glastonbury Festival and she is an exhibiting artist for Cyclic Matter | Matéria Cíclica; a not-for-profit organisation in the West Coast of Portugal which provides platforms, tools and strategies for a transition towards a more eco-centric culture.


Friday 21st May 2021 to
Saturday 12th June 2021





Previous Wandering the Wilderness
Conrad to Containers: Barking to Beijing

Estuary 2021 is made possible by

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Major Partners

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