Vanishing Point

Saturday 22nd May 2021 to
Sunday 13th June 2021

Vanishing Point

Focal Point Gallery and Metal are delighted to announce a public art commission by US artist Mary Mattingly as part of Estuary 2021. Vanishing Point, an ambitious two-part installation, comprising of a learning centre located on Southend Pier, and a floating sculpture moored in nearby waters considers how the plant life of the Thames Estuary has evolved and responded to a changing climate over millions of years, and how this knowledge might be used as a prediction for a nearing future. 

While the earth currently supports approximately 415 parts of CO2 per million (the highest level recorded in human history), climate models predict that the concentration of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere will reach one thousand parts per million before the end of this century if industrialised nations don’t reduce greenhouse gas emissions. One thousand parts per million would match the level of CO2 found in geologic records during the early Eocene in the Cenozoic Era, around 50 million years ago.

Vanishing Point revisits Southend’s plant life during this period; a learning centre on the Pier presents a place where visitors can discover more of the Estuary's flora through time, as filled with plants that inhabited during the Eocene, as well as those still present today. Viewable from the Pier and Southend shore, a mysterious new inhabitant emerges from the Estuary mud, rising and falling with the tides. A sculpture depicting the Nipa palm, a plant familiar to these waters from the Eocene era retakes its place, supported by scaffolding as if being regrown to support the future of the Southend.

Today, we can witness slow geologic time because the speed of change has increased so much that it can be recognised during a human's lifetime. By studying the fossil records of plants that faced major climate changes in the past, we can help interpret similar processes occurring today, as our community imagines the regenerative fauna for tomorrow. 

Vanishing Point is commissioned as part of Estuary 2021 through a partnership between Focal Point Gallery and Metal, with additional funding from Essex 2020 and The National Lottery Community Fund, and supported by local organisations The Old Waterworks and Grrrl Zine Fair.


We have commissioned Grrrl Zine Fair to produce a zine to document the making of Vanishing Point, which through a series of artist workshops led by Lu Williams and Mary Mattingly, will include input from the Southend Community on the relevance of the project, and what residents imagine for Southend regarding the precarity of Southend being in the top 10% of places in the UK that will disappear as the sea levels rise.  

Two workshops will take place on Saturday 27 March, at 2pm and 4pm. Please book here.


Saturday 22nd May 2021 to
Sunday 13th June 2021
11:00 - 17:00


Southend Pier, Western Esplanade, Southend-on-Sea SS1 2EE



Nearest railway station: Southend Central


Route from railway station and onto the Pier, fully accessible using available lifts.

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Estuary 2021 is made possible by

Principal Partners

Creative_Estuary_New_1   ace

Major Partners

ecc uok thurrock thames_gateway selep medway  thames estuary   ebbsfleet    mayor locatekent kentcc gravesham uoe bas_coun   south_coun Here for Culture

Commissioning Partners

book_fest community_fund heritage_fund creative_coast bexleysalford fpg lesnes Essex2020Logo The Old Waterworks Logo UCA1

Festival Partners

arts_human uni_south uni_oxford uni_glas send_pier pla opp_se henley c2c roh southeastern Thamesmead2 Peabody2 BowArts3

Festival Supporters

essex_diversity   raddison   uber SouthEssex1 UniversityCentre1