Through the Looking Glass – Clyde Reflections

This project proposal builds on the successful collaborative work undertaken by the art-science team of Hurrel and Brennan (Mapping the Sea Group), who have undertaken several sea-based projects on the island of Barra, and on Arranmore island, off Donegal. These projects involved interviewing the local fishermen and developing a creative response to the material through video and sound, as well as in a full colour publication. Brennan has also carried out research on the Firth of Clyde as part of a recently completed European project SPICOSA (Science and Policy Integration for Coastal System Assessment).

We see this project as a response to an environment that is often seen as picturesque, natural and seemingly unaffected by interactions between people and place, i.e. on the surface, from a distance, it looks fairly pristine. It is only when you begin to understand the complexity of the environment, and begin to see the precarious balancing act that is going on (often beneath sea level) that your perception of it changes. With that in mind, we are more interested in revealing a multi-layered reading of place than presenting a negative perspective. We envisage setting the richness and diversity of the perceptions of the Clyde against the backdrop of a marine environment which has been both altered by people and enriched by the intangible cultural heritage intertwined with the physical environment of the Clyde.

We would like to challenge a simplistic representation of a familiar environment, but would do that by presenting multiple voices about relationships to place. By creating a balance between a poetic, cinematic experience and personal, subjective realities we would hope that a more interesting, truthful and complex representation of this particular marine environment can be produced.

By engaging with people that connect deeply with their environment we hope to create a multi-perspective representation of a particular marine environment. We believe this will provide a creative example of how landscape is not a fixed entity, or separate from people, but is dynamic in terms of its socio-ecological properties as well as how it can be perceived.

As Stephen Hurrel grew up in the Clyde coastal town of Dunoon he has direct knowledge of the Firth of Clyde. Having become a visual artist and film-maker he will be able to re-engage with it from a different perspective.

We will engage with various experts in their field, including those that have knowledge of the Clyde marine environment. In particular we know several marine biology researchers who examine very specific aspects of the Clyde, such as seaweed, shellfish, plankton, etc. By focussing on the specific, and the microscopic, they are able to unlock information about natural habitats and can often identify if changes are natural or man-made. By involving scientists, and by filming underwater, we want to reveal aspects of the natural environment that are not normally visible or accessible to most people.

We will make the research process visible as a blog on our ‘’ website. Photos, texts and video clips will be posted for general viewing by the public.

The work will be publicly accessible when it is screened and will also be accessible online via the website.



Stephen Hurrel (Artist)


Ruth Brennan (Social Ecologist)

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