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Marine Science



A journey into the ocean wilderness. Galway 2020 presents Aerial/Sparks by Louise Manifold. “Art and science was once a common theme on board an expedition and this tradition lives on in the form of Aerial/Sparks.” – Rosemarie Butler, Scientific and Technical Officer, Marine Institute.

Aerial/Sparks, created by artist Louise Manifold for Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture, invites you to connect in person and online with one of the last unknown spaces on earth, the ocean wilderness. Seven artists, writers and composers from across Europe have produced a series of compelling standalone artworks for exhibition and radio broadcast, inspired by their experiences of joining research expeditions on board the Marine Institute Ireland’s RV Celtic Explorer.

The rugged beauty of Inis Oírr, the smallest of the Aran Islands and with a deep-rooted maritime culture, is the setting for the Aerial/Sparks Art Trail from 11 – 27 September. At just 3km long by 3km wide, visitors can easily traverse the island by foot to discover sound works housed in a lighthouse, the local church, an old handball alley, and Áras Éanna, Europe’s most westerly Arts Centre.

A virtual programme of events for Ars Electronica 2020, the world-renowned festival for art, technology and society, will accompany the main exhibition from 9 – 13 September. Titled Garden GALWAY by Aerial/Sparks, online events include a series of conversations between artists and marine scientists.

Aerial/Sparks started its journey by exploring the potential of radio communication to reimagine our relationship with the ocean. Each artist’s experience of ocean and water masses around Ireland and Europe has informed the production of individual work for audio and radio listening. Highlights include author Kevin Barry’s ‘Island Time’, a monologue in nine chapters for a lovelorn lighthouse keeper as he dreams of distant lands, sited at Inis Oírr Lighthouse; German composer David Stalling’s ‘Palace of Ships’ created in collaboration with seismologist Sergei Lebedev; visual artist Carol Anne Connolly’s acoustic portrayals of the ocean inspired by the use of soundwaves in acoustic mapping to create visuals of the sea bed; and UK radio artist Magz Hall’s ‘Waves of Resistance’, a broadcast created in the spirit of transnationalism, relaying a message of peace, hope and unity across all borders.

For Aerial/Sparks creator Louise Manifold, Inis Oírr is the ideal home for these sound works: “I wanted to find a place more than a space for this presentation, a place rich with silence, where organic and human sound floats and carries through the wind. I wanted each work to be experienced in a way that would connect with and charge our experience of place.”

Aerial/Sparks has taken shape through a long-term collaboration with the Marine Institute, the national agency responsible for marine research, technology development and innovation in Ireland. Since 2017, artists from Ireland, Germany, England and Slovenia have taken part in seven ocean surveys and a passage from Galway to Hamburg on the RV Celtic Explorer, one of the few marine research vessels with sonic capabilities. These expeditions have opened up unique opportunities to foster connections between art and science as artists work side-by-side with scientists who are monitoring our marine biodiversity and the impact of humans on our ocean environment.

“The collaboration between the Marine Institute and Aerial/Sparks has created an innovative opportunity for artists and marine scientists to connect and engage with the wider community through mediums such as art and music,” says Dr Paul Connolly, CEO of the Marine Institute. “Using the concept of sound and the sea is a unique way of showing how both the arts and sciences can come together to highlight the value, opportunities and societal benefits of our ocean.”

Marilyn Gaughan Reddan, Head of Programme at Galway European Capital of Culture 2020, said: “Aerial/Sparks is a notable example of what a European Capital of Culture can bolster – new ways of thinking, new ways of working, new conversations and new partnerships. This artist-led project, created and curated by Louise Manifold, has been in development since 2016, with a significant and ongoing partnership with the Marine Institute. Aerial/Sparks has provided incredible opportunities for artists both creatively, collaboratively and experientially, resulting in seven new commissions for exhibition and radio broadcast sited on one of Galway’s magnificent Aran Islands, Inis Oírr.”

Aerial/Sparks by Louise Manifold is presented by Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture, in partnership with the Marine Institute Ireland; Commissioners of Irish Lights; Áras Éanna, Inis Oírr; Comhar Caomhán Teo, Inis Oírr; and Ars Electronica 2020. Supported through Arts Council of Ireland Project Awards 2017 and 2019. For further information visit www.aerialsparks.org