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Simon Read

About ten years ago, prompted by my own concern over the incapacity of the visual arts to contribute to the discussion upon environmental change in any way other than commentary, I resolved to pursue ways of promoting the idea that the challenges we currently face are cultural as much logistical.

I had become sensitised to this arena through both commissioned work, where I collaborated directly with government agencies and through having a watery way of life. The former meant that I became aware of the terms of reference of environmental management whilst the latter ensured that any abstract speculation was grounded in the dynamics of a real place.

My approach so far has been threefold:

I have immersed myself in the development of Estuarine Strategies and Shoreline Management Plans as a representative of the community in consultation with the Environment Agency; as such I am a committee member for a number of community organisations, of which the “Alde Ore Arts Futures” is an opportunity to unabashedly foreground my vocation as an artist.

I am a senior lecturer in fine art at Middlesex University and for the first time in my life I have been able to realise the potential of academic networks. I have been developing interdisciplinary partnerships with other institutions with a particular emphasis upon coastal processes and the social impacts of flood events. I have presented at a number of conferences and workshops, amongst which, in June 2010 at the Royal Geographic Society Annual Conference and April 2011 at the annual conference of the American Association of Geographers in Seattle.

I came to Suffolk thirty years ago with a particular approach to photography that I immediately applied to this unfamiliar landscape where the land meets the sea. As time has passed and as a part of the process of familiarisation, I found that I was no longer observing from the outside, but had become immersed in its dynamic and the natural systems that make it work. An involvement in the debate over how communities might have a voice in defining change provides a context within which I can pursue this.

Taken together, I find myself in a position of some strength where there is not only compelling subject matter, but also a sense that the arts might have a role to play in the redefining of society’s relationship with land

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Simon Read
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