BxNU SYMPOSIUM: A Perfect and Absolute Blank (12): Alec Finlay, Text-Corder and Poem Respondent

Publication Date 16 Oct 2015

BxNU SYMPOSIUM: A Perfect and Absolute Blank
16 October 2015, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art

Response: Alec Finlay, text-corder and poem respondent 

Alec Finlay is an artist and poet whose work crosses a range of media and forms. His work documenting The Smith Commission is currently included in The Shock of Victory (CCA, Glasgow). He has recently completed work on the world’s first poetic primer on marine renewable energy, Ebban an' Flowan  a book which focuses on the Orkney islands, as a leading international test site. The book explores the technical vocabulary which is evolving alongside marine energy devices and offers an innovative perspective on this by gathering together maritime dialect vocabulary from across the Norse languages, connecting the older lore of the sea with the new lore of energy generation. Alec has exhibited at BALTIC, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and the Sydney Biennale. For the symposium he adopts the roles of Text-Corder and Poem Respondent.

In response to issues raised BALTIC exhibition Fiona Tan: DEPOT, this symposium will bring together eminent practitioners, artists and theoreticians whose work addresses that least visible but most present entity, The Sea. The exhibition includes BALTIC’s spectacular new commission DEPOT, which re-imagines the exhibition of ‘Jonah the Giant Whale’, a preserved whale which toured Europe from the 1950s to the mid-1970s, and Disorient 2009 with imaginaries of trade and travel.

Despite its powerful subconscious and imaginary pull - the source of fantastic creatures and lost cities, the cruel grave of hapless seafarers and travellers - the sea has largely been consigned to the margins of the terrestrial, a mere surface to be traversed in pursuit of capital and territory – Lewis Carol’s ‘perfect and absolute blank!’ Contemporary thought has however taken an oceanic turn - prompted by political, ecological, technological and material shifts - undersea resource extraction, claiming and division of sub maritime territories, seaborne migration and trafficking, overfishing, rising sea levels – all have emerged as concerns of global significance.

Emerging from the research interests of staff at Northumbria University in inter-disciplinarity and the creation of new knowledge across the sciences, humanities and arts, the event will include performances, screening and discussions in order to consider both the impact of human activity upon the 71% of the planet’s surface that is covered by water and how we might think with the liquidity, mobility and volume of the sea to evolve new fluid ontologies of the world we inhabit.

Curated and convened by Jane Arnfield, Reader in Arts, Director of Fine & Visual Arts Programmes, Northumbria University; Christine Borland, BALTIC Professor, Northumbria University; Sandra Johnston, Senior Lecturer in Fine Art, Northumbria University; Rona Lee, Professor of Fine Art, Northumbria University and Hannah Marsden, Adult Public Programmes Assistant, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art.

The poem can also be viewed and downloaded as a PDF here:

A full schedule of the day and biographies of all the speakers can be found in the delegate pack, available here:


Format MP3
Related Artist Alec Finlay
Keywords BxNU Institute of Contemporary Art, poetry, Critically Engaged
Related Events BxNU SYMPOSIUM: A Perfect and Absolute Blank (16 October 2015), Fiona Tan: Depot (10 July - 1 November 2015)
Related Gallery BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art

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