First There is a Mountain is a new artwork that connects the public to the world’s diverse mountains. Launching on 31 March at Leysdown Beach, Isle of Sheppey, and touring the UK until 27 October 2019, the project involves the creation of ‘buckets and spades’ with which the public are invited to build mountains of sand across the UK coastline and play out the world’s natural geography against a series of tidal times. The five pails are scale models of five of Earth’s mountains: Mount Kilimanjaro (Africa), Mount Shasta (USA), Mount Fuji (Asia), Stromboli (Europe), and Uluru (Oceania) nested together.
First There is a Mountain is choreographed over the period of daylight saving time during British Summer Time. Following the launch, the artwork will go on to tour twenty-five high profile coastal art venues around the UK who will each stage a sand pail building event on their local beach. The ways in which the public interacts with the artwork at each location is integral to the evolution of the project and its overall experience.
At each event, participants will sculpt beaches into hundreds of mountains of sand to form micro-geologies. The artwork’s inevitable ephemerality points to concepts around gravitational attraction - awareness of Earth’s tilted axis during longer daylight hours and the UK’s eroding coastline. First There is a Mountain is a poetic vehicle that connects diverse world mountains to smallest grains of sand, with participants holding the world’s geography in their hands, time and geology collapsing, and connecting through touch.
The public will be able to track the projects’ progress through the dedicated website www.firstthereisamountain.com and social media channels. As well as sharing information regarding participation for each event, the website serves as a digital anthology and archive, bringing together established writers, authors, scientists and geologists, who have further brought the artwork to life through new pieces of writing. Twenty-five new texts have been commissioned, by contributors such as Brian Dillon (writer and critic), Sophia Kingshill (author and folklorist) and Paul Graham Raven (researcher and futurist theorist), each text has been paired with, and responds to the artwork. These will be conveyed via spoken word at the start of each public event - the diverse writings will connect with each locality, relating the artwork to the place, its people, its history and the wider geological context. Participants at each event are encouraged to share their images in real-time across Instagram using the hashtag firstthereisamountain. Images will then be shared on the website, gathering as the artwork journeys throughout the summer time.
Katie Paterson says: “From early childhood we understand that sand marks time. First There is a Mountain builds upon this concept, making us aware of mountain rocks’ erosion over millennia, rock shifting across Earth over continents’ evolution, forming unique fingerprints of sand across our modern coastline. The artwork invites the public to slow down. To consider the interconnectedness of the world, its immensity conveyed in miniature. Connecting the archipelago via one water, one tide, one sand - carrying mountains of sand across time. The extraordinary existing in ordinary things, everywhere.”
The project is a product of years of planning - matching tide timetables and “looking at every single mountain range on earth”. Paterson carefully selected each mountain via exacting research, using data from NASA’s Shuttle Radar Topography Mission and the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. The sand pails are made from 100% fermented plant starch and are fully bio-compostable. At the end of the tour they will be composted, reabsorbing back into the natural environment from which they were created and ensuring all participating beaches are left as they were.
First There is a Mountain also aims to raise awareness of our eroding coastline. The UK’s long coastline is accessible to all of the country’s population and is key to economic, environmental and social activities. Flooding and high sea levels have resulted in loss of land, geology and wildlife over the years and this is expected to increase with the further effects of climate change. By gathering the public to contribute to a land artwork on their own coastline, the project intends to deepen public knowledge of our relationship to the physical world as well as the importance of acting together.
Paterson’s art enables us to engage with forces that are too intangible and too immense for us to experience in other ways. Time, glaciation, growth, the solar system, fossilisation, electricity, weather systems provide inspiration for her work, and sand is a recurrent material that acts as a cypher for time and infinitude in her practice. First There is a Mountain enables a continuation of Paterson's enquiry into a recalibration of our understanding of space, time and place.
2019 is a defining year for the artist, in addition to First There is a Mountain, Paterson opened her largest solo exhibition to date at Turner Contemporary, Margate, in January. In October, she will be the central artist in the last edition of the NOW series at the National Galleries of Scotland. Her Future Library project, a public artwork that collects an original work by a popular writer every year from 2014 to 2114, continues to capture the imagination.
Website and anthology: www.firsthereisamountain.com
Anthology contributors include: James Attlee (author; 'North Sea: A Visual Anthology’, 'Nocturne: A Journey in Search of Moonlight’), Sophia Kingshill (author, folklorist; 'The Fabled Coast: Legends & traditions from around the shores of Britain & Ireland’), Lizzie Lloyd (art writer, researcher; Art Monthly, Art Review, Frieze etc), Jeremy Millar (artist, writer, curator; Frieze, Guardian, Modern Painters etc), Jan Zalasiewicz (geologist, palaeobiologist, writer; 'The Earth After Us: What Legacy Will Humans Leave in the Rocks?’),
for a full list visit: www.firsthereisamountain.com.