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  • Writer's pictureRitchard Allaway

13_11_21 - North Gare

10th November 2021

Reflecting on Wilderness

Location: North Gare – Seaton Carew

Reflecting on being within the landscape and working.

Today was about being out and exploring a new local area of wilderness… but not a wilderness removed from humanity. Elements of the human would appear and disappear, some subtle whilst others were unavoidably invasive, but what do I expect when I live in an industrial revolution river town. The plan was simple, go out and explore and be within a new landscape, but this time taking a new piece of recording equipment. I brought along my Canon SLR, an Olympus Trip 35mm and a Tascam DR-40X Linear PCM Recorder (a fancy sound recorder).

As with my previous posts you will have read about my newfound interest with sound and specifically the stretching of sound over a visual outcome. This would hopefully amplify (no pun intended) the sensory experience to a level that has not been felt with my work before. I am just entering the initial stages of this interest and so over the course of the research journey, I will allow for sound to participate within the artistic investigations. Today then was not just about being within landscape but also about capturing the natural sounds of nature within a site-specific location, which in turn could be fused with imagery.

I put myself within north Gare this afternoon. North Gare is ‘one of the three sandy beaches along the County Durham coast near Seaton Carew. Backed by low sand dunes the beach here forms part of the Teesmouth National Nature Reserve. The beach forms the northern shore of the mouth of the River Tees and runs along the side the Seaton Channel as it joins the river and runs into the North Sea. The backdrop is a strange combination of natural beauty and heavy industry. There are views across the Tees Basin and along the coast towards Middlesbrough. The view southwards in particular is towards a multitude of chimneys and cranes, whilst behind the south end of the beach is the power station.’[i] As a teenager I would often venture here with friends on the train when days were sunny for swims in the sea and drinks and BBQs in amongst the sand dunes. It was a place and still is a quiet beachside landscape that caters for walkers and bird watches.

I parked my car and walked up the path heading towards the dunes and coastline. I felt somewhat restrained walking on a path, so I decided to climb through the dune reeds and make my way across sandy hills covered in pockets of long grass. There was a silence that hit me, just like in the North Yorkshire Moors, all became very still, and I was alone. The first area I set foot in was a small ravine cut off from the walker’s path. It was a good place to set oneself up for this mini adventure. I headed forwards in any way that was partially cleared of long grass, although small spiders had laid invisible cobweb trails from grass stem to stem, making my face catch them on a frequent basis. As the high dunes came closer and I navigated my way up, the familiar sound of crashing waves and rushing water appeared. The north sea’s sound entered my ear drums and before I was up and over, the ocean was within my visual parameters.

For me there is always that one brief moment of ‘nothingness’ when you find the ocean up close to your being. It is ineffable, it is an intrinsic feeling appearing in your body and mind from an encounter that has and always will be there. It is that hyper object[ii] and that object oriented ontological[iii] being of the nonhuman. The ocean itself creates a sensation within the human that gracefully conditions us to breathe and find a moment of release. It is almost our escape as we are cognitively aware of what being upon the ocean opens up for the human, but there is also that unknown feared curiosity of something else that can’t be made clear, but it is something that could be a bettering for oneself.

I decided then to record the space between the dunes and the ocean. There was no wind, only ocean waves crashing but when I thought back to the work I had previously taken as well as the imagery I had captured from the Gare, would the seascape resonate the landscape through a parallel performance? This is something I have yet to try but the sound clip is below for you to listen.

This next section of the text is split into three parts. I will discuss each collection of imagery and how they worked within the remit of this visit.


I am naming these images as ‘traces’ the simple clear and obvious fact the materials seen are human materials left and rediscovered within nature. Even though I knew I could never escape the human and just be within the nonhuman world, I still felt a small ounce of disappointment, as we as a species can never not be found. We seem to leave a mark wherever we have been but what I did enjoy was how nonhuman objects started to suffocate the human materials. The weathering and erosion of certain elements along with the infusion of nature capturing such materials i:e the rope found within the rock. These hybrid objects gave notion to the future Terra without humanity. Although we will remain in some form, an object from a distant past, it is clear that nature will reclaim this planet.


Sandbergs’ titled after Icebergs although not quite as impressive as a polar formation (unless you have stood in the Sahara and bared witness to the monuments of the Northwest African desert) but today I was encapsulated by their presence. Here at the edge of the ‘world’ (Seaton Carew), stood these sculptural, towering forms that pushed their way up and out towards the seascape.


As with previous work, my isolated landscapes to be precise, I have always looked closer at surfaces to engage in the movements found upon. This reason is to seek out and project new formations of land found on land. It is a form of rediscovery and by capturing these surfaces today, I have found a new body of imagery that I can edit in order to create new landscapes.

To conclude, I would say that with being within any wild landscape resonates a form of individual pleasure that cannot be reproduced via any means of communication. Each time of being within is a personal experience but with my research I am here to investigate how one can speculate on the individual or at times the collective experience that resonates the environmental aesthetics. I could state that I am here to recreate experience but that would be folly and never-ending task, instead to speculate allows for flexible outcomes to arise and be disseminated. ‘in attending to a natural environment it seems perfectly legitimate, even in some cases required, to appreciate the fact both that the subject is part of that environment physically and provides the frame for her experience of the environment. Ultimately, the key question for environmental aesthetics then becomes what sort of subjective reflection is appropriate, not whether any subjective reflection at all is appropriate.[iv]

[i] [ii] Timothy Morton (2013). Hyperobjects: Philosophy and ecology after the end of the world. Minneapolis: The University of Minnesota Press. 1. [iii] Dylan Kerr. (2016). What Is Object-Oriented Ontology? A Quick-and-Dirty Guide to the Philosophical Movement Sweeping the Art World. Available: Last accessed 10th Nov 2021. [iv] Sandra Shapshay. (2013). Contemporary Environmental Aesthetics and the Neglect of the Sublime. British Journal of Aesthetics. 53 (2), 181-198.

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