A Domicile, Guisseny, Brittany, France

‘Ulva Lactuca’

Tidelines are rich in pickings, ever changing and exciting places to hold environmental art workshops. This year I was at the 10th anniversary of ‘A Domicile’ contemporary dance festival held in the small coastal town of Guisseny in Brittany. A place I’d worked before for their first festival.

My environmental art workshops worked with green blooms of macro alga. This excess along Brittany’s coastline indicates a consequence of human activities such as over farming and are common of green tides worldwide.

When visiting a new place, it’s a nice twist of fate when a momentary happening such as the arrival of this green alga highlights a process in nature unknown to me. It’s presence not only directed my exploration within the workshops, but my knowledge and experience of place was enriched through conversations and cultural associations this seaweed has for participants and passers-by.

Ulva Lactuca is the common sea lettuce. It is an annual species, occurring in the transitional zone between coast and deep sea. Submerged in shallow waters it has a transparent beauty, floating illuminous flecks in still shallow water as the tide rolls in and out. When it gets washed up on shore, it drys and piles up onto the white sands into dark green tidelines decomposing which can produce dangerous vapours.

This Brittany coastline

This Brittany coastline has a rich mosaic of different seaweed species and has a rich history of its dependency on this as a crop for fertiliser, food and medicinal purposes.

Since this residency I’ve found and read a great book about seaweed; ‘The Seaweed Collectors handbook’ by a Dutch artist Miek Zwamborn. It is beautifully illustrates history, culture and science of the Seaweed.

 Brittany coastline

In small groups we spent the week in either the stillness of morning or evening light collecting and redistributing Ulva in a pure aesthetic act. A sense of satisfaction was found from silently collecting, conversations regrouping and distributing the seaweed into geometric forms on the beach, wrapping round existing features and working with the dynamic of the tideline.

A Domicile’ contemporary dance festival

Annually in autumn, for the last 15 years this township has accommodated a contemporary dance festival. Numerous workshops lead by chosen artists, locals are guided to respond to place within the movement of their bodies. There is a contagious openness and excitement to explore. People in these workshops are family, friends and neighbours. It is was a pleasure to be part of this annual event.