Imagining wetlands: geography between wet and dry

Artist and UCLan Fine Art MA student, Tracy Hill reflects on her experience of the Nordic Geographers Conference in Estonia.

Imagining wetlands: geography between wet and dry bought together 11 individuals from 6 countries all presenting personal interpretations of wetland research. The session organiser Franz Krause invited papers discussing how people imagine, represent, use and try to change wetlands. The suggestion was that in order for wetlands to support, defy or comply with rapidly expanding communities it is necessary to examine how particular imaginations of wetlands affect these places.

Having begun the session with my interpretations and re-imagining of Chat Moss, a historic lowland peat bog in the UK, I tentatively entered the world of physical and human geography. My observations as both artist and walker offered reflections of the haptic and aesthetic, which invited questions about relationships between scientific data and an artistic outcome.

Through my art I presented the idea that by offering a visual re-interpretation of such liminal spaces we could reconsider perceptions and views beyond our own capabilities. Listening to other presentations it struck me that although speaking from very different disciplines about extremely specific locations we were all connected by the need to reimagine and protect these transient and delicate spaces. The co-existence of the imagined and the real, and the notion that wetlands are challenging uses of space both socially and ecologically dominated many conversations.

Within all the papers presented during this session there was a strong sense of narrative and history. Connections to place through walking and living on the land seemed of paramount importance in order to fully understand the very complex nature of wetlands. Les Roberts portrayed this beautifully during his presentation exploring the spatial anthropology of wetlands: landscape, liminality and cultural memory.

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