How this new Somerset House exhibition has created a multi-sensory sea experience

One And All, a National Trust and Sounduk commissioned project, will explore British coastline and sea through visual and aural art, created by Martyn Ware, Tania Kovats and Owen Sheers.


What Does the Sea Say by Martyn Ware. Taken on Nose's Point, Seaham. © North News & Pictures ltd
What Does the Sea Say by Martyn Ware. Taken on Nose’s Point, Seaham. © North News & Pictures ltd

An immersive exhibition showcasing the sights and sounds of sea and coastline is set to open this November in London.

One And All, commissioned by the National Trust’s contemporary arts programme Trust New Art and Sounduk, will take place at Somerset House’s River Rooms, overlooking the River Thames.

It will include aural and visual elements, such as sound design by Martyn Ware, art by Tania Kovats and poetry by Owen Sheers.

Preservation of coastline

The exhibition, designed by consultancy Andres Ros Soto, is in aid of celebrating the 50th anniversary of Project Neptune: the National Trust’s programme to preserve important areas of British coastline.

Consultancy designer Michael Montgomery says the exhibition will use the “derelict space” of the River Rooms, which is constructed of “peeling plaster work” and a “worn plywood floor”.

Coastal boardwalk

The space will be constructed around three rooms devoted to each artist, joined together through an elevated pathway made from “weathered materials” representing a coastal boardwalk.

Visualisation of One And All exhibition space
Visualisation of One And All exhibition space

“This will create a single structure for visitors to navigate and experience the space,” says Montgomery.

Installations include Martyn Ware’s 3D soundscape What Does The Sea Say? in the form of a blue beach hut. Recordings of the public talking about what the coast means to them have been merged and edited to create a “meditative” soundscape for the hut.

© North News & Pictures ltd
© North News & Pictures ltd

Tania Kovats’ Tide is a digitally animated drawing representing the UK sea tide based on real-time data, which allows visitors to speed up or pause the waves. This will be accompanied by a brass bell which will ring daily over high tide on the River Thames.

Owen Sheers has written a poem inspired by the Gower Peninsula, and will be combined with footage shot by filmmaker Ben Wigley, which will offer a multi-sensorial journey along a stretch of coastline.

Creating visceral experience

Wigley’s films will also feature throughout the whole exhibition in the form of large-scale projections of coastal landscapes. “Framed within the arches and windows of the space, the effect will create a visceral experience of being by the sea,” says Montgomery.

Online experience

An online experience on the National Trust’s website will run alongside the physical show, enabling visitors to go on a virtual coastal walk and see the work of the three artists.

The exhibition has been produced in collaboration with artdocs and consultancy The Swarm.

One And All will run 4 November – 13 December 2015 at Somerset House, River Rooms, New Wing, Strand, WC2R 1LA. Entrance is free.

Visualisation of One And All exhibition space
Visualisation of One And All exhibition space
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