50 Things is an anthology of objects collected on the UK coastline. The essence of this project is to explore memories and ideology through our material culture.
The beach is a transient environment which has mesmerised me for much of my life, and in particular, this temporary resting place of the lost, discarded and forgotten offers an inexhaustible supply of stories and wonder; a seam of innocuous remnants revealing much about daily life. A rich narrative is being written along our shores every day, betraying our tastes, beliefs, fashions and culture.
How will our stories be told generations from now, and which objects best represent what it means to be living in the Twenty First Century? How will the most unexpected remnants of our time allow people to understand the spirit of our age? My selection of fifty things found on the UK coastline will address these questions.
For me, the coastal environment will always be an exhilarating and wondrous place where the bracing wind is flavoured with spindrift and the ceaseless pounding of the waves is a reminder of the most ancient of natural processes. A stoic metronome governed by the gravity of the Moon, these crashing waves mark our abiding passage through time whilst shaping the most temporary of environments.
The lost, discarded and forgotten lay strewn along the high water mark; their enigmatic arrangement a beguiling story, testament to unseen lunar forces. These innocuous remnants are imbued with an inexhaustible supply of stories, a modern tale of material culture to be muttered and embellished along the shoreline with each rising tide.
To harvest these resting relics is to puzzle over an anagram where letters are familiar but the arrangement is baffling. That which was once commonplace is presented in a new context – a syntax which speaks of anecdotes bound up in the objects which once filled our homes, destined to enter the geological record as nothing more than a marker to identify our fleeting place in ‘deep time’.
What began as an exploration of material culture has become an appreciation of something much more complex. The most significant patterns and processes continue unnoticed in our busy, modern world and it is only our steady accumulation of discarded materials which are making these forces visible. Our detritus is simply tangled up in these ancient rhythms which are made visible on the high water mark of any beach.
As I walk on our coastline now, so much more is invoked than the simple joy of discovering an unusual trinket. I embrace the liminal frontier, engaging with an elemental force so much greater than myself in a space where I feel anything is possible . . . until the next high tide at least.
Do follow @Fifty_Things on Twitter to keep up to date with all fifty objects and join the discussion around what they mean to you.