The Sacred Ecologist by Christina Peake
Part of a new series of digital artworks from Turner Contemporary, commissioned in response to the Covid-19 Pandemic. ‘The Sacred Ecologist’ includes a series of digital sculptures and an accompanying graphic novella.
Commissioned by Turner Contemporary as part of the Digital Commission series, ‘The Sacred Ecologist’ is a series of digital sculptures set within a virtual eco-park, an accompanying digital graphic novella, a virtual studio session and a series of eco walks. Together this work explores cultural and ecological heritage framed through autobiographical journeys to Margate during and prior to the Covid-19 pandemic – both from the perspective of the artist within a marginalised Caribbean community and an ally to nature. The virtual studio session and walks connect artist, audience and environment.
Special thanks to Craig Reeves at Pickled TV for the VFX work, and the CORALL Coral Reef Restoration Alliance who informed the research of the project.
Discover the films
These films or ‘islands’ stand as a marine archipelago along the Kent coastline, each with its own individual story and culture. Each narration speaks of acts of belonging, treasures revealed by the tides and the courage to protect and provide for our futures. The sculptures featured in these films are made of coral from Christina’s family collection, as well as shells, seaweed, fishing nets and waste materials collected from her walks. The icons perched on the apex of the islands feature a clay chattel house (a historical architectural style in Barbados), a glass terrarium, a vintage She Ra doll Mermista (Christina’s favourite cartoon in childhood) as the base for Calypso, Rolls Royce ‘The Spirit of Ecstasy’ and Jaguar car mascots.
View the graphic novella
The Sacred Ecologist novella weaves threads of Christina’s British and Barbadian heritage, Covid relief and the commission experience, allyship with nature and commitment to legacy and collective futures inspired by hope. The ‘Crossed Keys’ symbol and its associated values are intimate to the artist – reminders to practice her freedoms every day in a steadfast attempt to unlock them.
Community Virtual Studio Sessions
A critical narrative within The Sacred Ecologist commission that has informed the work throughout is the community engagement programme. The programme included a virtual studio session where participants shared their relationship with the Kent coastline and nature itself. They also discussed how they have dealt with the challenges of lockdown, the vitality of their practice and the resilience it enables. Explore the stories of Christina’s mother Margaret, Takumba, Lynne, Maggy and Sara via the clips presented here.
As part of the community engagement programme members of the community were encouraged to explore the relationship between people, community and place by walking the land and sea, reflecting Christina’s practice of marine congress. Christina asked participants to consider how these ecologies play out, specific to the place where they walk and the relationships between communities and environments. One of the key questions to ask and answer is, how does the ecology read if you consider the environment as a community? Is it marginalised? Are you connected to it? Do you consider yourself to be a part of that community or an ally to it? View the gallery to see Christina’s ‘Notes on a Walk’ and some of the experiences that were generously shared with her.
“This commission has enabled me to learn, embrace and assimilate a new set of voices and plurality into my work by re-establishing my relationship with Margate and her communities therein including the coast itself. In the 1980s Margate was a surrogate home for my family in remembrance of Barbados and marine identities, today I feel I am deepening that relationship with Margate to learn and understand it in its own right rather than as a dream deferred and I hope made firm friends for the future. “
Radical Acts of Cultural Fluorescence
In the run-up to the launch of “The Sacred Ecologist”, Christina presented her work to The Courtauld Institute of Art audiences online. Here, Christina explores the coasts of the Caribbean and the UK, and how they influence her practice including her work as an Educator for The Black Curriculum and outreach within her local community in South London.
Christina seeks to share her stories and receive the stories of others with care and this essentially reflects her practice, deepening her contribution to communal collectivity and environment.