It’s Always Ourselves We Find In The Sea is a new experiential 3D audio installation, created by world-renowned musician, music producer and sound designer Martyn Ware, with Charles Stooke and Gabriel Ware, and immersive specialists Oscar Blustin and Anna Söderblom. The installation explores the cultural and ecological significance of water as the substance that connects and unites all life on Earth.
The work was conceived in Venice, Italy, in the wake of the extreme floods of November 2019, which devastated the city that is synonymous with humanity’s symbiotic relationship with water. The world premiere of It’s Always Ourselves… takes place on April 22, to coincide with Earth Day 2022 – a yearly milestone that should focus our thoughts on where we are as a planet, and most importantly, what we do to make it better, for all of us.
OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH WATER
Every generation has probably had this thought, but in our case, it’s indisputable: we are living in unprecedented times. The climate crisis is accelerating and intensifying, we are facing biodiversity loss, polluted and suffocating oceans, over-extraction of natural resources – and we don’t yet even fully understand the consequences for all our daily lives. Water is at the heart of this chapter of our human history, whether through the rising of the sea levels and flooding that threaten our homes, or the changing weather systems that bring droughts to upend our established agricultural systems, or the dangers from polluted aquifers and inadequate sanitation.
Without water, no life on Earth could exist; water is intrinsic to the survival of almost every living thing on the planet. And all water is connected, through the endless loop of the hydrologic cycle –the continuous movement of water on and below the surface of the Earth and in the atmosphere above. Water moves ceaselessly around the planet through the physical processes and ties together the major parts of the Earth’s climate systems, the air and clouds, the ocean and lakes, vegetation, snowpack, and glaciers.
Ours is a complex world, and the stories we tell ourselves are our way to try to understand it. Recognising that water is a necessity of life, all human cultures throughout history have legends, folklore and creation myths based around water. Making sense of our relationship with water has always been a fundamental part of making sense of our place in the world. And all stories are connected; It’s Always Ourselves… is built around the idea of the repeated echoes in these stories, which resound throughout human history to all four corners of the earth.
These cultural commonalities should remind us that just as all water is connected – there are no separate seas and oceans, just one vast planet-wide body of water, and a drop of that water that evaporates in Venice can fall as rain in Venezuela – all humanity is connected. The challenges facing us cannot be solved by one person, nor are they challenges that we can leave to others to sort out. And we can’t ‘fix it’ in just one corner of the world, because like a molecule of water traversing the planet, the situation in Fiji will have repercussions in France. Individual responsibility is one thing, but we are facing challenges on a scale that requires Earth-wide systemic change.
THE POWER OF STORIES
Change begins with changing our stories, and the most important story for us all to consider is, “How do we define a life well-lived?” We’ve grown up in a cultural climate where we think that having more is better, that somehow taking more from the Earth will keep us safe, that humanity is separate from the rest of ‘nature’. All of this is untrue.
We desperately need new stories – stories that remind us that we are all one species, all our lives inextricably linked with every other being on the planet, and that we are all, in the best possible way, reliant on each other. We are not separate, just like bodies of water are not separate. We are not divided, just as bodies of water are not truly divided; the only ‘divisions’ are ones that we humans have invented. We are one big ecosystem, dependent on Nature and every other living creature for our survival and flourishing.
As we understand more and more about the dangers we currently face, ‘climate despair’ is overtaking ‘climate change denial’ as one of the main barriers to action; if we continually paint a picture of the future as a place of bleak dystopian horror, we become too fearful to engage with it. Inclined to resign ourselves to what we falsely believe to be the inevitable. We must raise awareness of the issues confronting us, of course, but we must not let fear prevent us from looking for answers and solutions. We cannot step into a thriving future without inspiration and hope.
CONNECTING THROUGH ART
The arts are one of our main tools for evoking empathy and unlocking imagination. Not an intellectual understanding of an issue, but a powerful emotional resonance of it. And sound and music are one of the most potent media we have for accessing our most profound feelings and our common humanity. We can’t rationally explain our reactions to music – as far as we know, every human civilisation has had an innate desire to create, enjoy and share music with others. It’s something that’s hardwired into us on a fundamental, primal level.
It’s Always Ourselves… was conceived to give our audience a moment of tranquillity and contemplation, in an atmosphere of global community and communality, to begin to imagine what a positive future for the world might look like. A world in which humanity lives in harmony with the planet, where there is an end to exploitation of both other humans and the Earth’s natural resources.
The 3D ambisonic technology in the sound system we are using for the installation unlocks something further in the brain: it heightens our peripheral perception of the aural world around us, allowing us a broader awareness and perspective that we need now more than ever. We hope visitors to the installation will carry a fragment of this expanded consciousness with them.
The story of water is the story of humanity. And how we choose to write the next chapter is up to us.
Visit It’s Always Ourselves… here
Cover Credit: It’s Always Ourselves We Find In The Sea
Writer | Oscar Blustin and Anna Söderblom
Oscar is a writer, director and producer specialising in live immersive entertainment, having created interactive adventures for the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Durham, The National Maritime Museum and more.
Anna has worked as a journalist for The Times and as a reporter for the Guardian. She now works in a hybrid of arts, media and technology – finding new and interesting ways to tell stories.