Sirens of Sewage

Much of what happens in our oceans and seas is often concealed beneath its vast, endearing blue surface. It masks its fragility well. Over the past year, alongside the passionate team at SOS Whitstable and The Bertha Foundation, Jason deCaires Taylor embarked on an important journey to create a focal point for one of the most persistent and insidious threats facing the UK’s coastlines and waterways: sewage pollution. 

The sculptures themselves are lifecasts, portraying a small cross section of the local Whitstable community (including members of SOS Whitstable); a cold water swimmer, school child, kite surfer, lifeboat volunteer and local fisherman. Each holds a profound connection to the sea and a shared resolve to combat water pollution.

The simultaneous installation of this new artwork and Southern Water’s release of untreated sewage onto the surrounding coastal area for a staggering 89 hours in the same week underscores the pressing urgency of the crisis. Discharges of sewage still occur frequently along this coastline and are often unseen activities that happen during the cover of darkness or through outlets that are concealed by the tides.

Sirens of Sewage serves as an important reminder of this ongoing crisis, urging us to confront the pressing need for systemic change. Whether through the nationalisation of our water industry or stringent regulation, we must demand a future where clean water is not a luxury but a fundamental right for both our communities and marine habitats alike.

We are living through difficult times marked by strikes and protests, with many of our public services and natural resources being driven towards financial or environmental collapse. As these crises unfold, it falls increasingly upon local communities and ordinary citizens to champion their rights and safeguard the ecological balance. Some of those are SOS Whitstable, a group of 10 local activists who have been working tirelessly to hold water companies to account and make the sea safer along the Kent coast. Taylor hope that this artwork serves as a testament to their struggle and ongoing resilience.

This sculpture installation is part of Taylor’s Siren Series, a global network of artworks that draw attention to marine issues, often hidden from plain sight, such as warming oceans, overfishing and plastic pollution. Originally intended for placement in a tidal area along the adjacent coastline, the project encountered resistance from local authorities and is now situated on private land.

Materials: pH Neutral Marine cement, local aggregates, stainless steel.


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