Ursula K le Guin's 1988 short essay The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction acts as the departure point for A fin rising on a wide blank sea, which draws upon the historical story of a 70ft long, 40 tonne blue whale, that was fatally wounded and washed ashore with the ebb and flow of the tide in Boscombe in 1897.
The video begins by documenting the process of reconstructing a fragment of the Boscombe whale's jawbone, using 3D rendering technologies. The replica is akin to a fossilised, yet digitalised ecofact and like Le Guin's carrier bag, untold stories, concerning archiving, extraction and sonic violence within the ocean soundscape emerge from this messy sack.
Within folklore and literature, the whale is as presented as a mythological monster, a water-dwelling dragon or sea-serpent. The musician David Toop suggests that since Roger Payne's 1970 hydrophone recordings, the great leviathan has become an 'unstoppable cliché'. However, whales are more than a projection for the anthropos, they are part of ecological ecosystems; known as 'whale-fall' their oily bones feed benthic communities living in the darkest and deepest parts of the ocean. The scholar Stacey Alaimo suggests that through acknowledging the agency of the more-than-human world, the prevalent practice of "thingification" can be challenged, and prevent the reduction of lively, emergent, intra-active phenomena into passive, distinct resources for human use and control.
The re-telling of the story of the whale on the pier takes an investigative and speculative tone, considering how traces of more-than-human histories can enable us to reconsider ecological assemblages.
Commissioned by BEAF 2021