FloodLights arts installation explores ‘living with water’ across Hull city centre

Graphic to illustrate the #FloodLights live art installation featuring a mermaid swimming through a submerged street

University of Hull researchers from the Risky Cities project have worked with local artists and students to deliver a major art installation to Hull city centre exploring provocative questions about living with water in a changing climate.

The installations and soundscapes, called FloodLights, have been commissioned by Absolutely Cultured, working in partnership with the University, Living with Water and Yorkshire Water.

The city of Hull, and the lives of its inhabitants, have long been shaped by its proximity and relationship to water.

The new installations will be exploring these issues – now even more pertinent than ever in the face of future climate uncertainty – through moving animations, lights and atmospheric music, taking place over 22-24 October from 6.30pm to 9.30pm.

The artists involved have all drawn inspiration from the subject of “living with water”.

To prepare for this public project, Absolutely Cultured collaborated with students and researchers from the University of Hull to unpack the theme of water. Students took part in creative workshops that covered a variety of topics, such as water as material and in memory, impacts of water on pollution and climate change, and water in symbolism, myth and superstition.

Their responses formed the briefs for artists Limbic Cinema, Vent Media and Hull-based Davy & Kristin McGuire to create the installations and soundscapes.

Briony McDonagh is Professor of Environmental Humanities at the University of Hull and Lead for the AHRC-funded Risky Cities project, which works with the Living with Water partnership to bring communities and artists together to build a programme of interactive experiences to raise climate awareness and build flood resilience.

“Engaging diverse communities in climate resilience action is a significant challenge, with the most vulnerable in societies often the least well informed. The University of Hull’s Risky Cities project brings together arts and humanities researchers with environmental and physical scientists and flood modellers to bring innovative culture-based approaches to address the challenge of engaging communities in building flood resilience. We are excited to see FloodLights, our first large-scale production, come to fruition.”

Professor Briony McDonagh

Following a series of photogrammetry sessions at Humber Street Gallery and sites around Hull, Limbic Cinema have digitally captured meaningful objects that residents would hate to lose in a flood. These 3D models have shaped Limbic Cinema‘s evocative indoor installation Sinuous City, which features contributions by local poet Vicky Foster and composer Joe Acheson (Hidden Orchestra) and takes place at 51 Whitefriargate.

This piece will also be open to experience in the day over the event weekend, from 11am on 23 and 24 October.

Open to visitors in 30-minute time slots, audiences will be invited to book free tickets to guarantee entry at their preferred time. Tickets will go live on 30 September.

Hull-based artists Davy & Kristin McGuire bring Sirens, an underwater world of mermaids and sea creatures, to life at Princes Quay in a beautiful but haunting display of holographic projections into the water. As global warming impacts their habitats, mermaids have been forced to migrate to better feeding grounds in urban environments in order to survive.

Inspired by the unique architectural design and rich nautical school history of the Trinity House Academy, Overflow by Vent Media uses the connected rectangular white minimal façades of the building to create a huge three-dimensional canvas. Working together with electronic musician and sound artist Leigh Toro, Overflow takes audiences through a journey of the deep, via bioluminescent lifeforms, lost treasure, and the ringing of the school’s famous ships bell.

CEO and Artistic Director of Absolutely Cultured Stephen Munn said: “FloodLights was originally planned for 2020, so it’s been incredibly exciting to be able to get back to preparing this with our partners and the artists involved. Artists have always used creativity to explore important themes and it’s a vital role of the arts to spark meaningful conversations in peoples’ lives. In this instance, considering how cities like Hull can increase resilience, awareness and be better prepared when living so close to water.”