We are only human (Incomplete sculpture for Scarborough to be finished by snow), 2022 | Ryan Gander

Photo by Jules Lister
Part of Wild Eye

This artwork has been created in the shape of a dolos – a form normally used as a defence to prevent coastal erosion. The sculpture is purposely only partially formed as it is intended to be completed by snowfall.

The artist, Ryan Gander, used a computer programme to simulate snowfall onto the dolos. By subtracting this volume of snow from the original shape, he created an artwork that would only be ‘finished’ when it snows. Due to the changes in weather conditions caused by global warming, this work may never be seen in its original ‘complete’ form.

The sculpture is cast in ultra-low carbon concrete*, incorporating limestone formed from shells and skeletons of prehistoric sea creatures. The use of limestone highlights the sea’s vital role in minimising the effects of climate change by acting as a ‘carbon sink’, absorbing harmful carbon dioxide emissions.

Over the last 50 years, 90% of carbon-capturing plants and animals have been lost from the North Sea. We need to protect our seas and restore marine life for a healthier, more sustainable world.

This headland location for the artwork was chosen to draw attention to the rise in sea levels, coastal erosion, and the effect on marine life caused by climate change.

People have been looking out to sea from this location for 3,000 years, from the Romans to those that built the medieval castle to the volunteers who manned the listening station during the cold war. This sculpture encourages us to continue that tradition of watching the sea.

Click here or the player below to listen to a 5-minute audio piece on the ideas and context behind the sculpture, or watch below for a short video on the piece

Click here to download the transcript.

This work forms part of Wild Eye – an ambitious project to create new art and nature experiences for local communities and visitors. Curated by Alice Sharp and Jeanine Griffin, Wild Eye combines world-class sculpture with nature observation opportunities (whales, dolphins and porpoise can sometimes be seen from this headland) through a partnership of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and Invisible Dust, in collaboration with Scarborough Borough Council, and CaVCA, supported here by Ryan Gander’s Studio and English Heritage.

Ryan Gander OBE RA (b. 1976, Chester, UK) has established an international reputation through artworks taking many different forms, ranging from sculpture, apparel, curating and writing to architecture, design, painting, typefaces, publications and performance. He is a committed educator, having taught at international art institutions and universities, and has written and presented television programmes on contemporary art and culture.

*A note on materials:

Low-carbon concrete can use up to 85% less carbon than standard concrete. This particular concrete is made from otherwise wasted industrial products and recycled glass. Through this kind of innovation in materials, we can help reduce our carbon footprint and protect our time on this planet, a subject that is central to the idea behind the project.

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