David Blandy’s project ‘The World After’ opens at Focal Point Gallery as Southend-on-Sea Borough Council declares a climate emergency and commits to plans to create a Green City.

Focal Point Gallery is pleased to present ‘The World After’, a newly commissioned work and exhibition by artist David Blandy. Comprised of a lm, installation and game, ‘The World After’ is a ctional tale which imagines a world after the Anthropocene era, a time in which humanity’s activities had detrimental effect on earth’s climate and environment. In this future world, human in uence on the planet has faded following a catastrophic man-made ecological crisis, with those who remain having to nd new ways to survive and form kin.

The project emerges out of New Geographies, a three-year partnership across arts organisations in the East of England to commission site-speci c work that responds to a series of publically nominated locations across the region. As one of ten commissioned artists, Blandy’s project takes inspiration from the unique post-industrial setting of Canvey Wick on Canvey Island, Essex.

Formerly the site of an oil re nery that was only partially built in the early 1970s and never operational due to the oil crisis of 1973, Canvey Wick has for the past forty years been reclaimed by nature. Managed by nature conversation charities RSPB and Buglife, it is one of the most biodiverse areas of the UK with nearly 2,000 invertebrate species recorded on this quiet corner of the Thames Estuary.

This exhibition coincides with Southend-on-Sea Borough Council’s Cabinet resolution to of cially announce a climate emergency, as plans to create a Green City proceed. Work on greening the town, emissions improvement through energy ef cient and generation are already underway through EU funded project including Interreg 2 Seas projects NSCiti2S, Sustainable and Resilient Coastal Cities and North Seas Region funded 2Impresz. Work to reduce the Council’s own emissions from buildings has also signi cantly improved through a variety of projects, directly or indirectly reducing emissions by around 75% since 2014.

David Blandy’s project re ects on the geopolitics of the “oil shocks” of the 1970’s and the fall of the Shah in Iran alongside the Canvey Island protest against the re nery and planned airport; all events that have led to Canvey Wick’s present state as a beacon of biodiversity. If this small site in the East of England can recover from the excesses of the industrial world, this could be a model for how to nd a way to deal with the threat of climate change that impacts us all. Of course Canvey Island can only ever be a temporary haven with the increasing threat from rising sea levels. Southend-on-Sea Borough Council joins other local authorities across the country in acknowledging the urgency for a new paradigm that acknowledges humanity as subservient to our ecosystem. The example of Canvey Wick gives some hope that the effect of our worst excesses are reversible.

Filming at Canvey Wick over the past year, Blandy returned every month to record the changes of the seasons. Using the technology emblematic of the Anthropocene era, the iPhone, the site was lmed in both macro and slow motion, revealing its rich yet hidden ecosystem. In Blandy’s lm, the voiceover reimagines the Wick as a future space where ora and fauna have grown to monstrous size, the site for a future fantasy narrative. It uses poetry, myth, immersive video and a symphonic score, played by the Southend Symphony Orchestra, to create a bucolic yet melancholic mediation on who we are, and who we could be. As well as a new lm and exhibition, Blandy has worked closely with gaming communities in Essex to create a new table-top roleplaying game. With creatures based on local wildlife and myth, the game follows a collective story that imagines new ways of living together. A new publication, The World After, will also be launched at the exhibition opening and will be for sale.

said of behalf of the Cabinet: “Becoming a carbon neutral Borough by 2030 is a huge task but one we are determined to meet head-on. We want to make a real and tangible difference across the Borough and ensure we are doing our bit to tackle climate change.