THE ALGAE SUMMIT
Convened by Belgian artist Filip Van Dingenen, The Algae Summit was an international conference taking place in Askeaton and nearby Shannon River Estuary from 15 – 18 June 2017.
Askeaton and its outlying territories is an acknowledged centre of seaweed cultivation from at least medieval times, as it was used as the primary agricultural fertilizer in the region to sustain daily nutrition and life. The introduction of chemical substitutes in the 1950s saw its decline alongside depopulation of many islands on the Shannon. Van Dingenen has repeatedly visited Askeaton in recent years to research this history, seaweed cutting and the still-unresolved nature of harvesting rights in Ireland, along with the wider ecological impulses that must be spoken of – all to remove the divide between human and nature, and challenge the alienation of contemporary life from the now unheard environmental spirits in our midst. A focal point was a two-night engagement held on uninhabited Coney Island in the middle of the Shannon Estuary, with the aim of creating a new alternative treaty to address this wide-ranging issue. As we understand the political isolationism directed from Trump and big business towards the delicate world we inhabit, the Algae Summit acts as a model to identify and promote the needs and urgencies of indigenous critical resistance.
Alongside contributions from the Askeaton locality including Cyril Ryan and Liam Dundon, participants include artist and curator Paula von Seth from Stockholm, environmental activists John Bhaba Jeaic Ó Confhaola, Sinead Mercier and Séagh Mac Siúrdáin, Berlin-based Australian poet, critic and curator Rachel O’Reilly, Belgian energy therapist and artist Ive Van Bostraeten, cynotype expert Sarah Codd and Czech artist Klara Hobza, all alongside Irish artists Domestic Godless, Adrian Duncan, Maurice Foley, Mary Conroy and Seanie Barron and seaweed food company Mungo Murphy.
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Van Dingenen further presented elements of his research at the Lofoten Biennial in Norway in autumn 2017. A publication will be prepared in 2018, along with a public presentation at Lismore Castle Arts in Waterford.