“I hear those voices that will not be drowned”
I wanted to pick up where I left off in Evocative Objects, which omitted what I’d ‘brought’ for that ‘Show & Tell’ workshop on objects with personal resonance in our changing climate. Maggi Hambling’s massive, 4-metre high steel seashell, Scallop, stands on Aldeburgh beach in Suffolk, resolutely dividing opinion among locals and visitors. I love it, and wrote about it in ClimateCultures’ A History of the Anthropocene in 50 Objects: “Being in its presence was to experience very direct communication with both environment and history, and an unsettling encounter with the future. Aldeburgh has been disappearing from the map for centuries … the sea moving in by stages.” Where Scallop now stands on shingle, were once homes and streets, lives and livelihoods.
Benjamin Britten’s opera Peter Grimes tells the violent story of an Aldeburgh fisherman. Cut through Hambling’s giant metal shell — words written as absent matter by changeable skies — is one line from the opera: “I hear those voices that will not be drowned.” Scallop continues to resonate with me, years after my first encounter. Artworks can help us experience the lives of distant others: to ‘undrown’ and hear their voices within our own.