Call for proposals

Liquidscapes: tales and tellings of watery worlds and fluid states

June 20-22 2018

Venue: Dartington Hall, Totnes, Devon TQ9 6EA, UK

DEADLINE FOR PROPOSALS 22.00 GMT November 20, 2017

A three-day (Wednesday June 20 to Friday June 22) event bringing together creative thinkers and doers to explore physically and figuratively our watery worlds and fluid states.

We are particularly interested in submissions whose manner of presentation in some way directly performs the perspective that they wish to offer: in what senses may we approach, in our behaviours, our speech, and our work, the notion of voicing of water?



‘If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water’ — Loren Eiseley The Immense Journey (1957)

Water. We are 60% water. 71% of the earth’s surface is covered in it. 97% of that water is in our oceans, which daily ebb and flow as we get nearer or further from the moon. It’s the substance of life, of mystery and myth, of joy and despair, of frivolity and fear, of war, of death.

We gather here at the edgeland, in England’s southwest peninsula where water wraps around us and is dominant in our daily lives. Go much further on your journey to the westerly edge of Britain, and you fall into the sea. Our island-ness feels palpable here.

At this creative summit we will explore watery worlds and the state of being liquid; we will speak of water as an element in and of transition. Water on the move with places to go; water as muse; water as a wild, uncontrolled element of the sublime; water as solid or gas; water as a boundary, as edgeland; water as an ecological healer or indicator of environmental distress; water as an agent of immersion, as a former of landscapes, stronger than rock; water as mediator of political power and cultural agency. Drought.

‘Water, that strong white stuff, one of the four elemental mysteries, can here be seen at its origins. Like all profound mysteries, it is so simple that it frightens me. It wells from the rock, and flows away. For unnumbered years it has welled from the rock, and flowed away. It does nothing, absolutely nothing, but be itself’  –– Nan Shepherd The Living Mountain (1977)

Liquids leak, they ooze and transmute, they distil and become essential, they suspend and dissolve. We use liquid metaphors: cash is liquid as are assets and investments and economies; opinions are fluid; as are politicians and politics and religions (sometimes). Liquids are solid too, and sometimes disappear into the air, like magic.

So perhaps the notion of a liquidscape becomes a metaphor for porosity and fluidity: across borders, across languages, across cultures. Water may wash away what we imagined was forever, but for millennia water was also the means of melding cultures through expedition, trade, art and war.

‘A wind spell can be bought from the [sea] witches in Lerwick in Shetland. The spells are bound into knots that can be untied to release the wind. Untying the first knot releases a gentle southwesterly; the second knot brings stronger north winds; and the third knot calls up a tempest. ­–– Tania Kovats Drawing Water (2014)

Perhaps we are more conscious of this element in our environmentally troubled times, becoming fearsome as our climate seems to drift increasingly into moments of violent turmoil. Here in our little island, protected and moderated as it is by the warmth of the Gulf Stream and the cocooning of the sea itself, we are surprised when weather attacks us: and when it bites, it bites in the form of water, flooding our fields, washing away our roads and beaches, sometimes even our cars and houses. But, comparatively, our storms seem dainty, polite, rather under-stated.

Across the globe increasingly violent storms are quite literally washing away the foundations of daily life, changing landscapes, communities and infrastructure, and diminishing governmental authority. Ice melt is causing sea level rise, palpable and threatening to increasing numbers of people. Cities, cultures and landforms are fundamentally and permanently altered.

Climate change in incontestable form.

Above all, whatever our origin or wherever we live, water (and other magical liquids: mercury, steel, blood) is our god and our alchemical muse: it is weaved into poetic language everywhere and in many guises. Our interconnection with it is as profound as it is absolute.

Without it, we die.

Keynote presentations and events

Tristan Gooley (‘How to Read Water’) title TBA
Amy Sharrocks: Against Dryness
Prof Paul Murdin OBE: Planetary Vistas: the landscapes of other worlds
Opening night screening of Eric Steel’s Kiss the Water (2013)

Academic Partners

Schumacher College
Sustainable Earth Institute, Plymouth University

Some potential topics

Not intended to be proscriptive or prescriptive, this list of topics suggests areas we are likely to explore. However we are open to all relevant ideas, from the philosophical to the most practical and pragmatic:


  • Ecologies of water
  • Water and warfare
  • Drought and flood
  • Water politics
  • Borders
  • Water as power


  • Edgelands
  • Drawn to the sea
  • The phenomenological sea; the phenomenological river


  • Poetics of river science
  • The romantic sea; the sublime sea
  • Mythologies of the sea and half-human creatures
  • Human relationships with dolphins and other sea mammals
  • Drawn to the sea
  • Swimming as meditation
  • Swimming as creative act
  • Swimming and a changed relationship to nature
  • Visual narratives of water
  • Hydrophonics: what can we learn from the sounds of water?
  • Poetics of water in Islam and other ancient cultures
  • Dyeing, bleaching and printing

Humanities and Sciences

  • Environmental hazard
  • Water on other planets
  • Water health as an indicator of planetary health
  • Aridity and arid cultures
  • Drought and flood
  • Monsoon
  • Languages of rain in rainy climates
  • Sea roads and cultural interchange
  • Mapping and navigation
  • Flow, current, tide
  • Poetics of river science

Cross-cutting themes

  • Languages of rain in rainy climates
  • Environmental hazard
  • Swimming, sailing and extreme endurance
  • Osmosis
  • Incursion
  • Flow, current, tide
  • Calling rain: mysticism of the rain dance
  • suspensions / solutions and other modes of combination in liquid
  • changing states: solid to liquid, liquid to gas etc. Also as metaphor
  • liquidity in economic systems
  • water as metaphor


Types of submission

Submit any ideas that inspire you and which you think may have a place during this event. There will be limited slots available, so please astound us. We would particularly welcome proposals from artists, writers and other makers as well as panels or interviews or other discursive formats. Please bear in mind that the event takes place in a particular environment: Dartington is a 1,200-acre mixed estate that includes modern and ancient woodland, riverside with swimming access, open pasture, formal gardens, and other outdoor sites where people can meet and work in groups. We particularly encourage proposals that take advantage of this context. Explore at We are looking for submissions that utilise the following formats:

  • academic paper presentations lasting no more than 20 minutes (plus 10 minutes for Q&A)
  • presentation about artwork (artist talk)
  • film or informal performance
  • panel discussions, live interviews, roundtables and other discursive formats, lasting 55 minutes. There is potential to broadcast these live. See below for further details
  • walking and other outdoor activities, particularly ones that engage with theoretical or philosophical thought in addition to their creative content
  • workshops, lasting 1.5 or 2.5 hours

If you are geographically distant and choosing not to travel you can indicate your willingness to present via video or Skype. If your proposal is accepted you will be asked to register as a Presenter. Although there is generally time dedicated to Q&A please consider how interaction with the audience might be part of your offer. We will likely favour presentations where the interactive or the performative has been highlighted. Beyond these formats, there is the potential for ‘extended’ special topics. You might, for example proposal a day-long workshop or round-table focussing on a very particular topic. If you’d like to make such a proposal, choose ‘Other’ when filling in the form and tell us in as much detail as you can about your idea. In pitching these ideas, you’ll be accepting a leadership role in making them happen within the context of the larger event.

Discursive formats

Panels and Roundtables in academic conferences typically follow a model where contributors each speak for 5-10 minutes with time allowed for questions at the end. In reality speakers often exceed their time allotments and little time is left for audience participation. We really don’t want that, so we’d be very happy for you to propose different models which break the ‘expert table’ model and are genuinely about conversation and discourse rather than being yet another set of presentations. Using the online form you can send information to the website that will encourage others to become involved in your panel. You can retain curation of the final makeup, but this is a way for you find interesting people who are planning to attend the event. However, please don’t expect us to organise your panels for you. If you are proposing a panel you’re accepting the responsibility to collect contributors and ensure they plan to attend the event. A pre-organized roundtable should include at least four participants. Roundtable proposals should include:

  • a succinct, 50-word explanation of and rationale for the roundtable topic
  • a timeline of the programme, including time for audience interaction and Q & A, and
  • evidence of each participant’s expertise in the topic area.

One other discursive format we’d very much like to encourage to replace a paper session is a ‘live interview’ or simply a conversation between yourself and one or two others. We’ll need to understand what you’re hoping to achieve through the conversation. If an interview, we’ll need to be sure that both parties involved are planning to attend the symposium.


We are making space in the programme for some short readings. If you have a piece of text (it may be your own, or someone else’s) that you believe speaks to the topic and lasts around five minutes, we’d be happy to consider your proposal. We are asking you to perform your reading: if you’re not confident that you can do this well you can also propose a reader.

Symposium Convenor

Dr Richard Povall

Richard Povall is a sound artist, researcher and educator and the founding Director of His practice and research centre around our relationship with the natural world and ecological systems and art practices. He has taught a numerous college and universities in the UK and US.

Organising committee

  • Dr Silvia Battista
  • Dr Katrina Brown
  • Laura Denning
  • Dr Alex Murdin
  • Stuart Mugridge
  • Mat Osmond



The deadline for submission is 22.00 GMT on Wednesday November 20, 2017. We are requesting 250-word abstracts or outlines, which must be submitted here.  We are unable to accept any submissions after the deadline or by any other method.


Wednesday June 20 to Friday June 22, 2018



Dartington Hall, Totnes, Devon TQ9 6EJ, UK

The venue is set on the rural medieval estate in England’s South Hams (South Devon). Accommodation on site is available.

More about the venue


Registration costs

All registrations include lunch, but not accommodation.

Standard delegate fee £220 (10% discount for members)
Early Bird Registration £180 (10% discount for members)
Presenters with institutional affiliation (including Skype presentations) £180 (10% discount for members)
Presenters (independent artists, researchers, etc.) £110 (10% discount for members)
Concession delegates £95
Steward Bursaries £50

Get news

We’ll send you updates about Liquidscapes and from time to time general updates on


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Linked events

From Saturday June 9 to Monday June 18 2018 with we will be running The river: dancing, speaking, singing, laughing (a Global Nomadic Art Project) on behalf of CCANW with fifteen artists from across the world.

We will also offer a residential short course: The Sea.  Dates, course team and venue: TBC