Copyright 2013

Beach laboratory: Burntisland to St. Monans

The substance obtained from seawater in alchemical terms is considered to derive from all four elements: ‘fire freed from the waters of the earth by evaporation’.

This project, based on the salt industry along the Firth of Forth, is ongoing. The concept of a beach laboratory was conceived in 2010 when Dempsey & Boer were on a residency at Badgast, Scheveningen, the Netherlands, and was further expanded during the summer of 2011.

Salt was produced along the Firth because of the plentiful supply of coal in the area. In the 16th/17th century it was a highly valued commodity and was produced in bulk. Sea water was evaporated by boiling it up with locally sourced coal. Back then salt was so expensive that it was worth using 16kg of coal to make 1kg of salt, by evaporating 33 liters of sea water.

Nowadays the use desalination for fresh water supplies is becoming more common through refined techniques of reversed osmoses. This process is very expensive and takes a lot of energy, but our need for water overrides any ecological concern.

The mobile beach laboratory is intended to travel to salt pans along the Fife coast.This self- contained mobile unit could be set up for fieldwork on location or could be used in a gallery space for exhibition. This would give the artists freedom to make work by exploring and responding to various locations near to where the original salt pans were and then take the work to local gallery spaces for exhibition.