enter change Performance and Nature connect unsettle bridge
Bird Brain Critical Art Ensemble Welfare State International
Simon Whitehead
Shelley Sacks
green museum.org Fern Shaffer and Othello Anderson
David Haley
John Lyall
Ballet Atlantique-Regine Chopinot
Opening Essay Introducing the Artists Links and Readings
Hester Reeve Basia Irland


Vortices Duoro 2001


Seeking an Unacceptable Profile:
species nova [to look anew] #1


Seeking an Unacceptable Profile:
species nova [to look anew] #1


River Life 3000: a dialogue for the beginning of time


River Life 3000: installation


River Life 3000: psalm door

What a performance!
What, a performance?

I consider all my work to be a performance in some sense – change is an important element in its process/structure/form. Between the child-like excitement of the magical eruption of the Guinness Clock (originally sited in Battersea Park, London) and the adrenaline rush of stage fright, the works live or die. Reflecting on time and mortality, the ‘art’ exists in my attempts to reduce uncertainty to risk.

Personal statement of ecological arts practice :

Ecology: the study of organisms in relation to one another and to their surroundings, derived from the Greek word, oikos, meaning house, or dwelling

Art: rt from an Indo-Aryan noun/adjective of the Rg Veda, meaning the dynamic process by which the whole cosmos continues to be created - virtuously

Eco-art  ‘…the most moral act of all is the making of space for life to move onward’. – Robert Pirsig, Lila: an inquiry in to morals.

I perceive our ability to survive climate change as the enactment of an evolutionary narrative.  My interdisciplinary research attempts to integrate quantitative and qualitative methodologies into the creative process. This informs my practice to generate poetic dialogues that resonate as creative interventions in pursuit of aesthetic diversity to develop communities of inquiry for an eco-centric culture.

Using water as a metaphor for life and understanding (memory), I consider each work/project to be a tributary to the stream of practice – a confluence of actions to engage others in a dynamic dialogue and experience an embodied ecology – Shiva Nataraja.

Seeking an Unacceptable Profile: species nova [to look anew] # 1  2000

Based on research into the microbial content in drinking water with Professor Joanna Verran and two of her BSc students, the performed installation also considered the language of science used to identify and categorise new bacteria. Visitors to the installation had their feet washed by Haley (dressed in a laboratory white coat) and were then invited to tour six, back-lit water coolers to experience different uses of water – drinking, washing, wasting, renouncing guilt, anointing, purifying.

Projected images of water-born bacteria filled a wall of the transformed lecture theatre, while a voice-over narrated the students’ scientific report with the understated authority of a BBC radio newscaster. Twelve Haiku poems and other texts questioned our relationship with and experience of ‘nature’.

In your blood I run,
A fugitive from your time.
Through tears you see me.

The work gave rise to the on-going, ‘species nova [to look anew]’, programme of artworks that investigate the evolutionary implications of climate change - dissolving the conflict between culture and nature in water.

River Life 3000: a dialogue for the beginning of time 2001 and continuing

Commissioned as an on-going ecological arts residency by Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery, the programme of projects considers creative opportunities for the future of people living with climate change and the River Severn. This was prompted by the ‘Great Millennium Floods’ of 2000/2001. Shrewsbury’s remediation strategy, designed by the Environment Agency, aimed to reduced the risk of flooding from 1 in 50 years to 1 in 100 years. I posed the question, ‘what might happen in a 1 in 1,000 year scenario, given the accelerating effects of climate change’ (hence River Life 3000)?

The ‘live gallery installation’ (2003) featured the enhanced and amplified splash of water drips, marking the passage of time, as they drained from a glass clepsydra (an ancient Greek water clock) to potentially flood a glass font set below. The theatrical lighting and placing of the elements, including poems written onto flood damaged doors, further heightened the drama of this work.

The door poems:

  1. The future and other creation myths
  2. In the making
  3. Psalm for the Severn
  4. The drawing and the re-drawing of the littoral
  5. Come to pass

As a means of developing active local participation and international awareness of the River Life 3000 dialogue, I have performed poetry from this work at conferences, galleries and public meetings in the UK, Europe and Japan. So, the poetic narrative, taken from conversations with floodplain dwellers, environmental professionals, and local authority officers, has touched different publics and thereby extended the diversity of the programme’s aesthetic. This form owes much to my field research of Indian folk performance - storytelling being the archetypical form for all art – seamlessly vocal, visual and physical acts evoking a shared experience. 

Door Poem : Come to Pass

one drop of water
potential diversity
life as we know it

…come to pass…

and when love runs out
a re-futures aesthetic
time to see anew

…come to pass…

pyramids flooded
this ark of the covenant
castles made of sand

…come to pass…

spreading summer’s song
words fall in to the moment
Sabrina’s rhythm

…come to pass…

to witness, to see,
to know and to understand,
to love, you and me

…come to pass…

a futures toolkit
for all the drivers of change
the risk we take

…come to pass…

re-future trading 
uncertain speculation

…come to pass…

fugitive love song

a re-insurance culture

re-value, re-life

…All things come to pass…

species nova

See also the performance text by David Haley :

Creative interventions: eco-culture and aesthetic diversity [PDF]

Species Nova [To See Anew]: Art as Ecology [PDF]


w :
e : d.haley at mmu.ac.uk

Events at which the poetic narrative from River Life 3000 has been performed include:

River life: a meandering intervention 2001

Public Art Observatory international conference, University of Barcelona

The future and other creation myths  2002

Emotional Geographies international conference, Lancaster University,

Come to pass

ASLE international conference, University of Leeds, UK

Psalm for the Severn  2002

Shrewsbury Traders Association, River Group

Thank you / Towards a Kyoto Proposal / A Plea for Participation 2003

River Life 3000 private view, Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery
Honen-in Temple, 3rd World Water Forum/Crossover UK, Kyoto
Social Sculpture / Connective Aesthetics Methodologies Colloquium, Oxford Brookes University
Crossover UK seminar (performed by David Harding), Whitechapel Art Gallery, London
Public Parks: Keep Out conference, Sensory Trust/Green Spaces, Manchester Town Hall


David Haley’s arts practice comes from a Fine Arts training, community arts development and European touring theatre. His ecological direction began as General Manager of the pioneering celebratory arts company, Welfare State International and developed with his Barrow Environmental Arts Unit (BEAU) regeneration project.

As a Research Fellow at MIRIAD, the Manchester Institute for Research and Innovation in Art and Design at Manchester Metropolitan University, Haley contributes to SEA (Social and Environmental Arts) Research Unit, Arts for Health, A&E: art&ecology research centre and is the MA Art As Environment Course Leader.  He also sits on the University’s Community Group and Faculty Equal Opportunities Committee.

Haley is a Director on the Board of Trustees of CITE: Commissions In The Environment and a member of Manchester City Council’s Arts in Mental Health, Neighbourhood Renewal Fund, Pathways Steering Group. He is an active member of the Public Art Observatory and regularly contributes to international journals, publications, conferences and exhibitions.

Photo Credits

1] David Haley
2 & 3] Simon Webb
4] David Haley
5 & 6] Yvonne Haley

Photographs provided by and copyright of David Haley

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