Christian Bermudez joined ISIS for an international research residency in November 2011, Christian was born in Costa Rica and is currently based in Oslo, Norway.
While in residence Christian carried out research on a new project called Ballast Hill which focused on the environmental landscape of Newcastle and how it has been shaped by the coal and shipping industry of the past. Christian worked in the realms of botany, mapping the exotic plants that arrived to Newcastle's port by ballast in cargo ships during previous centuries as a metaphor of current migration movements.
"It is my main goal to create a map, a contemporary image of Newcastle throughout its flora, and history, as a metaphor of the city and its inhabitants."
Christian's residency diary:
While at residency at ISIS Arts, my research focused on the ballast plants that were transported to the coast of the Tyne as result of the coal, glass and pottery industries. During the industrial period cargo ships needed ballast in order to balance their weights. The ballast was all kind of materials such as earth, sand, rocks, mud, etc. The ballast material also carried seeds that made possible the involuntary introduction of a whole new flora in the landscape of Newcastle and Northumberland.
Many of the plants only survived for a single summer, as few could make it through the harsh winter. Others survived a number of years and managed to adapt to the environment, becoming part of the landscape. The few surviving ballast plants, still found today, are considered by most to be native 'British' species.
The ballast use to be dumped in what is now the Ballast Hill Park in the Ouseburn valley, an area where massive development and regeneration is occurring. Nevertheless the park still is a forgotten and neglected area, sometimes used for fly-tipping and often neglect of people.
It is my intention to map the ballast flora to create a metaphor of contemporary human movements in Newcastle, and hopefully bring some attention to the site, so the community, local business, architects and historians, among others, can engage in the regeneration of the site.
Before leaving Newcastle, I posted 'Lost Plant' posters around the Ouseburn area. I adapted the format of various 'lost cat' posters I kept encountering on my daily walk to the residency studio, substituting the lost pets with lost ballast plants. This 'mini-intervention' presented four randomly chosen plants out of over 200 species of ballast plants that were found on documents at the local library. It was an ephemeral intervention with a hint of humour, but it aimed to catch the attention of local residents about the legacy of the place where they usually walk their dogs. Perhaps a good citizen will respond to my posters having found the lost ballast plants.
If you have an information on the whereabouts of the ballast plants please let us know here.