Interactive digital documentary at Reece to transport viewers
to ‘front lines’ of powerful worldwide coastal, climate issues
All the sights and sounds of the shore are there – the ebb and flow of waves, an occasional flock of gulls or a crane, a passing fishing boat, a bobbing plastic bottle, colorful chairs and umbrellas on the beach, a looming oil derrick. With video and educational materials from nine countries, Liz Miller’s “The Shore Line Project” documents the gamut of the wonders and concerns surrounding the world’s coastlines, and the interactive documentary or “storybook,” as she calls it, will be at the fingertips of East Tennessee visitors Sept. 24 to Oct. 5 at Reece Museum.
“There has never been a better time to rethink our relationship to our shorelines,” says the
award-winning documentarian. “We are seeing one of the greatest migrations of all times towards coastal cities at precisely the moment we should consider retreat. Shorelines are powerful, disruptive and awe-inspiring … a front line for disasters and they are also the front line of resistance.”
The Communication Studies professor at Concordia University in Montreal shot, inspired or gathered 43 stories for this online, digital storybook – profiling the efforts of educators, artists, architects, scientists, city planners and youth organizations that are confronting coastal challenges with “persistence and imagination,” Miller says.
Documented shorelines span the globe: mangrove forests in New Zealand, a fishing community in Southern India, Chile’s endangered glaciers, a stormy barrier island in New Jersey, polluted waters in the Andamen Islands, a river in Jakarta now an eco-park, flood-beset Bangladesh and Vancouver, the recovering Everglades, the largest Arctic coral reef, Carti Sugdup, Panama, and the Salish Nation of the Pacific Northwest.
“By featuring stories of resilience from shoreline communities around the world, we hope to inspire diverse ways of responding to our changing environment,” Miller says.
Miller will also visit East Tennessee State University for an artist talk at Reece Museum on Tuesday, Sept. 25 at 6 p.m., with a reception to follow, as well as conversations with students in Radio-TV-Film, Sustainability and the Honors College, event co-sponsors with Mary B. Martin School of the Arts at ETSU.
ETSU Media + Communication professor and RTVF Head Shara Lange got to know Miller and her work while Lange was on a recent non-instructional assignment in Canada. “Besides being both important and beautiful, Miller’s work is resonant for so many disciplines on campus, so I was really excited to have her come to ETSU,” says fellow documentarian Lange. “I was thrilled that we easily assembled a broad coalition who saw different ways her work, Reece exhibit and campus visit would be valuable for students and community members.”
This melding of digital, interactive, educational and collaborative documentary styles – which resides online at http://theshorelineproject.org/ – makes the “The Shore Line Project” and its creator a unique experience to bring to the campus and the people of the region, says Anita DeAngelis, director of Mary B. Martin School of the Arts. “It’s quite a bit different from what many people might think of when they hear the word ‘exhibition,’ ” DeAngelis says. “First, it’s digital. Second, a viewer can choose from the 43 videos how many they watch and hand-pick the locations. So, if they are from Vancouver, they might
watch that one first. The way the exhibit will be organized will make it a very personal experience for each person.”
The format and Miller’s collaborative focus make this project an educational experience in myriad ways, Lange says. “With ‘The Shoreline Project,’ Miller is not only addressing ecological issues in an interactive format (an online, or ‘I-doc’), but she is also rethinking the process of producing this work…” she says. “I’m eager for our students to hear about how Miller conceptualizes her work but also the nuts and bolts of the film production process based on her
numerous experiences. As a filmmaker and a scholar, she’s someone who can speak to both aspects of
the creative process.”
Miller developed a multifaceted collaborative model for “The Shore Line” – creating the short videos in classroom-size bites and working with students, journalists and non-profits to piece together one-page-each study guides. Videos were made in some cases with Miller as mentor and teacher, guiding young budding co-directors in the differing communities and in other instances by
researcher/documenters in locations Miller herself could not reach.
“The idea was activating local knowledge and sharing skills and sharing knowledge … and this collaborative collection in telling a story” Miller says. It is a different model than trying to deliver a media project. It’s trying to use a media project to invite new forms of collaboration.
“I might not do this for every project, but climate change is basically an issue that’s impacting all of us, and it’s an issue that going to ask us to think outside the box and to think beyond neighborhood, beyond nation, beyond ethnicities and to really think past our own sense of ‘I’m right’ or ‘You’re wrong.’ It’s really going to stretch our imaginations and how we resolve these large problems and collaborate across distances.”
Though ETSU is not near a coastal area, Miller says there’s still reason for landlocked East Tennesseans to be involved in ‘The Shore Line’ effort and what she calls “environmental justice.” East Tennessee has lakes and rivers that connect communities and affect the region’s economy and its people’s health. “The Tennessee River [in Knoxville] includes more than 40,000 square miles of watershed and 11,000 miles of shoreline,” she says. “That river supplies drinking water, it sustains habitats for native plants, it offers fishing and swimming and it also enables a lot of the trade that moves throughout the state …”
“ ‘Shore Line’ is really intended to create a prompt, to follow the lead of our environment that has protected us for centuries. If we take better care of our natural resources, they will be there for us and they will be there to protect us in the future.”
For more information, call the Martin School of the Arts at 423-439-TKTS (8587) or visit www.etsu.edu/martin. For disability accommodations, call the ETSU Office of Disability Services at 423-439- 8346. Follow the Martin School of the Arts on
Twitter @artsatetsu and on Facebook.