A circular economy artwork

Katie Paterson,

Katie Paterson Studio, Anna Lakala,



Landscaping, Event,

Katie Paterson’s First There is a Mountain artwork travelled to 25 coastal arts venues across the United Kingdom during the thirty-two-week period of daylight saving time last year and is now being composted as a circular economy artwork at National Trust property Cliveden House.

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A circular economy artwork Last Spring we blogged about the Scottish artist Katie Paterson and her artwork, First There is a Mountain. A project that brought together her attraction to the mountains and the geology of the earth with coastal locations that are in turn greatly influenced by another natural phenomenon - tides. For the artwork, Paterson created a unique public edition of buckets
and spades
in the form of ‘to scale’ world mountains - Mount Kilimanjaro (Africa), Mount Shasta (USA), Mount Fuji (Asia), Stromboli (Europa) and Uluru (Oceania) - all nested together in a set. At each venue, for this collaborative cross-disciplinary project, members of the public were invited to use the sets to build sand mountains but this artwork also involved celebrated authors, poets, geologists, earth scientists, ecologists, and art writers who accompanied the artwork’s evolution with their own work.
Following a lengthy process of planning and prototyping, was used to make the bucket and spade from a bio-compostable plastic made from 100% fermented plant starch. Katie Peterson opted for this because she wanted to make her installation really sustainable, particularly in view of the fact that the sets were being used on the seashore. So, should the sets have been lost, or swept out to sea during the tour, unlike regular plastics (which can take hundreds of years to degrade) they would return to the landscape, leaving no chemical trace within a matter of months and not adding to the waste already floating in our seas and oceans and that make their way into our food chain.
The decision connected to the choice of material for First There is a Mountain was based very closely on the circular economy. According to the definition provided by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, this is “one that is restorative and regenerative by design and aims to keep products, components, and materials at their highest utility and value at all times, distinguishing between technical and biological cycles.” 
(source: https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/circular-economy/what-is-the-circular-economy)
So, Katie Paterson responds to this fundamental requirement of the circular economy in a final gesture in the artwork’s six-month tour and ‘life-cycle’: the sets have been shredded and composted by First There is a Mountain project partner National Trust at Cliveden House. Cliveden is an English country house and estate in the care of the National Trust in Buckinghamshire, on the border with Berkshire. The Italianate mansion, known as Cliveden House, sits on banks 40 metres above the River Thames, and its grounds slope down to the river. Cliveden has become one of the National Trust's most popular pay-for-entry visitor attractions, hosting 483,754 visitors in 2018, not least because of its beautiful gardens, including a formal parterre, maze, garden sculptures and woodlands. The remains of these small mountains will be ready in March, scattered back into the soil in a circular gesture, allowing new growth in the grounds of the widely visited Cliveden House.

Christiane Bürklein

Project: Katie Paterson
Location: Buckinghamshire, UK
Year: 2019-2020
Images: Katie Peterson Studio, Anna Lakala, Cliveden House
Find out more: https://www.firstthereisamountain.com/