top of page

What was Lost?

This work is a performative installation installed on the Brighton beach—one of the coastal areas in Melbourne is threatened by multiple environmental problems.  It is image-inspired (playing sand on the beach) and incorporates a fictional fantasy—the flooding in the future. In this process, not much different from everyday life, I did the daily activities at this beach — making sandcastles. and wait for destructive flooding. During the process of producing, many people communicated with me, some helped me to build, and some accompanied me to wait for the tidal power. It reflects the issues of sea-level rising by exploring symbolisation and site-specificity and finally engages the audience to participate in the creating process and keep the dialogue on climate change.

In recent years, natural disasters took place and caused severe dagame to the earth. It is reported that almost 90% of natural disasters are related to the water, and the frequency and intensity of these disasters are obviously rising, which has a serious impact on the world (Cnhubei News 2014). Sea-level rising is the most potentially discussed and most potentially important issue related to global warming. Not only is there a large part of the world's population living in areas that may be affected by rising sea levels, but the long-term adjustment of the ocean itself means that, in principle, this process will be largely irreversible.


So I want to do a project to express the power of the water and draw people’s concerns on environmental issues. By making the perception of the bodies as a vehicle for this connection, I will challenge the combination of visibility and knowledge. It may be idealistic to imagine that art can be helpful to address global issues. However, it can precisely multiply connections by implicating the perceived bodies of the viewer during the connection process. This, in turn, avoids paralysis and despair and has the possibility of hope.

Then, I consider how to construct a closer connection between Melbourne and Sea-level rising issue; how to engage the public for thoughts.

I searched for the information about the coastal area in Melbourne and found that Brighton Beach could be the most suitable place as this area is threatened by a variety of environmental issues, including the sea-level rise.






















So, I visited the Brighton beach and when I walk along the coastline, I noticed some signs that appeal to making room for nature in our urban future. Inspired by these signs, I asked myself that Does production make for a better tomorrow? 

Hence, I created this work --- what was lost? , with the expectation of that gaining the answers from the public.


I conceived an alive performance that utilised the water to shape sand, then make sandcastles on the Brighton beach,  and continually increase the quantities. If it is possible,  I would invite the public to participate. This behaviour might seem to be the process of urban-expansion. Then, waiting for the tide to destroy them. It sounds like a disaster scenery, but it also indicates the laws of nature, the origin of life. We use water to construct all of them, but finally, we can only witness the gradual destruction, and there is no way out.


Nothing could be more impressive than our own experience. So I want to explore an art language of symbolism and metaphor to imagine a possible future scenario and hope for the public response.

However, How to use a small size sandcastle to imagine a scene of destruction caused by disaster? How to activate the public and draw their attention to global issues? How to tell a story and belongs to a place and the community in here, how can they become collaborators in this event?

Perception and Participation 

The transformation of the art and place leads to redefining the meaning of the space. It means instead of focusing on the thought of original author and aesthetics, the work of art will keep a kind of proper relationship that can be perceptible between place and viewers (Kwon 2004, p.66).

Actually, making a sandcastle is similar to the general playing activity on Australia beaches. and with the increase in quantity, it generated a sense of ritual which made up the limitation of its small scale, the familiar sandcastles and beach activities as a great connection, seems to contribute to a broader dialogue with children and the travellers.


In this process, I made the sandcastles(daily activities at the beach) and blend in with the neighbourhood. Boys played ballgames around me and were careful not to hit my castles. Everything is so harmonious. A girl joined me and when she saw I stop to colour my hand, and pick up a piece of wood to draws some patterns, she seems that have realised these narratives. I expanded the scale at a faster rate and kept changing my hands' colour. These details linked with each other and let the seemingly unmotivated behaviour become very deliberate. More and more people stopped their feet, and when they communicated with me, they are self-conscious actors in this performance.

People interrupted me freely, and when they talk to me and understand my ideas, they proposed to help me record this moment, and according to my thoughts, they observe the sand and the sea, imagining the scene of a disaster, as well as exchanging their opinions about sea-level rise. Looking like a part of life, the following performance is ongoing without prediction.

During the process of waiting for the tide, I explained to them about the purpose of my work, and introduce further damage that threatening to the place. Some of my audiences are international travellers, and they were attracted by the rainbow bathing box. While when they heard that these boxes might be damaged in the future, they felt sorry and thought we have to prevent it in advance. Some local people claimed that they have never known this before. Moreover, I introduced other risks as well as the various values of the place that include historical value, aboriginal cultural heritage value (the largest remaining midden site remaining near central Melbourne), iconic cultural and post-settlement heritage assets (bathing box), the Brighton Dunes( a site of geological and geomorphological significance in Port Phillip). 

To my surprise, they were willing to learn about this information and wait for the tide with me. At that moment, my work was like a medium of learning, providing an opportunity for us to rethink this place that it is not only an entertainment site.


As time passed, the tide destroyed all of the sandcastles. We sat on the beach, hearing the voice of the wave. No one would speak any more as they might be sad for the destruction. I asked myself in a low voice -- what was lost? and then I saw some of them went back to take photos of the bathing box. 

According to the bayside city council, there are three methods considered to manage the sea level rising, vegetation planting, repairing the seawalls and increase the sand. So I think the third one could be explored into a social event that invites residents and volunteers to join the activity of increasing sand. Because not everyone is indifferent and passive, but they don't know the situation. So it is necessary to provide accessible education of their living place for the public.


"Seawall and sand movements are two areas that need to be maintained. The Vulnerability Study indicates that this section of the foreshore will come under increased pressure from sea level rise and more extreme events. Seawalls and sandstone horns will be increasingly hit by waves during storms. The frequency of beach nutrition may need to be increased. Bathing boxes may be threatened by these changes "(Bayside city council,2014).

bottom of page