Wetlands • Sharon McElroy

video with costume installation

video with costume installation

video with costume installation

Artist's Statement

Disturb_ance is a continuation of my usual working practice, which uses narrative film and installation to respond to a specific site or situation. I have extensive experience of operating within a range of environments and of undertaking comprehensive research of the chosen context. I enjoy creating fictional characterizations, costumes and props, through which I expose existing, often hidden narratives and develop new ones.


In this piece, themes of conflict, invasiveness, toxicity and displacement are enacted through four hybrid anthropomorphic forms; Aqua Bird, White Poisoner, Pond Foliate, and Mussel Crab. Each character has a distinct identity and aesthetic, the inspiration for which is drawn from popular culture, urban mythology, folkloric seasonal festivals and the historical and contemporary contexts of the London Wetlands Centre site itself. 


Disturb_ance explores the often hidden struggles for habitat, food and breeding opportunities among co-existing flora and fauna species and the conflicts arising from the incompatibility of some groups. The work also aims to highlight the detrimental, invasive nature of certain native and non-native flora and fauna, and the contamination and pollution of ecosystems by a widespread use of certain domestic, cleaning, personal care and laundry products. This implicitly connects to the WWT’s valuable work in the areas of habitat management, breeding programme and water filtration.


As the metaphorical battle between ‘good and evil’ plays out and a sense of forboding prevails, this may provoke the question: 


‘What will be the consequences if destructive forces remain unchecked?’


Audio Description Transcript

Disturbance by Sharon McElroy

Inside the Trappers Lodge are the costumes made by Sharon McElroy for her film installation ‘Disturbance’.  The Trappers Lodge is a single story cabin made from whole felled trees stacked in horizontal rows.  Inside, the cabin is held up by a pitched frame which is visible.  The walls and floorboards are untreated and there is no natural light inside the cabin creating a rustic and intimate setting for the display of these costumes and complimenting their handmade and folkloric nature.  

To the right of the cabin as you enter are five costumes, two on wooden plinths, two suspended in the air and a fifth on a mannequin.

From left to right:

Mussell Crab

A figure sits on a square wooden plinth that is 1 metre square.  Made from a packing crate, printed onto the plinth are the words ‘Handle With Care’.  The headdress and top half of a costume sit on the plinth.  This is the character Mussell Crab.  The headpiece is created from orange water proof fabric.  A padded shower-cap-like hat is strewn with strands of grey wool and encircled by a black and white stripe of tape, with orange bobble trim hanging over the forehead.  The face is an orange fabric mask with black googles for eyes and a circle of black mesh for a mouth.  The torso is padded and decorated with stripes of black leather, white canvas and mustard netting.  Seaweed like pieces or orange net are layered over the chest.  The upper arms are black whilst the crab’s claws are made from black leather and orange felt gloves.

White Poisoner

Suspended from the ceiling on nylon fishing wire is the ghost like form of the White Poisoner.  A white top hat covered in padded white leaves forms the headpiece.  The face is formed using panels of horizontal pleated cotton fabric with plastic sunglasses for eyes and a horizontal zip forming the mouth.  A kaftan style dress in white cotton forms the body, and texture is created with layers of waffle fabric and netting.  The figure has outstretched arms with long medieval triangular sleeves.  The hand on the left is padded leaf forms while the hand to the right seems half human, half tree branch with seven elongated fingers.  In the right hand is a white staff made from a white pole and sink plumbing.

Aqua Bird Headress

In the centre of the group is a second wooden crate plinth showcasing the headdress of the character Aqua Bird.  A bright blue gauze fabric covers the face and neck of this character.  A greeny-blue snorkel-like plastic tube runs from the mouth, curving up and above the head.  The eyes, made from blue mirrored sunglasses are barely visible behind a circle of dried grasses that cover the brim of a turquoise hat.  Purple flowers obscure the nose and green leaves create a plume in the centre of the hat.

Pond Foliator

On a mannequin stands the full length costume of the Pond Foliator.  The headdress is cloak-like and constructed of muddy green cotton fabric decorated with green vinyl lilypads and blue butterflies.  The face is covered with khaki green netting and contains no features.  Layers of fabric, vinyl and net in different shades of green flow down over the shoulders and across the chest.  A vinyl lily-pad is pinned rosette like to the right side of the chest.  The dress of the costume is made from long strips of vinyl, fabric and net in shades of yellow, orange, turquoise, khaki and bright green.  Pond Foliators full-length staff of bamboo sticks tied with string is suspended behind the mannequin.  A basket of green lily-pads hangs from the staff and blue butterflies hover above.

Aquabird Costume

Suspended high above the ground to the right of the group is the jacket of the Aquabird costume.  Resembling an 18th century men’s coat, the jacket is tightly fitted to the body.  It has a winged collar and tail coat.  Made of royal blue waterproof material the coat is lined with turquoise iridescent fabric with a cravat in the same iridescent material.  A sheer blue chiffon cape is attached at the neck and covers the shoulders.   The jacket has two button down flap pockets sitting at an angle at hip level with the same buttons holding back the lapels.  Aquabird’s right arm is outstretched and holding a staff made from a blue pole topped with bamboos and trailing strips of iridescent fabric and string.