Test Design Lighthouse

More – marine – myth

An awareness-raising pilot project

Scientific knowledge and accurate observations are not the only approaches to understanding natural life forms, phenomena and forms of communication which are beyond the range of human sensory perception and relatively remote from our experience. All the ancient cultures have embedded their conceptions of environment, in the broadest sense, in myths, fairy tales, sagas and ballads.


What pictures do these texts paint of how people related to their natural environment in the past, and how are these pictures perceived today? What are the options for informing the wider public about precarious ecological problems – without taking an overtly didactic approach? How can artistic forms of expression, such as music, theatre, multimedia presentations etc., be used to heighten this kind of awareness?


The project confronts interdisciplinary issues at the interface of cultural semiotics, linguistics and ecology, as they apply to the field of maritime research: whale watching in the Canaries, between projection, romanticism and commerce.


Analysis is being carried out of sustainable methods for informal, in situ environmental education, in collaboration with the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt (Oder) and La Laguna University in Tenerife. In parallel with ongoing internships in the biological sciences, supplementary events are laid on which not only provide relevant background information on whales (Cetacea) from a cultural studies perspective, but also hold up artistic forms of presentation for debate. Themes such as bioacoustics, sonar systems and whale song in the context of increasing underwater noise are just as interesting as, for instance, the place of the dolphin in the myth and legend of Spanish/Canarian tradition.


One emphasis of the project is on outreach, and not just to a tourist audience, or to dedicated “whale watchers” who are already ecology-minded and have travelled from abroad for that specific reason. It also aims to enhance the local population’s awareness of the richness of their native land. So for events held on the Canaries, music, magic and myths about the immediate surroundings are kept firmly at the forefront. Sessions revolve around maritime subject matter and are run bilingually as a matter of policy. In autumn 2003, programmes of this kind entitled “Musica, Magia & Cuentos” have already led to amazing encounters between artists and local Canarians, some of whom have already been helped to rediscover long-forgotten traditions of their own.


Of course, when music is used in this way, it is not only a highly effective emotional element, but also an international language which can overcome individual differences to make unifying connections. On this basis, regular events of other kinds are being developed in cooperation with local platforms for culture. These will carry forward the idea of “art and culture as a medium for awareness raising”, and apply it to the precarious situation of marine ecology.