Angela Cockayne

The Whale as Muse

embrace *mute

It is five hundred years since the Wunderkammer housed a united field of interdisciplinary enquiry, in an age before disciplines became separate under museums of science, nature and art. Fifty years ago CP Snow’s lecture on ‘Two Cultures’ mourned such separation; Edward O Wilson’s recent call echoed the desire for consilience of disciplines through a unity of knowledge.

Perhaps through a reunification, of art, science and nature, exploring a curious even subversive gaze we can confront the sceptical and represent the undeniable evidence of our trajectory through wonderment and engaging visual narratives to reflect upon our actions.

A new short film called Embrace will be screened from 7 November-2 Dec at Newlyn Art Gallery based on an ethical wunderkammer which documents some of the 300 objects installed in a retired wooden fishing vessel. Filmed on midsummers day the film has been described by the author Philip Hoare as ‘A Reliquary of our Age’

Using found materials on Cornish shorelines this interdisciplinary mix of objects, drawings and performance explores a consilience of mythological narrative and ecological concerns through our relationship with the sea, the land and the liminal space in between.

‘Angela Cockayne’s chimeric creations entirely from found materials: the only art we can afford to make in the 21st century?  This work is transcendently beautiful as well as being urgently relevant’ Philip Hoare





Beware Thyself

Fear helps us to stay alive, we are hardwired to react to uncertain and fearful situations. Constant anxiety on the other hand is less good for our health.

We do however seem to be living in an uncertain age where the mass media daily feeds our anxieties for political or corporate gain to the point of saturation.

We can become weary to bad news and made to feel guilty about good fortune and our environmental footprint.

We may no longer fear the bogeyman or the stranger in town, we are too busy worrying about perpetual wars, global warming, government corruption, terrorism, cybercrime, economic collapse let alone our own families, jobs, health or injustice.

It turns out perhaps we should stop worrying so much about the things we have little or no control over, and be more aware of own lifestyles and choices. According to the Atlantic, 2015 was the best year in history to be alive.

Recent american statistics show number of deaths daily within ‘self-control’ compared to 43 murders a day.

890 deaths daily caused by obesity, 241 deaths daily caused by drinking, and 1315 deaths a day related to smoking. 129 suicides a day, 129 accidental overdoses, 97 deaths a day by car accidents.

From Herman Melville’s prophetic masterpiece Moby-Dick

Collectively the stakes are much higher with the environment and the threat of nuclear war again. All we can do is individually try and act responsibly and sustainably and hope that the people we elect to govern us do so with self control. Being kind to others, oneself and our environment for our future generations to enjoy seems a better option than to live in a state constant anxiety.

Propensity for self-destruction

After I finally finished reading Melville’s profoundly prophetic, postmodern and brilliant Moby-Dick (which took three attempts) I was left with the after taste of our fallible propensity for self -destruction.   beware mix sm

I wake up daily to the news, and only this morning hear that Trump has been flying his military might again over the Pacific and fear that nothing has changed despite all our centennial memorials to horrific wars and heartbreaking testaments thinking how did we ever let this happen. Surely we must have learnt something??

Only yesterday I visited a beautiful stately home in Cornwall now part of our collective guilt as it is owned by the National Trust. Inside the mournful house and bucolic grounds I counted along with all the wide-eyed children worryingly doing their quiz activity- a tragic collection of endangered species;


Leopard skin rug x 1


Tiger skin x 2 (or was it 3  ask the children)

Polar Bear x1  (infant)


Moose x 1


Chough x4


Trophy heads and taxidermy a plenty. Even stuffed mice left in traps in the kitchen and servants quarters a curiosity for debate and spectacle.



On reading the supplied blurb of the ten children born to inherit the house, the son and heir also succumbed to the bullet and was also shot.. in WW1 and the younger brother never getting over this committed suicide at a later date leaving the stunning pile without an heir (as daughters non-eligible).

The house is sorrowful everywhere you look, beautiful and privileged sad-eyed children stare from their portraits- full potentials never realised. Glass-eyed Endangered Animals scattered in nurseries and lounges for them to play on a testament to our dominion.

Somethings have changed thankfully even the NH Museum no longer shoots and stuffs animals. World leaders might do well to think more like Moby-Dick rather than Ahab. Sperm Whales have the power to nuke each other with the sonic booms by which they hunt giant squid, but with no castles to defend for sixty million years they choose to live a more sociable existence despite our best efforts to annihilate them.

Warmongers likewise would do better to put down their toys and stop showing each other their nuclear might. The chosen few may sleep better at night knowing they have access to nuclear resistant jets, bunkers with shops, hairdressers, swimming pools and sufficient supplies. But they need to seriously consider the incomprehensibly significant consequences of potential nuclear or biological military action.

There will be no winners in the use of Weapons of mass destruction.
A nuclear or biological war would not just eradicate both ‘enemies’ and civilisation as we know it, but also the plants, pollinators, animals, and microorganisms that facilitate our existence – food, clean air and water.

Who would want to live on this earthly paradise without all creatures great and small that enable our very existence?.

Or perhaps the Sabre rattling and the chosen, have an unlimited supply of insects, bacteria, earthworms, plankton and pollinators in rich supply in their underground bunkers.. a grave prospect either way



Is it later than we think?

Scaring people about climate change does not work. My own brain shuts down at the  prospect of the earth slowly dying. Mother Nature is unwell due to our impact on the environment a fact we have known  for over 100 years but have failed to act upon. Pollution, climate change, habitat destruction, over-consumption caused by human population is having a radical impact on our environment and long-term future. Environmentalists are being assassinated – 97 campaigners so far in 2017  Global Witness. America pulls out of the Paris Accord !!? We fight perpetual wars over power  finance, and resources.

flukes and gynkos sm

Is it hopeless? – even worrying about the prospects of an uninhabitable earth, famines, economic collapse is paralysing. Our understanding dictates whether we reach for the cookie jar, bury our heads in the sand at the enormity, or choose to act responsibly.

“In pushing other species to extinction humanity is busy sawing off the limb on which it perches” – Paul Ehrlich


tantalus sminv

Can humanity and nature be reconciled and work in unison and harmony – not against each other?. The sixth mass extinction may have begun but hopefully we are still within reach of turning the Imperialist vessel that has driven climate change around.

Accepting the damage we are doing is step one to transforming our environment for all our tomorrows. We must embrace the incredible opportunities – think and act long-term to become carbon neutral and employ best sustainable practice so that nature can begin to heal herself.






We have more in common with whales than zebras



Flippers, Pewter, Crayfish and Wool.

10,000 years of “civilisation” cannot offset several million years of evolution and hunter-gathering, perhaps we now live a life that is, in many ways, at odds with our genetic inheritance.

The call of the ocean has dominated much of my life, new scientific evidence suggests our hunter gathering, fishing, seafood craving and water gazing love of the ocean,  may be explained beyond a mere ‘yearning’ for the ocean. Evidence found suggests our early ancestors may have lived a semi-aquatic life in our evolutionary past and we have evolved from an aquatic ape. Archeologists have recently discovered fossil evidence to prove this theory known as the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis(AAH).

When people spend long periods of time in the water e.g. surfers a condition develops where a flap of skin forms to protect the inner ear from water known as ‘Surfers ear,’ evidence of this has recently been found in Neanderthal skulls. This and evidence of marine diets found in the archaeological sites of Homo Erectus may explain how our big brain developed through a shoreline diet and the adaptations required for a life aquatic . Scientists are now acknowledging that our bipedalism may also be associated with a semi-aquatic life rather than the Savanna Theory previously upheld.


Other conflicting factors that may suggest we may not have been designed to suit the Savanna Theory of a fomer existence  as once thought;

  • The development of a large brain like cetacean, undeniably is the main attribute to our success, evidence suggests development of a large brain requires iodine, magnesium, elements found in a shoreline diet of fish and shellfish.
  • (Dolphin 1.8kg                           Zebra 370 g                         Einstein 1.8kg)
  • Vernix a fatty substance on babies at birth also found on seal pups.
  • Babies have an innate ability to control their breathing and can swim underwater from birth and be born in water.
  • Fat babies enable buoyancy, a fat layer would restrict mobility and be a disadvantage in mobility re predation on land.
  • Permanent conspicuous breasts in females help buoyancy re carrying feeding off spring.
  • Difficult births and vaginal prolapses.
  • Sea births in coastal communities (prior to missionaries) children can dive and swim before they can walk.
  • Dive, Swim, float, wide shoulders for swimming.
  • Prone to dehydration, need regular water source.
  • Conscious control of breath found in diving animals and birds.
  • K species predictable environment, slow breeding immature dependent babies like whales and elephants.
  • Big nose but poor smell? Nostrils point down unlike other primates.
  • Bipedalism evolved before a large brain, advantage standing in water to consume a diet, which encourages brain growth.
  • Streamline hydrodynamic bodies, even fine hairs (more per square cm than a chimpanzee) are aligned to be streamline, apes are not.
  • No Fur like other Savanna mammals  ‘hairless’ more vulnerable to heat and temperature regulation.
  • Higher percentage of hemoglobin per cell than primates enables more oxygen for underwater breathing.
  • Bi-pedal,  primates only stand to walk through water.
  • Language, descended larynx like the walrus.
  • Man has comparatively poor location for a land mammal, slow and awkward an ostrich can run faster, easily caught by predatory species.
  • Sweat more than any Savanna mammal.
  • Primates have no body fat, limited language, they cannot voluntarily breathe, they have no vernix layer at birth.
  • Vestigial gills found in humans may be considered a birth defect but indicates a potential for development.
  • Darwin point on ear lobe suggest that a flap of skin could have been hinged to protect ears under water.
  • Coccyx suggests we may have at sometime in our past had a tail
  • Appendix related to the diet of a herbivore.

Elaine’s Morgan’s Butterfly


 Elainus Morganus 

September 2016  Elaine Morgan’s theory on the Aquatic Ape is finally recognised!

An unassuming paradigm shifting woman who swam upstream becomes posthumously mainstream. YAY!

‘Her’ butterfly made from a Gurnards fin, a Lambs tail and Crayfish antenna







barrel girl inv 72

The US and China – together responsible for 40% of the world’s carbon emissions have both formally joined the Paris global climate agreement.

Incredibly Whale oil fuelled the first industrial revolution replaced by fossil fuels in the twentieth century. Hopefully now more clean renewable sustainable energy will reduce our Co2 emissions and may save the lowlands from flooding.