Shrinking Beach
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Max Couper
The Shrinking Beach Portrait 2000

Land, Human-rights, and the Environment
Presented at the
Lecture Theatre,
25th May 2002

Carole Tongue
Dean Leslie
Tom Butler
Nina Simões
Bhikkhu Nagase
Angela Billingham
General Hugh Beach
Queen’s Chaplain
Ivor Smith-Cameron
Secretary General
Pierre Sané
Max Couper
Kamel Samari
David Hencke
The Discussion on The Shrinking Beach. Colour photographic print. 4 ft X 12 ft (120 X 365 cm)
Part of the Couper Collection

The Shrinking Beach was a portrait, citizen’s jury, and discussion, created by Max Couper and the Couper Collection, and chaired by The Reverend Canon Ivor Smith-Cameron. It was located incognito, in the year 2000, one September afternoon at low tide on the Chelsea Beach of the tidal River Thames, London. The beach was chosen as an international place of common ground, where participants from a variety of backgrounds and cultures could meet and agree on issues of land-ownership and development, human-rights, and the environment. They had only a couple of hours to reach an agreement before the tide stopped the discussion. In the event, the participants signed their final agreement (see page 2, agreement and transcript of the meeting) only shortly before the tide flooded the table.

The participants were invited as figureheads from four areas of society; Government, Non-Government Organisations, the Individual, and Business. All of the original invitees attended the event, except those representing multinational corporations.

Couper’s intention was to make an artwork and portrait reflecting an increasingly multicultural and global society. His proposition was that people from different parts of society should occasionally meet in a place of neutrality when discussing matters of common interest. This event followed two recent artworks and exhibitions of a similar theme that he created at The Lehmbruck Museum in Duisburg, Germany, in 1997, and at The European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, in 1998.

The portraits were made on Chelsea Beach during the discussion itself, using a large format panoramic camera. Large-scale prints of the portraits, and a transcript of the discussion, were presented at the National Portrait Gallery lecture theatre on the 25th May, 2002. At this occasion, invitees and members of the public were invited to continue the debate, chaired by Max Couper, the columnist Gary Jacobs and Carole Tongue.

Participants, left to right;
Carole Tongue, (Rapporteur), 15 years MEP for London East, and European Parliament Culture Spokesperson.
Dean Leslie, (Co-producer) New York businessman and international lawyer.
Tom Butler, Bishop of Southwark, London.
Nina Simões, Brazilian land-rights activist and campaigner.
Reverend Bhikkhu Nagase, Japanese Buddhist Monk, and Battersea Park Peace Pagoda custodian.
Baroness Angela Billingham, Member of The House of Lords, and magistrate.
Sir Hugh Beach, British Army general, and owner of 15,000 acres of Derbyshire moorland.
Canon Ivor Smith-Cameron (Discussion Chair), Chaplain to The Queen, born in Madras, India.
Pierre Sané, Secretary General of Amnesty International, based in London, and born in Senegal. (biography)
Max Couper, Thames-based artist, supporter of public use of the River Thames.
Kamel Samari, Tunisian political refugee, and Amnesty International
David Hencke, British investigative journalist, Parliamentary Correspondent of The Guardian newspaper.

With the support in 2000 of Mo Mowlam, UK Secretary of State, and Paul Boateng (see interview on page 2), UK Deputy Home Secretary.

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