Sculpture and eco-social practice

Wallace’s sculpture work began with exhibitions with the Women’s Arts Alliance, London and with work included as part of Joseph Beuys’ ‘100 Days. Honeypump in the Workplace’ Documenta 6, Kassel West Germany, 1977.

Her sculpture exhibition ‘x = 2140’ continues her work on the civil-military nuclear industries.

Her eco-social practices continue with ‘When the Future Comes’, an experience of how being with a river can deepen one’s comprehension of the climate future.

She also writes about eco-social practices / social sculpture.

An important strand of her work is with Councils on the Uncertain Human Future, which is in its own category, coming closest to an eco-social practice.

In the coming 120 years, how can humans decide to dismantle, remember and repair the lands called Sellafield?


Florence Arts Centre, Egremont, Cumbria, February – March 2020

The exhibition at FAC closed with the first lockdown. The sculptures may be exhibited again in Liverpool, 2022-23. 

See Wallace’s article: ‘The Times of Caring in a Nuclear World. Sculpture, Contamination and Stillness‘.

There will be five human generations between 2020 and 2140, the year by which the Sellafield site is to be decommissioned, its purposes changed and its legacies cast. Each generation will make decisions on this future while enduring unpredictable ecological changes and uncertain political, economic and technological conditions.

Wallace’s three sculptures, Font No. 1 [top right] Knowledge Font [bottom right] and Future Font [middle right], play with the iconic architecture and industrial shapes of Sellafield to create metaphoric ‘fonts’. The sculptures offer ways of thinking about a decision outside the everyday and its usual procedures. 


Fonts are devices for acknowledging the past, for marking the present and sending hopes for a future. The sculptures ask about what kinds of knowledge will be useful; what different forms of clean-up and remediation will be needed; and what it feels like to care for the soils, waters, stones and living beings on whom these generations of humans depend.


The exhibition was part of the ‘Sellafield Site Futures’ project by an interdisciplinary team at the University of Manchester, looking at the contentious history and future of the site. The researchers hosted three workshops in the summer of 2019 in Whitehaven, bringing together participants from West Cumbria, some affiliated with the nuclear industry and supply chain, others working in the arts and heritage sectors, scientists and ethicists, and others engaged in conservation and ecological initiatives. The sculptures are a response to the questions and conflicts that were raised.


The exhibition was supported by the University of Manchester’s Beam research network and the Dalton Nuclear Institute and is funded by the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC).



Wallace and Petra Tjitske presented ‘An artistic intervention in post-industrial landscape engineering’ for the ‘Indeterminacies’ online conference, Scotland, 2021; and gave an online talk at the Vienna Anthropology Days Conference, University of Vienna, October 2020. Wallace presented the exhibition as part of her session on ‘Play, Shame and Care’ for the ‘Becoming Earthly’ project by The Barn arts centre, Banchory, Scotland, September 2020.

Wallace is one of the artists working with Rachel Jacobs on ‘When the Future Comes’, investigating how, with a changing climate, the future is perceived across five places in England.

In Cumbria, we devised an experience for an invited group of people to ‘think with a river’ along the Windermere-Leven watershed. Wallace created a booklet of ‘prompts’ for each person to take when spending their own time by the waters.

In October 2021, we came together to talk, have a meal, be by the River Leven, and engage with Jacobs’ Future Machine, a device for keeping the words one wants to speak to and into the future.

There are  plans to continue the project annually, along more Cumbrian watersheds.

Photo: Footbridge over the River Leven, by Rachel Jacobs

With Prof Pauline Phemister and Revd Dr Harriet Harris, MBE, from Edinburgh University and Prof Sarah Buie from Clark University, Mass., she has organised and facilitated a series of Councils on the Uncertain Human Future, on the climate emergencies, for Edinburgh University.

The Council on the Uncertain Human Future was initiated by Sarah Buie at Clark University, Massachusetts, and the Council project continue to develop and expand.

The Edinburgh Councils were held from 2016 – 2018.

Wallace is undertaking a feasibility study for taking the Council process into other sectors, work interrupted by the pandemic. The study is funded by the Christopher Reynolds Foundation, USA.

Voices on the Railings, Sedbergh 2003

On the eve of the second invasion of Iraq, 2003, Wallace Heim, Simon Pardoe and Linda Inman initiated a viral social practice action. We asked people to write, draw or in another way express their views about the proposed invasion on a card, and tie it to nearby street railings.

The action started in Ulverston, Coniston and Sedbergh in Cumbria, and spread as an instruction given online to Cambridge, London, Bristol, Oxford, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle, Sheffield, Manchester.

‘Action’ refers to performance events, especially those involving a strong degree of uncertainty and improvisation. It forms around an idea, is manifested and then the idea set loose to be interpreted and manifested in other locations, by other people, known and unknown to the originators. It fits here as a version of social sculpture / social engagement.