Nick Medford

The Haunted Shoreline: Alchemico-Surrealist Beachcombing on the East Sussex Coast

This talk will describe ‘The Haunted Shoreline’, a project undertaken on the south coast of England between 2011 and 2014, centring on the beaches near the author’s home. The key idea was to treat the sea as the Unconscious and the land as the Conscious, the shoreline thus representing the liminal threshold between the two. Objects washed ashore could then be interpreted as messages from the Unconscious, somewhat akin to images seen in dreams. These interpretations drew on Hermetic and alchemical symbolism, a range of mythological sources, and Surrealist art. Surrealism was of particular relevance because of its concern with the Unconscious: techniques such as automatic writing were championed by the Surrealists as strategies for making the contents of the Unconscious manifest in awareness – a clear parallel with the central idea animating the Haunted Shoreline. Over the course of the project, key themes that emerged included pregnancy and fertility, alchemical fusion, cyclic renewal, serpent and cephalopod symbolism, decapitation, and Tarot cards. In response to the promptings of the Shoreline current, the project was brought to a close in July 2014. In this talk I will describe the ideas and methods, show examples of some beach finds and how they were interpreted, and offer some tentative thoughts on how the project relates to my work as a neuroscientist. I will also briefly outline a new web-based project which is the successor to the Haunted Shoreline and complementary to it. The Haunted Shoreline is documented online at

Dr Nick Medford is a medical doctor and neuroscientist currently employed as a Senior Lecturer at Brighton and Sussex Medical School. He trained in medicine at Charing Cross and Westminster Medical School, qualifying in 1993. As a junior doctor he worked in various London hospitals before embarking on research using functional MRI, in which he completed a PhD at the Institute of Psychiatry, London. His research is concerned with the links between neurobiological processes and aspects of self-awareness and subjective experience. Clinically he is interested in the interface between psychological and physical symptoms and is the lead clinician for the Sussex Neuropsychiatry Service. He has longstanding interests in Surrealist art and practice and in esoteric symbolism and thought.