SEA CHANGE 2013: Next week 27 international and Scottish artists and scientists will set sail across Orkney and Shetland to explore climate change impacts, adaptation and resilient behaviours among Scotland’s island communities
On 19th August Cape Farewell’s second Sea Change expedition will set sail around Scotland’s Northern Isles. 27 leading artists and scientists will explore technologies, projects and practices supporting the resilience of Scotland’s island communities, ecologies and cultures. First launched in 2010 Sea Change is a four year programme that brings together artists and scientists to investigate the relationship between people, place and resources and what it means to care for one’s ‘place’ in the context of climate change. This latest expedition, and the 2011 voyage, will form the basis of a major exhibition at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh in November 2013, bringing together for the first time the work of artists and scientists who sailed to the Western and Northern Isles of Scotland as part of Cape Farewell’s Sea Change project.
27 artists and scientists, including the dramatist Bryony Lavery, singers Karine Polwart and Inge Thomson, visual artist Ruth MacLennan, textile artist Deirdre Nelson, photographer Jennifer Wilcox, artist and sculptor John Cumming and the sailor Jo Royle – best known for sailing from America to Australia in a catamaran partly made from plastic bottles – will sail on the 113-year-old community owned Shetland Fifie ‘The Swan’ around Scotland’s most northerly coasts and islands. They will visit on and off shore renewable energy sites on Orkney and Shetland, artisanal and commercial fisheries, Fair Isle’s Bird Observatory, archaeological sites, and local art centres and community projects based on stewardship of the island’s terrestrial and marine ecologies, economies and cultures. To find out more about the expedition visit www.capefarewell.com/2013expedition
Brought together by Cape Farewell, which has been at the forefront of climate change art since 2001, the aim is to investigate the multiple impacts of climate change on the cultures and ecologies of Scotland’s island communities, and their approaches to sustainability, resilience and the concept of ‘faring well’ in times of change. Islands are significant repositories of the world’s terrestrial and marine biodiversity and home to one tenth of its human population. Their ecosystems are diverse, complex and extremely fragile. Over the last century island biodiversity has been subject to increasing stresses associated with invasive species, resource depletion, pollution and climate change.
The Northern Isles of Scotland are made up of hundreds of miles of spectacular coastline, one of the world’s largest peatlands, important seabird colonies and magnificent landscapes shaped by thousands of years of human interaction with the environment. These outlying ‘bellwether’ islands are vulnerable to extreme weather events and to the economic impacts of the decline of habitats and species vital to local industries and tourism. However, the islands have become pioneers in terms of sustainability programmes, wind, wave and tidal technologies and adaptation projects, and they offer exciting, new approaches to the relationship between place, stewardship and community.
Leading the voyage is Ruth Little, Cape Farewell’s associate director. She said: “Like boats, Scotland’s island communities and ecologies offer palpable and symbolic evidence of the reality of resource constraint; the relationship between needs and limits that is the stuff of climate change. These islands, with their exposure to natural forces, deep human histories and rich and fragile ecologies, remind us that we face the same challenges across the planet. Together the artists and scientists will explore community projects that strive to deliver economic, social and environmental diversity and resilience. ‘Their journeys will help shape new art-science collaborations, residencies and projects which will culminate in exhibitions and events in 2013 and 2014.”
Speaking about the expedition the sculptor John Cumming said: “Living in the Northern Isles, I have become increasingly aware of the extent to which climate change is impacting on our lives. My art is grounded in this culture, and I feel the need to respond. Sailing northern waters with a group of enquiring and creative people provides an ideal opportunity to observe, reflect and discuss.”
Textile artist Deirdre Nelson said: “I joined the expedition as I am interested in ways that artists and scientists can develop ideas together in order to draw attention to issues concerning the environment, community and climate change. I am looking forward to exploring the seas and islands around Shetland – this will provide a rich learning experience and new insight into islands I have had a connection with for some time through research into textiles there.”
The boatbuilder Ben Duffin said: “As a traditional boatbuilder working with long term unemployed people in Glasgow with the GalGael Trust I have a strong interest in community development, maritime heritage and social resilience. A chance to explore these themes from the deck of a traditional boat was too good to pass up.”
Artist Ursula Biemann said: “After doing fieldwork in desert zones of northern Africa for several years, this will be the first opportunity for me to head north and do a project at Sea. I would like the ancient land and seascapes to take me back six thousand years when rising sea levels submersed the first settlements along Shetland Island’s shores. This post-glacial period resonates beautifully with today.”
Cape Farewell is a pioneering arts programme set up by artist and photographer David Buckland in 2001. It works in partnership with scientific and cultural institutions to deliver an innovative programme of public engagement – challenging audiences to think differently about climate change and the natural systems we inhabit. The organisation has worked with over 140 world-renowned artists, musicians and writers, including Rachel Whiteread, Jarvis Cocker, Ian McEwan, Yann Martel, Sophie Calle, Marcus Brigstocke and Antony Gormley which has resulted in the creation of a broad range of climate focused art and public dialogue. More information about future projects and exhibitions can be found by visiting www.capefarewell.com
Sea Change is a four year programme of research and making across Scotland’s western and northern isles. It is supported by Creative Scotland, Arts Council England, Compton Foundation, Lighthouse Foundation, the Bromley Trust, Esperamos Films, Edinburgh College of Art and Jon and Nora Lee Sedmak.