2013 Expedition

Northern Islands Expedition

19 Aug - 8 Sept 2013

‘People, Place, Resources on Scotland’s Islands’

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In August 2013 we set sail from Stromness on our second Sea Change expedition, aboard Lerwick community boat The Swan, with a crew of 27 artists, scientists and informers.

Journeying from Orkney to the Shetland islands via Fair Isle, the expedition will consider the relationship between people, place and resources in coastal and island environments, with emphasis on the role of community agency and local knowledge in developing social and ecological resilience. The project will build on Cape Farewell’s established programme of expedition, education and commissions by establishing artist residency and curatorial partnerships with pioneering environmental and cultural organisations across the Northern Isles.

The Swan expedition is intended both to build bridges between disciplines and to extend the capacities, reach and interconnectedness of participating artists. At the same time, the journey will interrogate the idea of expedition itself, emphasising the value of exploration and stewardship of our own, rather than distant and ‘exotic’, places. Two groups of artists will each spend up to 10 days on the Swan, actively involved in sailing the boat and in dialogue and collaborative research with participating scientists and with one another. The boat itself provides a fitting environment for discussion of needs and limits, and issues of resource constraint and climate change adaptation will also be explored in onshore dialogue and community events, including climate cèilidhs, guided walks and site visits, public presentations by artists, scientists and island tradition-bearers, and the launch at Orkney’s Pier Arts Centre of Things Unspoken/Things Unseen, a new artists’ book by Anne Bevan and Andrea Roe.

Expedition is a way of seeing place anew, and offers many points of access for participants and local communities to collaborate, celebrate and deepen knowledge of their physical context. The Orkney-Shetland Expedition is based on the conviction that people, place and resources are intertwined, and that our terrestrial home is inextricably bound up with our maritime environment. Rather than defining islands as remote and isolated, we are developing the idea of the knowledge archipelago, linking island and mainland communities through culture and science, and acknowledging the sea as the essential and threatened medium which carries human and material resources, stories, and forms of local knowledge from place to place.

There is now an urgent need, widely expressed by climate and social scientists and by local communities affected by accelerating change, for more imaginative and effective dialogue between policy-makers, business and community around issues of resource use, cultural resilience, wellbeing and disenfranchisement. This is an outcome not only of climate and resource stresses in marginal rural communities, but also of the industrialisation of renewable energy across the islands and mainland of Scotland. The ethical, empirical and ecological complexities of these issues demand new lenses and ways of identifying, valuing and communicating the constituent qualities of place. Sea Change facilitates knowledge transfer across disciplines and sectors, enhancing the confidence and capacity of artists as key participants in a rapidly evolving discourse around human futures, and supporting them in the creation of new work as acts of cultural participation and relationship.

The expedition will offer forms of empirical and imaginative engagement with sites and areas of environmental significance, and will also challenge the separation of the human and natural worlds, in part through consideration of traditional forms of knowledge and practice through which people and place are interwoven.

Sea Change supports artists in developing new knowledge and competency in research methods, cross-sector collaboration, agency and advocacy, to become full and influential participants in the network of relations between communities, ecologies and economies.

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Next: Sea Change

Cape Farewell's Sea Change is a four-year programme of research and making across Scotland’s western and northern isles that has grown out of the gathering at Cove Park in 2010, and the Scottish Islands Expedition in 2011. Sea Change involves over 30 UK and international artists and scientists, working collaboratively and independently to consider the relationships between people, places and resources in the context of climate change. Part of the London 2012 Festival and the Year of Creative Scotland, the project will culminate during the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.
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