Jun 2, 2009

Cape Farewell

Last month I attended the Rising Tide conference* sponsored by CCA and Stanford. The keynote speaker was David Buckland whose work I saw a few summers ago in an exhibition at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, Norway. I had not heard about his project Cape Farewell until his lecture at CCA; I am deeply inspired by this model organization.

Cape Farewell came into being when the artist David Buckland was gifted with a scientific seaship. Since 2003 Cape Farewell, funded by British art and science dollars, has led seven expeditions to the Arctic, taking artists, scientists, educators and communicators to experience the effects of climate change firsthand. The project aims to "provoke and evoke a cultural response to the true scale of how the earth’s environment and climate are changing."

While the expeditions are comprised by a mix of artists, research analysts, scientists, and even youth, these teams ford the northern seas with hi-tech research equipment and aims to capture immense raw data, yet the focus of these expeditions is on cultural production. As the Cape Farewell website states, "one salient image, sculpture or event can speak louder than volumes of scientific data and engage the public's imagination in an immediate way." Indeed, climate change is so large and so devastating that the basic facts are too abstract for most people to understand. We need artists and poets and musicians to help make the invisible visible, to make the unimaginable slightly more tangible.

I appreciate that artists are not necessarily encouraged to make art on site. Rather, they aid with the scientific mission and let themselves be affected by the journey. A journey to the Arctic is certain to inspire and terrify, and the organization has faith in its artists (whom include figures like Feist, Sophie Calle, Amy Balkin, Ian McEwan and Laurie Anderson ) digest the experience and respond to climate change in their own timely manner.

I believe this kind of cultural practice is so important. To bear physical witness to the struggle of the planet, of people, of places is so valid and provocative. I want to be involved with artists who travel to the tipping point, the hotbed, the hinterlands to see what is there and let it move them to make culture differently. www.capefarewell.com

* this was a great endeavor too. Learn more about it at: www.risingtideconference.org

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