Finding this place

Tags: David Buckland

10 days of constant curiosity both from the scientists and artists have run me/us ragged. Western Greenland/Arctic has worked its magic, the debate has been constant and fledgling art processes have engaged and been executed, all of which have been well diarised in the blogs for this expedition.

Intellectual climate input was achieved with a series of daily talks: two given by the onboard scientists, three by the two Inuit guides and Dr Ko de Korte, Sunand Prasad tackled contraction and convergence, Quentin Cooper gave a great talk on ‘Cape Farewell’, Joe Smith on Carbon Trading and market response, Ryuichi Sakamoto, KT Tunstall, Chris Wainwright and Francesca Galeazzi led a lively discussion on the artists response/creativity and a final talk led by Marcus Brigstocke and Joe Smith addressed just how important it is to feel ‘up’ and empowered by things climate rather than crawl into a hole of despair. These were focussed discussions but all this input led to an endless dialogue in small breakout sessions where we all talked one on one over dinner and wine (and vodka). Lively!

The route for the voyage constantly changed in response to weather, scientific programs and artist’s intentions – the Russian Captain was fantastic, with no challenge too difficult. He entered into our spirit of adventure and art achievement, and I am sure this was all very much a first for him. Our furthermost north was Nuugaatsraq 71.50 degrees north and in all we covered over 1000 nautical miles. The foot of the glacier Sermeg Avangnardieq was our wildest environment and my personal favourite.

The 10 days we spent onboard were so densely packed it is going to take time for the full impact to register and be manifest in arts works and science. The list;
• Geological survey in five different locations, each tract between 2 and 12 miles long.
• CTD measurements and sea ice sampling.
• New songs written by Robyn Hitchcock, KT Tunstall, Martha Wainwright, Vanessa Carlton and Feist. Shlomo collaborated on two of the songs and Feist and Shlomo collaborated to create a Cape Farewell choir.
• Recording by Ryuichi Sakamoto and he is working with the geologists on a greater sound work based on their electronic data. Jonathan Dove is inspired, as was Jarvis – hold that page.
• Francesca ‘performed’ her CO2 work and the bench project.
• Tracy constructed three series of ‘automated’ physical drawings and worked on a new book project.
• Michèle Noach found the Papaver Radicatum, Arctic poppies for her artwork with the Eden Project
• Sophie Calle completed an artwork in the Arctic
• Chris Wainwright completed a planned project and evolved and completed a totally new work.
• Luke set up a recording studio and made a great recording of Martha and friends. Also there is rumoured to be a sound-scape which he crafted!
• Sunand Prasad completed his Weather balloon project – no small feat!
• I projected video onto a glacier wall and re-filmed it. I also began a new work of 46 portraits, each to be accompanied by a chosen piece of text. I also ‘performed’ a very experimental work, which maybe has worked and added to my archive of imagery.
• Vicky Long recorded all for her radio program.
• Laurie Anderson read so beautifully her stories both live and to camera.
• Lemn Sissay performed a full-on work.
• Sam Collins filmed endlessly for proposed new artworks and collaborations.
• Rachel Holmes from Southbank provided the Artistic Director, Jude Kelly, with a new script of ‘Paradise Lost’, abridged by Greg Mosse. Jude directed onboard the 32 ‘scenes’ with our crew of players and Peter Gilbert managed to capture the whole work in a very dense Sunday morning of filming. It is Milton’s 400th anniversary this year and the whole work is to be performed later this year.
• All the writers, poets, musicians and creative artists and science teams wrote both for blogs and for their own private diaries.

The media teams worked tirelessly and with great sensitivity, leaving a place where privacy was needed. That said, Peter Gilbert, Adam and Zack collected over 70 hours of videoed material. This will, over the coming months, be added to and will form the movie/film. Matt Wainwright filmed on HDV and edited all the material for the web and also as a support to the artists. Again 30 hours of footage. Nathan photographed everything and is now editing his archive. Quentin Cooper recorded everything that moved and was dead for his ‘Material World BBC 4 program.

Kathy Barber and Hannah were awesome in editing all the blogs, collecting photographs and edited film and got all this material back to UK base via satellite. Over 4 hours of very cold broadcasting each day.
The notion of what is Cape Farewell has had to be expanded to accommodate the constant shifting speed of climate engagement, the call from the scientists, the sheer size of our group and the attack needed to achieve a cultural shift. 46 people have now returned to their complicated lives, the energy contained in the feverous on-board activity will form a powerful voice of climate challenge Not a bad rate of exchange to our relatively small carbon footprint which has already been accounted for in the Cape Farewell policy of buying photovoltaics.

This rigorous discussion and activity has firmed up my thoughts that two major shifts are needed if we are going to mediate the threat of climate change. Political will – about 2 trillion dollars have been spent on the Iraq war, it is not hard to imagine the results of committing this amount of money over the same time period to getting to grips with climate issues. We are already in a mess that should have begun to be addressed but requires sustained political will power. Cultural shift – it is the way we have evolved our lives that has caused this unsustainable activity. We each have accepted a whole raft of values and activities that are not written in stone. The way we have chosen to live is not a fact and there must be an alternative way to find an exciting way to live that does not leave this trail of atmospheric waste and potential cultural destruction. This demands a cultural shift that I do believe is the most effective way to reduce 80% of our carbon footprint and it has to be implemented and acted upon. It also offers the spectre that the next twenty years could ferment the greatest change yet seen to a global society. Climate will force this and it is how we react that will write the future text.

At any point of cultural shift you will always find artists working, it’s sort of our job description. It feels totally appropriate that artistic curiosity is thrown into the cauldron and this expedition has been an awesome response. All the artists are struggling to find a voice that doesn’t preach, doesn’t illustrate and we don’t do social engineering. As artists, if we take on climate as a frontal charge, it never works. There always has to be some footwork that shifts the process to a parallel path, a deviant tangent that clears the territory, the terrain that makes the process personal. Finding this place, whether it be in song, painting or prose is always challenging and awkward. Every one on board is a writer in some way, the songwriters that then take embryonic ideas to their bands, writers and poets who are direct and architects who write buildings and as with all writing processes, they are not time dependent. An idea spurned here could take weeks or years to come into being, and that cannot be prescribed – maybe because I am also an artist floundering around, this then breeds trust in the others.


  1. laurence arnold

    Posted Wednesday 8 Oct at 19:00 | Permalink

    Well done to everyone on the journey. I hope their art can reach into the souls of the unconverted.
    Great work on the site with the blogs and pictures bringing the voyage right into the home/office.
    Can i come on the next one?
    all the best

  2. Birdie

    Posted Thursday 9 Oct at 00:57 | Permalink

    Lead use to be in paint, gasoline, and other common things. Once it was determined it was realllllly unhealthy – it was banned. The useage went from an all time high, to a complete low. Cigarettes? Same thing, but the tobacco industry had to be taken to task for lying, etc. It started with Adbusters creating mock ciggy ads that mocked the industries in thought provoking ways. The impotent Marlboro man ads Hysterically funny piss take on the cig industry. Comedy is to be taken seriously in it’s ability to educate, prod and keep spirits up. Then, came the lawsuits against the tobacco industry…then, came the 2nd hand smoke reports and fierce in your face PSA’s made with people with cancer, smoking through their throats, in wheelchairs, etc….Things do and can change. In the early 2000’s – Sunset Blvd became overpopulated with SUV’s. They took over like a big herd of buffalo. Today, starting with a few brave souls in mini coopers (they don’t get great gas mileage for their size), a fresh onslaught of VW Beetles, and now Smart cars….the SUV’s must have been mostly traded in or are garaged. Sure they dot the blvd, but they are no longer the #1 car of choice. They are here and there. The price of gas is still too low considering the overall cost of fossil fuel burning. How long before someone gets smart and puts a hurricane tax on gas? The insurance companies will fold if this keeps up….Once it hits pocketbooks people’s health and generally, people are forced into painful awareness – change can and does happen in big sweeping ways. So chin up and keep at it!
    :-) This is a great time to become very bold and big about it all….I sure plan on it, and I am sure like many artists aboard – they will use their trip to expand on their prior work and it will invigorate them to keep keeping on….and that goes for all us out here in the bloggesphere.. Thanks!

  3. yvonne

    Posted Thursday 12 Feb at 18:18 | Permalink

    great job on your amazing expedition. wonderful images and footage. i am also interested in hearing more about your ideas and any concrete actions that have come out of this expedition on how to proceed or how to combat climate change? i know the purpose of the trip was to “Investigate the effects of climate change and how global warming effects are changing our planet”, so i’m interested in the followup actions or results. thanks for getting back to me.