DAVID BUCKLAND ON THE RECORD
Erika Yarrow talks to the artist and Director of Cape Farewell.
The brainchild of David Buckland, Cape Farewell was established
eight years ago. Since its inception the organisation has led
three expeditions to the High Arctic that have brought together
artists, writers and scientists to gain a better understanding of
climate change and to find positive solutions. The works
created as a result of this immersion into the wildest and most
vulnerable of landscapes have been exhibited across the
world. The organisation has recently published its first
book, Burning Ice - Art and Climate Change, a publication which
showcases David's work and that of many of the artists who have
voyaged, including Heather Ackroyd, Dan Harvey and Antony Gormley,
and features extracts from the expedition journals of the novelists
Ian McEwan and Robert McFarlane.
'When it started I was, and still am, an artist,' explains
David. 'You sometimes follow a curiosity and I came across
the climate models of the Hadley Centre. I went to see the
maker of the models, Dr Richard Wood, now the centre's Senior
Climate Scientist. The models are extraordinary. They
are pretty robust and so can predict the future fairly accurately
and I was interested in this.'
David's contact with scientists led him to realise the role that
art could have in communicating climate science. 'Back then the
scientists I spoke to were concerned that they couldn't get the
media to speak to them at all and they were unable to get the
public interested in science. Culturally we don't embrace
science. I realised that we needed to create a new bank of
thinking and communicating, and that was how Cape Farewell came
about. So I put a group of scientists and artists together on
a schooner and sent them to the Arctic. The aim was to create
a new bank of imagery to engage with the public. By putting
together the two cultures of arts and science we have found that we
actually work in very similar ways.'
'I realised early on that the scientists were doing a great job,
but it isn't science that is creating climate change, it is human
activity. We currently live in a carbon economy and we need
to re-jig that.'
Cape Farewell has joined forces with the Eden Project, engaging
in a three-year partnership, which launched in December 2007.
The winter project includes an installation by artist Clare Twomey
featuring thousands of ceramic flowers made of unfired china
clay. 'Because they are not glazed they will change with the
elements,' says David. 'It demonstrates that things change,
we are all part of a delicate cycle.'
It is David's passion and the integrity of the Cape Farewell
project that has drawn an impressive collection of high calibre
scientists, artists and writers to voyage to the Arctic to witness
climate change at first- hand. 'To engage people in conversation
you have to be truly inspired,' says David. 'At Cape Farewell
we don't do faking. If artists are not happy with their work
they do not have to show it. The scientists are the
same. We are not about just putting it out.'
The voyages themselves are not to be taken lightly. On a
recent expedition David felt real moments of fear when his team's
ship was trapped by ice. 'At one point we were trapped and fighting
for our existence. Ice was being taken south by the Greenland
current. The environment is changing fast there and it will
have consequences for us all. We are being asked to re-look
at ourselves,' he concludes.
Education is an important element of Cape Farewell's work,
culminating in a recent youth expedition that brought together
students from across the world. Twelve students were given the
opportunity to travel to Svalbard in the High Arctic. During
the expedition the teenage students worked with scientists and sent
reports back to their schools. 'This year we plan an even bigger
youth expedition,' David confirms. 'We will be going to
Canada, round Cape Farewell to Baffin Island, which has an
indigenous population.' In addition to Cape Farewell's Arctic
expeditions, teams will also be venturing to another climate change
pulse point, the Amazon.
But Cape Farewell is not just about encouraging people to think
about environments far from home, but also about communicating an
important message of hope. David concludes: 'Many of the
solutions are at home. We need to understand that we are
right in the middle of the solution.'