Survival Tools of the Anthropocene

Saoirse Higgins, PhD Fashion & Textiles

My name is Saoirse Higgins and I am in my final year of my practice based PhD in design innovation. The title of my research project is: Survival Tools of the Anthropocene. I am based for this research on the island of Papa Westray in Orkney. The island is 1 mile wide and 4 miles long with a population of 80 people. For the past two years, living on the island as in situ research and islander, I have been organizing creative experimental participatory events with the islanders to explore the unique aspects of the island environment in relation to climate change, looking at local island survival systems interconnecting to the globalized world. I am presenting this practice based research on 3rd March in the Circle 7 symposium titled: ReActivate, ReVisit-Practicing Communities: Transformative societal strategies of artistic research.

What will happen:
After collaborating in 2017 with the Icelandic Glaciological Society experimenting on glacier movement, the islanders of Papa Westray are setting up their own ‘Look Out Post’ weather station. In collaboration with British Science Association and the Papay Community Council, I have organized a 2-day island wide experiment on the weekend of 10th March. We will be organizing a bespoke Papay ‘LookOut Post’ Shipping forecast, with the help of local Orkney experts, climate observer Keith Johnson from Birsay, the Papay fisherman Douglas Hourston and the Papay choir. The island will be divided into segments and the weather minutely observed and measured in each segment for the entire day using DIY creative weather tools. The collected Papay shipping forecast data will be broadcast from the ‘lookout post’ via megaphone and posted onto the internet, along with a weather data performance by the Papay choir.

Why I am doing this:
This experimental event is the final practice based contribution to my final year of research. It is designed to explore the potential for local bespoke ‘expert by experience’ systems. It aims to encourage collaboration and creative action within the island community and contribute to new approaches to participatory art and design methods helping to visualize macro scale issues such as climate change.

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