Background and History

In 2001 artist David Buckland was working with climate scientist and climate modellers based at the British based Hadley Centre. His artistic curiosity was centred on mathematical modelling and its capability to project scientific data into the future, thereby giving us a tool that could map/foresee the future. Humanity has never had such a tool and in the past it was the role of artists and visionaries to map futures, but with no sense of logic or probability. In many ways climate change is a future truth, our actions now will cause catastrophic disruption probably 50 years into the future and it is the modellers that have mapped this possibility. Buckland was interrogating this space as an artist but soon realised the urgency of the scientific messaging.

The Cape Farewell model has been a successful attempt to re language the cold and often abstract data of the scientists to craft a current and urgent narrative. Over the past 12 years the Cape Farewell project has evolved a cultural equivalent of the mathematical models by using the notion of expedition and action based research to interrogate the future. The artists and creative’s involved have been challenged to create issue-based artworks that still maintain the complexity and magic of what we understand constitutes an artwork. Buckland’s work is now solely focused on this objective and is accompanied by the many artists who have shared the quest of finding a cultural response to climate change.

Cape Farewell has led eight expeditions to the High Arctic; the frontline of climate change including two youth voyages. In 2009 the first ever Cape Farewell expedition outside of the Arctic to the Andes in Peru was launched in collaboration with the Environmental Change Institute, Oxford University. The ambition of these early expeditions was to inspire those who have joined an expedition to respond creatively to the challenge of climate change.

In 2007 Cape Farewell changed tact, accepting climate change as a given fact and worked to become a solution-based organisation. The SHIFT Festival at South Bank, London in 2010 underlined this ambition and the Sea Change Expeditions, led by Ruth Little, explored island communities in Scotland and their work to make themselves self sustaining and carbon neutral.

Between 2011 and 2013 there were the Carbon 12Carbon 13 and Carbon 14 exhibitions in Paris, Texas and Toronto each addressing climate as a cultural challenge. This work continues with our current cultural activity towards building a Renaissance in energy production, economic regeneration and a cultural renewal.