I am an artist-researcher resident in Uist, Outer Hebrides (UK) since 1990. My practice involves developing an interpretive and participatory position within the community, contributing to eco-social actions, and creating interactive multi-media artworks that record and disseminate the embodied knowledge of that community. I have extensive experience with community engagement projects: most recently I have devised and led a series of Scottish Government Climate Challenge Fund Projects: Local Food for Local People (2015-17) and Grow Your Own Community (2017-2020). My practice is rooted in the idea of co-creativity, working interactively with communities. The work focuses on understanding how humans affect the world.
I’m in Year 2 of practice-led PhD research – ‘Deploying collaborative artistic co-creative methods to strategically promote eco-social sustainability for small island communities’ – at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, funded through AHRC Creative Economies Studentships.
My project aims to reveal the role and value of community embodied knowledge by employing artistic eco-social methods to design projects that promote interconnectedness across the whole community (human and non-human). Embodied knowledge about environmental sustainability is lost with the ever-increasing modernisation of isolated rural communities. This project mediates this loss. It seeks to help collect and harness this knowledge, and will ask key research questions about its potential uses and the ways in which co-creative artistic practices helps record and disseminate it:
- How can a community’s embodied knowledge contribute to creating an environmentally sustainable future?
- How can this knowledge be deployed for the benefit of the community and organisations concerned with climate change?
- How can co-creative artistic approaches help in the recording and dissemination of this embodied knowledge?
This project aims to deliver creative strategies that will harness the community’s embodied knowledge to develop carbon literacy that can contribute towards delivering sustainable, meaningful futures. The research will predominantly take place on the Uists, a series of islands in the Outer Hebrides, UK. On these islands, an increased reliance upon technology and the devaluing of local practical knowledge has led to communities becoming disassociated from their rural environment and intensified contemporary social, economic and ecological challenges. Comparative research will take place in New Zealand to gain perspective on the role that indigenous communities with long-standing interconnected relationships with their natural environment can play in reversing this trend. This part of the research will focus on Māori concepts of intergenerational knowledge transfer and self-determination, and how these can influence governance of resources and develop flourishing communities.