The purpose of this project is to provide the Scottish Government with a mechanism for evaluating how the needs of local communities have been met by local government and public policy makers, and how they might be best served in the future. Work has been done with three rural communities in Yellowknife, Cairngorm, and Lapland which, taken together, form an archipelago of local culture. These communities vary widely in their resources and infrastructure, but in each case, what was studied was the conflict between local culture and the culture of incomers. Conflict is not necessarily a bad thing, if it can be channelled into creative actions that resolve it. This project looks, in particular, at the mechanism for how these local cultures and economies can maintain their heritages and identities against the influx of incomers, and how local and national government agencies can aid them in this endeavour. We are proposing an evaluative feedback process involving exhibition and consultation that will allow local cultures and economies to make their case to government, and allow government to evaluate its performance with respect to them. Although only one of these communities is within the remit of the UK/Scottish government, we expect common issues to emerge which will benefit all parties, when they are viewed together within the Knowledge Exchange context.
Each community will host a workshop in which research in the communities will be presented discussed and collated, and plans for cultural action articulated. The sustainability of these communities is the over-riding concern. This information will be posted to a common website that links all three communities in the archipelago and projected to an exhibition wall in each community. Each community will therefore have an exhibition of work produced in their own community plus the work in digital form produced by the other two communities of the archipelago. This exhibition will be staged in a town hall or other central communal space of the community. In addition to the obvious tripartite organisation (one panel per community), the information on the exhibition wall may be organised in other ways depending upon the nature of the outcomes: by scale (global to local), by theme/issue (ecology, resource diversity, language, artefacts, migration, etc.), or by geographical elements (edge, centre, enclosure, boundary, etc.). There will be opportunities for members of each community to contribute material to the website and to the wall, including their own responses/commentary to this material.
The knowledge wall will form the centre-piece of a workshop/symposium that will be organised for each of three communities in the global Northern Periphery (approximately Parallels 55-72 degrees North). The knowledge wall will function as a website, with the additional richness that it will be in a real place, and will include physical artefacts in addition to the digital image. It will be possible to re-arrange panels at the workshop to create different spatial relations between the material which may further clarify areas of impact and conflict, and also allow for different spatial relations between the viewing public and the material. The wall becomes a debating tool in the process of public dissemination and articulation of relations between local communities and local government. It will, in the first instance, be built using a simple light weight demountable panel system involving data projections from a central server.
The knowledge wall will be erected at the culminating symposium in the Highlands/and in Dundee, in which the local government groups are involved. They will have an opportunity to include their own material on the website and wall. This combined exhibition-consultation system is being prototyped in our pilot project. If successful, it will be extended to other communities, both coastal and island. There are opportunities for developing and expanding the digital wall concept so that it can accommodate an increasing complexity of interaction and participation, which may also involve the input of new media artists and other cultural practitioners. It is part of a larger interest in exploring the ways that disparate communities can be bound together by a new form of public realm, in which public space is augmented by public images (images in the public realm).
The funding will go towards developing the website and the digital exhibition wall, and towards hosting the workshops and symposium, led by a team consisting of Michael Spens , Lorens Holm , and Shaleph O' Neill
SCOPE OF THE PROPOSAL
A substantial body of practice-led research has already been carried out in the Canadian Northern Territories and the Scottish Highlands by Dundee University staff, with a planned additional project in Finnish Lapland (yet to be finalised with Finnish/Lapp specialists). The role of the Geddes Institute will be to develop a network (Northern Archipelago) that embraces the separate findings developed in Canada and Scotland with respect to questions of cultural and ecological sustainability. From this will emerge a collaborative, adaptive mechanism for debate and dissemination comprising website and workshop knowledge wall, from which the pilot study, in partnership with the Forestry Commission, can draw valid conclusions. In the long run, we expect to see the knowledge wall taken up by each community and installed as a permanent feature of their communal space, so that it can be used as a tool for developing issues and resolving conflict in the public realm. We will seek additional funding for book publication in 2009.
A second stage project, subject to addition funding, will extend the archipelago to three maritime communities. Firstly, to the Lofoten Islands (Svolvaer) Norway; secondly, Stornoway Isle of Lewis, Scotland; and thirdly, Scalloway in Shetland; so pursuing similar research into the development of sustainable and community-based architectures. These are coastal communities, as distinct from the first three, which are inland communities.
Knowledge exchange already operates at a field level in the case of the first two studies, and through insertion of preliminary findings from the Lappi survey an effective database can be established, refined and advanced to provide a workable tool for Scottish Institutions, as well as a template adaptive to new inputs and communities. The creation of this functioning network for the exchange of ideas between specialists in academia, the interested communities, all public service providers and policy makers will be the main work of the workshops and symposium. This work will include developing the dedicated Website (Northern Archipelago) and the visual knowledge Wall. The exhibition will be launched in Dundee in the symposium (stage 3). Film and video documentation of community and design from Yellowknife, and substantially also from Cairngorm, is ready for exhibition. Equivalent documentation will be secured from Lappi early in the project.
Each workshop/symposium event will appraise the current effects of prevalent economic and cultural impact with major implications for public policy and the extent to which these will have needs for community/governmental remedial legislation.
1. Yellowknife, Northern Territory, Canada
Professor Gavin Renwick (Dundee University) has worked with a group known as 'Gameti', a Tlicho Nations hamlet close to Yellowknife. A principle activity in the area is the mineral exploitation of diamonds. Gameti now has the highest per capita income and most qualified population in Canada. Climate extremes range from 25 degrees in summer to -40 degrees in winter. The Tlicho peoples - for whom such concepts as 'homeland' and 'home' relate to the land - have been fixed in this area for millennia. Renwick has sought to bridge the gap between these and the predominantly Canadian-European society recently settled or imported. Renwick is interpreting the vision of the elders for their community, developing more sustainable planning methods, and has developed a design for a prototype house that can match the community shared image of what a home should be. At the same time, a common cultural language of a more appropriate twenty-first century culture and existence is emerging from Renwick's collaborations with the Community elders. In terms of Knowledge Exchange, such methods are vital in stimulating research/public policy interaction here, where there has been a widening gap between public policy, related institutions for implementation, and the local communities. Networked workshops and publications now have some federal government sponsorship. Professor Renwick is Chair of Art and Policy at Duncan of Jordanstone College, Dundee University.
2. Cairngorm, Scotland
Artist Arthur Watson (Dundee University, Secretary, Royal Scottish Academy) and Architect Fergus Purdie have developed a creative visual language for the Cairngorm Mountain core area, working with colleague Emeritus Professor Will MacLean. In their observation, the topographical rarities of the hidden folds and corries in the land, the climatic vagaries of trees and snow, open the way to new interpretations of landscape. Again, two cultures have been at variance, that of the indigenous inhabitants and the Scottish incomers from the South. Within this dichotomy, local inhabitants struggle to sustain a vibrant oral culture. This tradition, long curated and developed by Highlanders such as the late Hamish Henderson, incorporates folk-song, ballad, tales and proverbs, as well as a glossary of Scots words for various conditions of snow and natural phenomena, both ecological and localised, and texts incised on mountain sides; and now includes a form language of shelters for the respite of mountain visitors. The Cairngorm project includes installations of land art: Fergus Purdie has, with artist Lei Cox, developed a camera obscura, which includes a video projection booth so that user reactions can be recorded. The Cairngorm project endeavours to mitigate the adverse effects of tourism on the region and to embolden the local community by projecting a shared idea of identity.
3. Lapland/Lappi, Finland
Emeritus Professor Juhani Pallasmaa will provide the Geddes Institute with material on Lappi culture for inclusion as the third 'island' in the Archipelago. Since early December we have explored the possibility of including his work with several community centres, recently developed with the support of local community groups. In this area, seasonal tourism combined with reindeer herding/culling remains a major and traditional source of income. Professor Pallasmaa is assessing the impact on traditional communities of tourism, consumer culture, the diminution of public services, and the concentration of internet cafe/post distribution and management (medical services in particular). Numerous parallels to Scotland suggest themselves, including the current massive reduction of rural post offices in Scotland, which threatens to reduce the long-term sustainability of peripheral communities.