PALO ALTO, CA.-
"The Tomb" on Enewetak Atoll, a concrete bunker holding more than 3.1 million cubic feet of US-produced radioactive soil and debris, is cracking due to rising sea levels and temperatures, dumping plutonium into the Pacific. This August, 30 international, Oceanian and Marshallese artists, writers, scientists, and filmmakers will sail 450 nautical miles around the 29 atolls that make up the Marshall Islands for Kõmij Mour Ijin, the Marshallese for Our Life is Here
The expedition is being launched by Cape Farewell, the cultural programme founded by artist David Buckland in 2001 to highlight the urgency of climate change. He and fellow artists photographer, oceans activist and bookmaker Michael Light and Marshallese poet, Climate Ambassador, performance artist and educator Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner will lead the mission to explore the two crucial issues facing the Marshallese people and their 3,000 year-old culture today: rising sea levels and the legacy of nuclear testing.
The atolls, which lie on average only 6 feet above sea level, will be engulfed by the Pacific Ocean by the end of this century, if climate disruption continues on its current trajectory; whilst the scars of the 67 nuclear detonations carried out by the United States from 1946 to 1958 on Bikini and Enewetak Atolls are now recognised as being responsible for the worst radiological disasters in US history.
With this expedition we will create narratives in art, film, words and music that offer the world insight into our present human crises and resilient pathways forward, says Buckland. We want to harness the positivity and resourcefulness of the 42,000+ islanders who still call these fast-disappearing islands home and help broadcast the message that a sustainable human existence is possible in the Anthropocene if we examine the past carefully, truly engage with present challenges, and consciously and creatively dream a different future.
The Marshallese have already played a key role in sounding the climate alert, with their late statesman Tony de Brum credited for his vital contribution to the Paris Climate Accord, signed at Cop21 in 2015. His granddaughter Kalena de Brum, a leading Marshallese scientist will lead on coral interrogation work for the expedition. The youth team has been developed in partnership with local educational organization Jo-Jikum (your home in Marshallese), which helps young Marshall Islanders respond to climate change by organizing island-wide science based climate change workshops, cleanups and community activities. Jo Jikum was co-founded by expedition member Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner, who is celebrated for her poetry performance at the opening of the UN Climate Summit in New York in 2014.
International team members include:
David Buckland, one of the 10 key artists making urgent work about climate today
Video artist Lisa Reihana, who represented New Zealand at the Venice Biennale 2017
US-based Meghann Riepenhoff, whose camera-less cyanotypes are created in collaboration with the landscape and the ocean - rain, waves, wind, and sediment leave physical inscriptions on the photographic materials
San Francisco-based Michael Light, whose photographic work is focused on the environment and how contemporary American culture relates to it
Japanese, Berlin-based, Takashi Arai, known for his contemporary daguerrotypes
British artist and curator, focused on environmentally-oriented work, Michael Pinsky
William L. Fox, founding director of the Center for Art + Environment at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno.
The intention is also to create an expedition film, a global touring museum exhibition and book documenting the journey, to communicate to a global audience just how relevant the Marshallese story is to us all.
The last president of the Marshalls Hilda Heine has said, The thought of evacuation is repulsive to us. We think that the more reasonable thing to do is to seek to end this madness, this climate madness, where people think that smaller, vulnerable countries are expendable and therefore they can continue to do business as usual.
The expedition has received substantial funding from Waverley Street Foundation and Stellar Blue Trust.
Cape Farewell, the cultural programme tackling climate change, leads a team of 30 international and Marshallese artists and scientists around the Marshall Islands, the atolls threatened with extinction by rising sea levels and the legacy of nuclear testing.
The mission: to prove that "Kõmij Mour Ijin / Our Life Is Here - we can and must find ways to live more sustainably on the one planet we have.
Supported by Laurene Powell Jobs charitable organisation distributing $3.5m to environmental causes, Waverley Street Foundation.
Cape Farewell was created by the artist David Buckland in 2001. His position is that climate scientists have proven the dangers of climate change, but addressing the causes of climate change is a cultural responsibility we need to evolve a new, cleaner, sustainable society and creatives are key to narrating and inspiring this transformation. Since 2003 Cape Farewell has led eight expeditions to the Arctic, two to the Scottish Islands, and one to the Peruvian Andes, taking creatives, scientists, educators and communicators to experience the effects of climate change firsthand. By physically sailing to the heart of the debate, Cape Farewell aims to draw people's attention to the effects of ocean currents on us and our climate - revealing the workings of this crucial part of the planet through scientific experiments, film, live web broadcasts, events, exhibitions and the insight of artists and educators. From these expeditions has sprung an incredible body of artworks, exhibitions, publications and educational resources. Each journey is a catalyst for all our subsequent activity.