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Coastal Commons: Beyond North Sea Extractivism

Timespan launches new contemporary art and heritage programme of research exploring systems of extraction and exploitation of natural resources and their impacts on Highlands coastal communities

Coastal Commons: Beyond North Sea Extractivism is a long-term heritage and art programme that explores the effects of extractivism on Highlands coastal communities. The programme explores ways of reimagining our relationship with natural resources and energy production, engaging with the impacts of the climate crisis at a global and local level and fostering transnational solidarity. Coastal Commons brings together communities, artists and activists through a programme of exhibitions, film screenings, research and debates to oppose systems of exploitation and to envision alternative sustainable futures.

Extractivism is a term born out of anti-colonial struggles in the Global South, to define both an ideology and an economic system that commodifies the world and all its beings through mass-scale removal and accumulation of resources primarily for export. Deeply entwined with colonialism, capitalism, and globalisation, it perpetuates systems of exploitation that serve to exacerbate existing inequalities and power imbalances. By treating the earth and its inhabitants as resources to be exploited, extractivism prioritises the accumulation of profit and power in the hands of a privileged few.

Coastal Commons: Beyond North Sea Extractivism seeks to redress this imbalance by examining the impacts of extractivism on coastal communities, including the historical injustices of land clearance in the Scottish Highlands and Islands, and the ongoing experiences of “petro marginalisation” and “oil clearance” in Scotland’s coastal oil communities. By critically engaging with the effects of extractivism on both local and global scales, the programme underscores the urgent need to reimagine our relationship to natural resources and energy production.

At Timespan, we recognise that the cultural system is deeply entwined with neoliberal extractivist logics. That’s why we’re committed to exploring alternative models of artistic production that promote sustainability, equity, and justice. Our ongoing efforts to revise our policies, structure, and governance aim to reduce our carbon footprint and minimise our impact on the environment.