Practicing Deep Time

23 + 24 March 2018 | Timespan + the wider environments of East Sutherland and Caithness

Booking now open at Eventbrite.

Practicing Deep Time is a two-day event focusing on Deep Time in arts and heritage: a one-day multidisciplinary symposium based at Timespan followed by a day “in the field”, exploring Deep Time concepts across East Sutherland and Caithness.

Deep time is both the distant pasts and equally distant futures; it is geological, nuclear, astronomical. In the north of Scotland it is visible in the environments around us – in the deep peat landscape of the Flow Country laid down over thousands of years and the rocky mountain peaks of Caithness which rise out of rolling farmland, sculpted by glacial shifts. Here, the issues of Deep Time are also made manifest in the technological and industrial – on Scotland’s north coast, the Dounreay Nuclear Power Development Establishment, a test facility for nuclear power technologies, is in a process of decommissioning, and in the North Sea, new infrastructure at the Beatrice Oil Field is shifting from oil to wind.

With contributors from across the arts and heritage sectors, working in international, national and regional contexts, the programme focuses particularly on how we might address deep time subjects and issues in contemporary artistic, museological, archaeological, and environmental practices. The programme also pays attention to the points where deep time intersects with the contemporary moment, in current conversations around climate change, nuclear waste storage, and the anthropocene – where the impact of humans has been imprinted on the geological record.

On Friday, Timespan will host a day of talks and workshops. Anna-Sophie Springer will present a keynote talk drawing on recent work that aims to create sustained conversation about the future of “natural history” through exhibition-led enquiry bringing together natural history collections and contemporary art.  A cross-disciplinary roundtable session will consider the particular issues associated with the communication and interpretation of Deep Time subjects – what methods can we employ to overcome the perceived unknowability of distant pasts and futures?

On Saturday, a series of field trips offer an opportunity to head out from Helmsdale and explore Deep Time issues through the surrounding environments and technologies of Sutherland and Caithness. Each field trip is developed in collaboration with an invited contributor who will approach the site through the lens of their practice.

Field trips include:

Confirmed contributors include: Anna-Sophie Springer (exhibition maker, writer, editor and Director at K. Verlag, Berlin), Nashin Mahtani (Research Director, anexact office and Project Co-Manager & Lead Designer,, Jakarta), Dr Gavin McGregor (Northlight Heritage / University of Glasgow) Sam Nightingale (artist, London).

We also extend an invitation to attend the opening of our next exhibition, Yellowcake, a presentation of moving image work by Gair Dunlop that traces the rise and fall of the UK nuclear fission research programme, seen through its sites, archives, memories and consequences. The exhibition opens on Thursday 22 March at 18.30. It is a convivial first opportunity to meet, and provides a fitting start to our Practicing Deep Time programme.

This event is open to all but spaces are limited, so booking is essential.

Tickets are £25 / £15 conc. (low income, student, freelance) and can be booked online through Eventbrite

Tickets cover both days of the conference programme inc. field trip travel and most food and drink (further details below).

1-day tickets are also available for both days of the programme and are £12.50 / £10 conc.. 

Hospitality, travel and accommodation

Food and drink

Whether travelling from near or far, we look forward to extending a warm welcome to all our visitors. Your ticket includes welcome drinks at Thursday’s exhibition opening, lunch, teas and coffees, and home baking on Friday. We will also be hosting dinner on Friday evening, for which there is an additional charge of £10 which can be paid on the day.


Timespan is within 5 minutes walk of the bus stop and train station, and we have our own car park. Both Friday and Saturday’s activities will end in time for the last train south (17.44) to Inverness and onwards to the Central Belt and London (via sleeper service) and north (21.08) towards Wick and Thurso. Timespan’s nearest airport Inverness offers a range of travel options from those coming from further afield.

N.b. travel to and from field trip locations will be arranged and is included in the conference ticket.


Helmsdale has a number of accommodation options. See the accommodation listings on our website for more details.


We aim to make our events and activities accessible to as many people as possible. Friday’s events will take place at Timespan which is a wheelchair accessible venue with disabled parking opposite. The field trips will include some time spent outside, and will utilise other venues in the region. If you have specific requirements or need further information please get in touch.

Image Credit: Sam Nightingale, ‘Atomic Light’, Darkness Visible (2016)