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Symposium: Molecular Intimacies

31 January to 2 February 2020

Free to attend with lunch provided on Saturday
Pop-Up Restaurants £12.50 per head
Booking essential as limited seats on community buses!
Tix available from eventbrite or | 01431821327

Tickets can be booked at Eventbrite >>>

Molecular Intimacies is a field and performance symposium associated with knowbotiq’s project thulu thu thu, before the sun harms you, to critically engage and participate in the contaminated landscapes of the Scottish Highlands and the cultural, technological, political and social apparatus which govern them.  The Highland lands are unearthly territories to imagine and speculate on future extinction and the limits of the planet, where the ghosts of the white Anthropocene  – land grabs, dispossession, forced migration, corporate extraction, environmental poisoning – are preserved in deep time and rendered inhuman materialities of the earth.
Bringing together researchers, artists, performers, scientists and historians, the symposium will approach specific local energy zones – the carbon sequestration peatland blanket bog; the irradiated decommissioned nuclear plant and the future site of the first UK spaceport –  to consider scales and depths of time, natural and artificial mutations, residues of colonial histories, imperceptible biodata, technological machinations and traumatic cultural memories, which are inscribed in the land that people, and other beings and sentients, are embedded in and composed of.  
A collective will operate the undefined raffia, at the various energy zones, as a mode of enquiry to penetrate and participate in the current ecological condition. The collective movement will be led by various incantations, a fractured series of sounds, songs, readings and technocosmologies which respond to the politics of the Anthropocene. 

On Friday, Ama Josephine Budge will present a performative lecture on climate justice and speculative fiction, followed by an ‘end-of -the-world’ inspired feast from artist Andrew Black.
On Saturday, we’re out on the field in the community bus, guided by a recording from historian David Alston on Sutherland’s colonial history and its relationship to the Highland Clearances. Our first stop is the monitoring stations at the peatland bogs for an improvised collective performance and a discussion on carbon politics between peat ecologist Roxane Andersen and environmental policy researcher Yolanda Ariadne Collins. Next, we’re travelling to the site of the UK’s first space-port to discuss the racialisation of datascapes, surveillance technologies and territories. We’re then travelling to the beach at decommissioned Dounreay nuclear plant for a radioactive seaside performance and a participatory lecture on soil contamination and colonial legacies from researcher and architect João Prates Vital
We’re finishing off Saturday’s big day out with a pop-up restaurant from Moroccan cook Sanna McLeod and a performance from Belinda Zhawi.
On Sunday morning, we’ll host coffee and cakes, for participants, pals and guests to discuss the expanded notion of nature and its technological, political, biological and social registers.


Friday 31st January

1800: Participatory raffia braiding and Caribbean textiles history: Rose Sinclair
1845: Performance Lecture:  Ama Josephine Budge
1930: ‘End of the World’ Pop-Up Restaurant: Andrew Black

Saturday 1st Feb
0945 – 1000: Meet at Timespan
1000 – 1100: Community Bus to peat bogs (accompanied by short recording from David Alston)
1100 – 1230: Peatland Bogs Watch Tower: raffia improvised movement workshop; Ariadne Collins & Roxane Andersen discussion on carbon politics.
1230 – 1400: Community bus from Forsinard to A’ Mhòine (accompanied by short recording from David Alston and an on-bus picnic)
1400 – 1530: Space-Port Site: field lecture: Campaign Against Arms Trade
1530 – 1700: Community bus to Dounreay Nuclear Plant (accompanied by short recording from David Alston)
1700 – 1830: Nuclear Beach: beach raffia improvised performance, field lecture: Joao Ruivo
1830 – 1930: Bus to Timespan
2030 – 2200: Moroccan Pop-Up Restaurant: Sanna McLeod
2200: Performance night and dj: Belinda Zhawi 

Sunday 2nd Feb
1100: Timespan: Coffee and Cakes

Practical Considerations
Note: Scotland based visual arts workers can apply to Scottish Contemporary Art Network’s (SCAN) Mandate Go See Fund for a contribution towards travel, accommodation, childcare and access support. Deadline is 17th January 12pm. 

Please get in touch if you’re considering driving, and we’ll arrange car sharing.
Helmsdale Train Station is 5 mins walk from Timespan and the line services between Inverness and Thurso-Wick.
Helmsdale Bus Stop is 5 mins walk from Timespan and the route services between Inverness and Wick-Thurso-Scrabster.

Within Scotland
If you’re travelling from Glasgow, the 1010 train gets you into Inverness for 1325 in time for the X99 bus to Helmsdale for 1610. You can return on Sunday either on the 1011 bus which gets you on the 1246 Inverness train to arrive in Glasgow for 1558; or the X99 bus at 1246 gets you into Inverness for the 1520 coach to Glasgow for 1905. 

If you’re travelling from Edinburgh, the 1000 bus gets you into Inverness for 1345, in time for the 1415 X99 bus to Helmsdale. On Sunday, the 1011 Helmsdale bus gets you into Inverness for the 1225 coach via Broxden for arrival in Edinburgh at 1623. Alternatively, you can get the 1246 Helmsdale bus for the Inverness train to Edinburgh at 1522.

From Aberdeen, the 1156 train gets into Inverness for 1407 ready for the X99 bus to Helmsdale leaving at 1415. The return journey on Sunday leaves on Helmsdale bus at 1246 for the Inverness train at 1530. 

From Dundee, the 1038 train gets you into Aberdeen, to transfer to Inverness on the 1156 train, in time for the 1415 bus to Helmsdale. The return journey on Sunday is 1246 Helmsdale bus for the 1522 train via Perth, arriving at 1803.

Helmsdale is a 1hr 45mins drive from Inverness Airport which is networked to London, Birmingham, Bristol, Amsterdam and Manchester. If you’re flying via Inverness, please get in touch and we can see if we can arrange the community bus to pick up a group from the airport. 

The Bridge Hotel is kindly offering a discounted rate. Please reference Timespan when booking. 
There’s a wide range of Helmsdale self catering and B&B’s listed here >>>

Timespan is fully accessible, as are the community buses which have wheelchair access. The walk from bus to outlook tower at the peatland bogs is approximately 8 minutes on a raised wooden platform. The walk from the bus to the space-port is a 5 minute walk on uneven land. The walk from the bus to the nuclear beach is a 10 min walk across uneven land and sand.

We’ve organised alternative venues if the weather is rubbish and we need shelter out on the field. We anticipate that it will be cold and potentially icy so please wear warm clothes and sturdy shoes. If you need help to arrange these, get in touch and we’ll try our hardest to source them.

Programme PDF


David Alston is a historian who researches the role of Highland Scots in the slave plantations of Guyana before emancipation in 1834. He is one of the first Scottish historians to draw attention to the prominent role of Scots in the slave trade and the plantation economies of the Caribbean.

Roxane Andersen is a Research Fellow based at the Environmental Research Institute, part of the University of the Highlands and Islands, where she leads the ‘Carbon, Water and Climate’ theme. Her applied research focuses on evaluating above-and-below ground communities and biochemical processes in disturbed, natural and restored systems, with a focus on northern peatlands.

Andrew Black is an artist, organiser and cook, whose work subjectively presents queer narratives, exploring personal and collective relationships to work, nature, institutions and the state, and thinks around provinciality and local ways of being.

Ama Josephine Budge is a Speculative Writer, Artist, Curator and Pleasure Activist whose work navigates intimate explorations of race, art, ecology and feminism, working to activate movements that catalyse human rights, environmental evolutions and troublesomely queered identities. Ama is a Guest Curator with Theatre Deli and a PhD candidate in Psychosocial Studies with Dr Gail Lewis at Birkbeck. Her research takes a queer, decolonial approach to challenging climate colonialism in Sub-Saharan Africa with a particular focus on inherently environmentalist pleasure practices in Ghana and Kenya.

Yolanda Ariadne Collins is particularly interested in climate change governance and politics. Her research adopts post-structural approaches to interrogating the intersection of power, development and neoliberalism in global efforts to conserve tropical rainforests. Her doctoral research focused on the implementation of the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) initiative in Guyana and Suriname.

Rose Sinclair is a researcher and educator, with particular interest in the textiles history of Caribbean women in the UK. Rose has studied the Dorcas Clubs and the Windrush generation through oral and life stories to research how the textiles created by these networks embody both material culture and diasporic tales.

João Prates Ruivo is an architect whose research focuses on the technical transformations of soils after the Second World War. His PhD research project ‘Soil Politics’, at the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths, investigates the role of scientific soil surveys in the anti-colonial struggles in Angola and Guinea-Bissau, and the relation between counterinsurgency tactics and present-day land-grab disputes.

Belinda Zhawi is a Zimbabwean born writer & educator currently based in London. Her work explores Afro-diasporic research & narratives; the impact of colonialism across Africa; the immigrant experience in Britain and how art & education can be used as intersectional tools. She was the 2016/17 Institute of Contemporary Arts Associate Poet & is co-founder of, literary arts platform, BORN::FREE. Belinda is the author of Small Inheritances (ignitionpress, 2018).