‘Survival Tools of the Anthropocene': Islandness and Resilience in Saoirse Higgins’ Pap-ØY-cene

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Names are important. Our current geological epoch may now be widely known as the Anthropocene, but this designation is layered with assumptions[i]. Critics of the term have disputed its foregrounding of the Anthropos, and the essentially western, male, colonial perspective it invokes. A range of counter-terms have been suggested. In her audio-visual exhibition at the Pier Arts Centre, Orkney, this summer, Saoirse Higgins offers another alternative: the Pap-Øy-cene.

The exhibition comprises installations in a range of media, from time lapse films to sculptural pieces, original archival material and artefacts. It documents research undertaken for ‘Survival Tools of the Anthropocene’, a practice-based PhD carried out at Glasgow School of Art and completed in 2020. This drew upon three years of intensive fieldwork by Higgins on the island of Papa Westray – or Papay as it’s known locally – in Orkney. Her process-driven practice explores islandness as a context for building sustainable futures, presenting a much-needed counterpoint to the usual ‘mainland’ thinking about the Anthropocene.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Drouth
Publication statusPublished - 3 Nov 2021


  • Anthropocene
  • Art
  • Orkney
  • Climate


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