In the summer of 2012, the School of Biological Sciences hosted a residency for two artists to work with marine biologists at the Lighthouse Field Station in Cromarty. The project was a collaboration with Inverness Old Town Art (through their Sublime programme) supported by Creative Scotland, Highland Council, Inverness Common Good Fund and Highlands & Islands Enterprise.

Researchers worked with artists Stephen Hurrel and Mark Lyken to create artistic works inspired by parallels between marine mammal and human responses to sound and light. The works were first presented during a week of arts and science events in Cromarty, and subsequently in Inverness Cathedral.

The team

Professor Paul Thompson (pictured far left) is Chair in Zoology at the Cromarty Lighthouse Field Station, University of Aberdeen. The researchers involved from the university included Paul and his extended research team.
Mark Lyken and Stephen Hurrel (pictured left) are artists who were seconded to the project.
The project was curated by Susan Christie, Director of the IOTA, and developed as part of SUBLIME; a programme of works that aimed to reach new audiences and inhabit different public spaces.

Other members of the team included Emma Dove, a freelance film maker based in Glasgow.


Who benefitted?

The project directly impacted on the researchers and artists involved – researchers developed a new dimension in thinking around the impact of their research and creative skills through working alongside the artists. Meanwhile the artists themselves benefitted from access to current research outputs on which to base topical and contemporary works.
Finally, through the project outputs, local publics including school pupils and the Cromarty community gained insight and access to research happening on their doorstep, with potential relevance to their everyday lives.

Why did we engage?

dolphin lighthouseWe were interested in comparing the experiences and reactions to sound and light stimuli between human and marine mammals based on our research on the impacts of underwater noise. The collaboration with the artists allowed us to explore this in a creative way that would stimulate discussion and challenge perceptions among the local community. We also saw the collaboration with IOTA and associated supporters as a channel through which to further strengthen links with local organisations who we would consider to be stakeholders in our research outputs.

Wider Impact

The project has highlighted the field station’s research to a wider audience through considerable associated press and media coverage including STV, BBC Alba, BBC Radio Scotland Culture Cafe, BBC Radio 4, The Herald. Further online coverage included NERC, Culture24 and A Closer Listen. Highlands filmmaker Emma Dove captured the story of the artist residencies in a documentary, entitled ‘Cromarty Sublime’; a collage of the visual landscape of Cromarty, with observations from the artists and engagement by the public.  One of the sound outputs of the project Terrestrial Sea is available on iTunes.