For this project I wanted to explore the symbiotic relationship between humans and the land they live in and with, in particular communities in the highlands and islands. I found several old films depicting life in these communities ranging from 1940-70 that I could contrast with my own experience – having lived there on and off throughout my life. I found that a large proportion of these clips had been made for the purpose of drawing tourists in to ‘rediscover’ the land, and so I began to explore the concept of re-connection and by extension, tourism.
The topic of tourism is a complex one – with it being both essential and also destructive. Are tourists really re-connecting with the land or is it just escapism? Is it gatekeeping to the land (and therefore gatekeeping to something essential and healthy to being human) to merely call a tourist’s experience and reasoning for visiting ‘escapism’? Is escapism and re-connection interlinked, or are most tourists just romanticising the landscape, never really connecting with it and instead bringing a gradual destruction of the way of life of those actually living in these places? Is this an inevitable change in attitude to the land that just comes with modern life and are we losing touch with something essential to ‘being human’?
With these questions in mind, I recreated some essential moments from the archival footage in which people were interacting with the landscape of the Hebrides, and placing them in the context of old Scottish railway posters. I have since modified these ‘posters’ to include more personal elements from my own experience of these wild places, as I believe that it is the value of time spent within an environment that is the difference between fleeting escapism and true human connection.
Experience:Being HUMAN 2020/21
Archive:Moving Image Archive (National Library of Scotland)