Imagine 2037: New water town

J.R.Carpenter, a writer and digital artist born in Canada and based in the UK, takes us to Edinburgh in 20 years.


New water town by J.R. Carpenter

Sea levels have risen rapidly.
Inhabitants have migrated to higher ground.

A flotilla of linked boats floats over Leith.
Over the Grassmarket garden barges abound.

The Castle is occupied by displaced restaurant staff and a citizen's orchestra. By night the chefs prep and the orchestra rehearses. At the first light the strings tune as the waiters dip their oars in. Overtures for breakfast, variations after a rain.

The slopes of Carlton Hill and Holyrood Park are lined with tents, in which, a somewhat festive mood prevails.

All high points boast pirate radio stations. In the mornings we, the Holyrood Chorus, compose our calls. A phrase each to broadcast from Arthur's Seat: 'Whom do you miss?'
'What have you grown?' 'Where can't we go?'

We stand to speak. We sit to listen.

Afternoons we consider our responses:
'Our daughter.' 'Our lettuce.' 'Our home.'

Evenings in single file procession, our bodies rewrite the line from water to ridge. 'Does the wind rise?'
'What news from overseas?'

A shipment of Greenland grain expected.

Near voices resounding, recalling. Echoing distant observations, querying conditions, keening for replies. In this way daily we rewrite the score for our new water town.


J.R.'s story:


I am an emigrant born of immigrants born of emigrants. I lived most of my life as a minority English speaker in French-speaking Montreal. In 2009 I emigrated to England.

Questions of place and displacement have long pervaded my work. For the past 22 years I have explored migratory artforms. Web-based works, zines, maps, poly-vocal performances and postcards confuse and confound boundaries between print and digital, code and narrative, home and away.

My recent hybrid print, digital and performance work, The Gathering Cloud, aims to address the environmental impact of so-called 'cloud' storage by calling attention to the materiality of clouds in the sky.

I'm looking at ways to talk about the enormity of climate change in human terms that we can understand and act upon.


#Imagine2037 celebrates the 20th anniversary of the British Council's Edinburgh Showcase by inviting artists who are migrants, from all over the world, to imagine the future with us.

We've asked eight artists to write about a performance that takes place in 20 years' time on Arthur's Seat, a hilltop overlooking Edinburgh. Watch out for all the imaginary performances in the series – we're releasing one a day from 19–26 August. 

Imagine 2037 is curated by Andy Field, Alma Salem, Cathy Gomez and Matt Beavers.


Find out more:

> Discover Farah Salah's Edinburgh in 2037

> Discover Anida Yoeu Ali's Edinburgh in 2037

> Read Andy Field's feature on Imagine 2037

> See the line-up of artists taking part in Imagine 2037


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