These lights on a remote Scottish island showcase the devastating impact of rising tides

“Like, you’re walking, and you’re realizing that the lights go to your neck. I go, ‘Oh, I’d be very wet.’”

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LOCHMADDY, Scotland — The remote town of Lochmaddy, Scotland, is currently home to an extremely simple, and surprisingly effective, art installation about climate change.

Finnish artists Timo Aho and Pekka Niittyvirta installed the work, called "Lines (57° 59´N, 7° 16´W)," a year ago, on the island of North Uist, which has a population of about 1,200. The piece features LED lights with a grim meaning: The height at which they hang represents the most extreme, not-so-distant predictions for sea level rise, where the highest storm surge projections combine with the high tide.


The lights wrap around the Taigh Chearsabhagh arts center and a disused dairy and slice across the field that separates the village from the open ocean.

“We started the project within the context of physical positions of seaside communities and their futures," said Niittyvirta, one of the co-creators. “Humans have been influencing the climate since the start of the Industrial Revolution, and the effects of it has only been accelerating; LED visually resonates with the contemporary consumer society.”

The work ending up in Lochmaddy makes sense. To start, the town is home to a vibrant arts community, which includes the museum and a cohort of students who take university art classes. Many of Lochmaddy’s low-lying buildings also experience routine flooding — the museum included.

“It’s kind of highlighted the issue a wee bit more — quite a striking image,” said Harry Caldwell-Hardie, a student who moved to Lochmaddy to study art. “Like, you’re walking, and you’re realizing that the lights go to your neck. I go, ‘Oh, I’d be very wet.’”

VICE News went to the Lochmaddy to ask residents about the work’s impact.

This segment originally aired April 5, 2019, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.