The exhibition brings together work by twelve artists who have traveled to and spent time in the Galapagos archipelago through a residency programme initiated in 2007: Jyll Bradley, Paulo Catrica, Filipa Cesar, Marcus Coates, Dorothy Cross (with actor Fiona Shaw), Alexis Deacon, Jeremy Deller, Tania Kovats, Kaffe Matthews, Semiconductor and Alison Turnbull.
Curated by Bergit Arends and Greg Hilty
This exhibition brings together work by twelve artists who have traveled to and spent time in the Galápagos archipelago through a residency programme initiated in 2007. Each artist was invited on the basis of their profound engagement with the opportunity, and each found the experience transformative for their artistic practice and their life.
Collectively they demonstrate considerable variety of approach and discipline within the visual arts, ranging across film-making, video, installation, painting, sculpture, photography, animation, illustration and sound. The artists also brought to the project, and developed during it, considerable skills of communication and interaction with scientists, tourists, and local inhabitants of the Galápagos, allowing them to explore subjects of scientific or social interest consistent with their artistic concerns in depth. The works they have produced individually give compelling form to profound personal visions developed through their experiences on the islands. Shown together, they build a unique dreamscape of a remarkable place, messages for mankind from the stark realities of Galápagos.
In collaboration with Centro de Arte Moderna, Lisbon and The Bluecoat, Liverpool. The Gulbenkian Galápagos Artists' Residency Programme and Galápagos exhibition were organised by the Galapagos Conservation Trust in partnership with the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.
Additional support has come from the Charles Darwin Foundation and the Natural History Museum.
Jyll Bradley (b. 1966, Folkestone; lives London) has often focused upon people's complex relationships with plants as a way of exploring ideas of connectivity and place. Bradley's works typically combine photography (often presented in light-boxes), text and sculptural elements. They are oblique cultural constructs where the emotional meets the formal, both containing and revealing the individual and collective human spirit.
The trip to the Galápagos in November 2008 was profoundly moving for Bradley. She has said that she found its transparency beguiling: 'Galápagos has a way of paring intentions… it affords no shade, literally or metaphorically.' In Santa Cruz, she worked closely with the Botany Department of the Charles Darwin Research Station, following the work of their Native Gardening Project, which aims to encourage the growing of native plant species - such as Scalesia and Opuntia - instead of more spectacular imports like Bougainvillea spectabilis and golden trumpet. She accompanied a team visiting schools, local municipal gardens and private homes, both providing and helping to cultivate native plants. Bradley was fascinated by the paradox of horticulture being mobilised to help save nature, and reflected upon the fluid boundaries between gardening and nature.
Bradley photographed her observations using a 5x4 field camera, equipment which, in itself, slows down the act of looking. Her resulting portraits of gardens and gardening show plants being integrated modestly into the landscape by hand. They also indicate the subtle human relations brought about through this shared endeavour - an activity more often seen as a form of solitary creative expression.
Paulo Catrica (b. 1965, Lisbon; lives Lisbon) is a photographic artist who brought a radically different approach to his medium to the archipelago. The Galápagos are a magnet for photographers, both amateur and professional. The dramatic volcanic landscapes and unique animal life are sources of countless images at once iconic and personal to the photographer, largely as a consequence of the tameness of endemic species.
Catrica's photographs are of human architecture as landscape. His previous photographic projects have included series on UK new towns, Portuguese high schools and suburban areas across Europe - places of deep human purpose and practical aspiration. The works are always unpopulated, avoiding the anecdotal and illustrative depiction of daily life; they capture instead a tranquil essence of the character of places full of potential, waiting for something to happen.
Having carried out extensive research prior to his visit, he spent two weeks in the towns of Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz and Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristóbal. His aim was to record what he describes as the 'social landscape' of the archipelago, places where the built environment merges seamlessly into the natural environment.
Catrica's photographs document particular neighbourhoods on the Islands: a group of old hotels near the coast or La Cascada, a residential area in Puerto Ayora where since 1996 some of the newest and poorest immigrants from mainland Ecuador have moved. Catrica has written of this area, revealing something of the social purpose underpinning his artistic endeavour: 'La Cascada is a vibrant site, where people talk openly about the reasons that brought them there and praise the Islands as a non-violent place where the future seems possible.'
Filipa César (b. 1975, Porto; lives Berlin) uses film as her primary medium. In her work she reflects on subjects of political and social significance. She explores the fictional aspects of the documentary film genre and the politics behind the creation of moving images. Her work encompasses the filmic languages of storytelling, chronicling, documentary and the experimental.
From the outset César's approach to the Galápagos Islands, which she visited in May 2011, was inspired by the science fiction novella La Invencíon de Morel (The Invention of Morel, 1940) by Argentine writer Adolfo Bioy Casares. The story revolves around the invention of a machine able to reproduce images, sounds and even scents, superimposing these onto reality, and making them indistinguishable from reality itself. In César's words, 'this machine enables Morel to create the artificial eternity of a fugitive moment in time.'
The geographic context and the military history of the archipelago as well as its strategic importance for the USA during the Cold War particularly captured César's imagination. Her research focused on Baltra Island (also known as South Seymour), which was an air base for the US army, and North Seymour Island, which was used for military shooting practice and bombing training. These lines of enquiry led her to the National Archives in Washington DC where she found aerial photographs of these islands taken by military aeroplanes, including the negatives presented on these pages, which record a line of flight to North Seymour.
For the exhibition César creates an installation based on film footage, documents and geo-political information captured in the Galápagos during and after the research trip, articulated with Morel's reflections.
Marcus Coates (b.1968, London; lives Malvern) uses multiple artistic media - performance, sound and video installations, photography and sculpture - to explore humans' relations with our natural surroundings. He is especially interested in the ways in which humans regard and relate to other species, as a means of investigating how we see ourselves. He is interested in 'being animal': what forms animal consciousness can take and how it connects variously with the human. Key works include Dawn Chorus (2007) in which humans seem to mimic songbirds, and Journey to the Lower World (2004), bringing shamanistic practices to a Liverpool tower block.
Unsurprisingly in view of his earlier work, Coates' journey to the Galápagos provided him with a wealth of material and inspiration. He engaged actively with what he encountered, improvising oddly incisive works on site. Galápagos Fashions (2008) parodied the showy appeal of Galápagos fauna as typically (and most often beautifully) presented in nature magazines, coffee-table books and tourist brochures. Coates himself cross-dressed in a bright pink frock and posed as if vying for attention with the iconic giant tortoises. In similar vein, his now famous work Human Report (2008) appropriates the format of the nature documentary, turning the tables by sending a blue-footed booby (Coates in this case wearing a cardboard costume) to observe human behaviour. The film of his research was presented on Galápagos television, the news report from which was in turn incorporated into Coates' final video artwork.
Dorothy Cross (b.1956, Cork; lives Co. Galway) is one of Ireland's leading artists with a practice that encompasses a range of media, including sculpture, photography, film and opera. Her art conveys a poetic and passionate interest in the relationship between nature and culture.
Dorothy Cross was the first of the artists to visit the Galápagos, travelling there in April 2007. She was accompanied by her friend, the actor and director Fiona Shaw. She had already visited the Galápagos in 1994 and scuba-dived among hammerhead sharks, living aboard a boat and swimming at night with sea-lions delineated by phosphorescence. Thirteen years later she was dismayed by the increase in the human population and its deleterious impact on animals and their habitats.
She had been commissioned by Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery to create a show for the bicentenary of Charles Darwin's birth in 2009. An exhibition of her work was subsequently shown in Shrewsbury's Unitarian Church, which Darwin attended as a child with his mother. It included her film Stage that combines shots of the extraordinary animals that exist on the Islands, overlaid by recordings of conversations between Cross and Shaw, in which they attempt to answer difficult questions about the role of art in such a place as the Galápagos. The work ends with images of Shaw sitting in a room full of whale bones and dead tortoise shells - a depository they found, dusty and locked up, in the centre of the Charles Darwin Research Station. Stage was based on a poem by American writer Emily Dickinson about abdication, which mirrored their feelings of the need for abdication during their visit to the Islands.
Alexis Deacon (b.1978, London; lives London) studied illustration at the University of Brighton but has been obsessed with drawing from an early age. Animals have been one of his regular subjects, and he often draws the captive species at London Zoo. Deacon is a celebrated illustrator and writer of books for children: his first work Slow Loris (2002) takes an amusing and touching behind-the-scenes look at a zoo. Beegu (2003), his second book, follows an alien stranded on planet Earth.
Travelling in the Galápagos in late 2009, Deacon closely observed and engaged with his companions both on the boat trip around the Islands and during his stay in Puerto Ayora. He was struck by the unreality of the tourist experience - however pleasurable and fascinating - compared with the more complex and compromised life of the scientific and local inhabitants of the main town of the Galápagos. He chose not to take any photographs during his stay, realising he would lose the immediacy of the experience if he mediated it through photography as every visitor does, almost as a reflex. Instead, Deacon drew constantly. He was also happy to provide practical help, in the form of illustrations for a campaign to promote the use of bicycles and to improve road safety and awareness on the island of Santa Cruz.
Deacon is developing a graphic novel for children as a direct result of his experience of the Galápagos. He has chosen to locate his story in the near-mythical past, telling the tale of a shipwrecked Spanish crew.
Jeremy Deller (b. 1966, London; lives London) has developed a unique artistic practice as instigator, curator and producer, giving prominence to cultural communities generally ignored in mainstream cultural consumption. Among his best known projects are Acid Brass (from 1997), fusing the musical genres and cultural traditions of brass band and techno music, and The Battle of Orgreave (2001), a filmed re-enactment of the 1984 battle between miners and police. Deller has produced works involving animals, notably Memory Bucket (2003) which brought together the Waco massacre, George W. Bush and a colony of bats in flight, and the Bat House Project (from 2006), an architectural competition to design a home for bats in London.
Deller focused while in the Galápagos in late 2010 on the cultural conventions imported to the Islands by its inhabitants. He chose not to engage specifically with the scientific community, rather spending time with the people of Puerto Ayora, respectfully observing the ways they organise their lives. He was particularly drawn to the profusion of churches and religious denominations, noting their espousal of creationism in a place so closely associated with Darwin.
Deller produced a record of cock-fighting, which occurred weekly in a breeze-block structure in scrubland near the power station on Santa Cruz Island.1 It is, predominantly, a popular social event: families are present, money changes hands, there are noisy scenes both of people interacting and cocks battling. Deller dwells on the rituals of the occasion including the fitting of spurs on the birds. Underlying the presentation, never overtly stated, is the tension - Deller has used the word 'blasphemy' - of witnessing cock-fighting in a place where visitors are more accustomed to blue-footed boobies' mating dances.
In May 2011, the year after Jeremy Deller visited the Galápagos Islands, cock-fighting was outlawed in Ecuador by a referendum.
Tania Kovats (b. 1966, Brighton; lives Devon) has a long-held fascination with Charles Darwin's work. In 2008 she travelled South America with Darwin's journal The Voyage of the Beagle as a guide. The following year she completed TREE, a permanent large-scale installation for the Natural History Museum, London, as homage to Darwin's formulation of the theory of evolution. Also in 2009 she created the work WORM in reference to Darwin's research into the importance of small, slow and incremental change through the labour of humble worms.
Kovats' works are primarily sculptural, with drawings as preparations, which are also works in their own right. Her thinking is that of an archaeologist and geologist as she studies natural environments and man-made landscapes.
The cycles of life and death as embodied in nature and evolution have provided Kovats with a new sculptural language following her Galápagos residency in December 2009. The proposal for the residency was to draw barnacles - Darwin wrote his doctoral thesis on these animals - and these have now become an ongoing piece of research for her.
Back in Devon, where Kovats currently lives, she found a roadkill badger. Her taxidermied form of this badger, an animal which is currently at the centre of contentious and emotive debates about its potential role in the transmission of bovine tuberculosis, provokes us to consider the collision between man and nature, and how we manage our countryside and for whose benefit. Taxidermy in itself is an art that essentially halts the decay of an organic form.
Kaffe Matthews (b.1961, Essex; lives London) is a composer and sound artist who regularly makes and performs works live throughout the world. She also creates sonic and interactive sculptural forms, for example Sonic Bed_London in which a visitor lies, at once hearing and feeling specially made music move all over their body.
Before becoming an artist Matthews studied zoology. She chose to view the Galápagos primarily from the ocean, diving with and filming hammerhead sharks. The wonder of these prehistoric creatures and their perilous conservation status encouraged her to focus her research on their patterns of behaviour. During two weeks at the Charles Darwin Research Station, she met with local fishermen and scientists and was introduced to the California-based research programme continuing through the marine conservation project Migramar. In 2011 she went to UC Davis, California, to meet the team of researchers who use acoustic tracking devices to follow hammerhead sharks through the Pacific.
Matthews has used this data, generously supplied by the scientists, to create a three-dimensional sound work that evolves in relation to the sharks' movements through the deep waters. She describes it as 'a piece whose melodies, rhythms, noises, chords, filters and processes are driven by the daily patterns of their movement, the underwater conditions and topography'. Matthews also made underwater recordings which she used in a music-making workshop on Isabela Island to encourage schoolchildren to develop a greater sense of the sound world around them. Since the Galápagos, much of Matthews' work has been based in outdoor environments.
Semiconductor Ruth Jarman (b. 1973, Fareham) and Joe Gerhardt (b.1972, Oxford; both live in Brighton) founded Semiconductor in 1997. In their practice they explore the underlying forces and processes behind the appearance of the world. Working closely with scientists, in particular in astronomy and geology, they trace how science affects our experience and observation of the world.
They are interested in the volcanic geology of the Galápagos and undertook extensive research prior to their visit in January and February 2010, which they then continued through a research fellowship at the Smithsonian Institution's Mineral Sciences Laboratory in Washington DC later that year.
Semiconductor primarily works with moving images, animation, documentary and archival footage. Major works resulting from their Galápagos residency and subsequent research include Worlds in the Making (2011), a moving image installation blending animation and documentary footage of volcanologists at work and that of landscapes with active volcanoes. The botanists' practices on the Galápagos became the subject of their short film Indefatigable (2010), which premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2010.
Sound plays a key role in their work. They studied closely the recordings of seismographic data on the Galápagos through graphs, and the volcanologists' translations of heard sound into verbal descriptions, which in turn were recreated for the soundtrack of Worlds in the Making. Most recently the artists have been experimenting with paintings that are inspired by lava flows.
Alison Turnbull (b. 1956, Bogotá; lives London) is an artist with a long-standing interest in translating data and ordering systems into pictorial abstractions. Many of her works use science as primary reference, from astronomy to molecular biology; design and architecture also serve as starting points. Through painting and drawing Turnbull converts the charting of knowledge from one language into another, thereby creating new aesthetic entities. Inspired by evolutionary thinker Charles Darwin, Turnbull discovered the manual Werner's Nomenclature of Colours, a copy of which Darwin himself had taken on his voyage on The Beagle. The book contains small, hand-painted swatches of colour, each of which refers to objects from the mineral, vegetable and animal kingdoms.
On the Islands in late 2009, Turnbull looked at butterflies and moths in the field and at the Charles Darwin Research Station. Back in London her research continued during a residency in the Entomology Department at the Natural History Museum. The artist sourced all 105 specimens of Galápagos butterflies in the museum's collections, such as the sulphur yellow (Phoebis sennae marcellina) and a blue butterfly (Leptodes parrhasioides) she had seen on Santa Cruz. She recorded their colour characteristics and made an inventory of all the data on the specimen labels. Turnbull's print Specimens (2012) translates the information gleaned from the individual butterflies and the taxonomic process into a pictorial system that reflects the arrangement of research specimens. A companion print Species (2012) plots data of moth species in the collection of John Lorne Campbell, a naturalist who lived on the Isle of Canna in Scotland. Both collections are from islands, one from the equatorial Pacific, one from an archipelago in the North Atlantic.
Galápagos Talks and Events
Workshop Human Nature
Saturday 10 and Saturday 17 November,
11am–4pm. Free. 12 places for 14–17 year olds.
Artist Ailsa Lochhead leads a two-day workshop for 14–17 year olds using a variety of media including photography and performance to explore the exhibition. To book or to find out more please contact Caitlin Page on 0131 226 8186 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Panel Discussion We are always slow in admitting any great change of which we do not see the intermediate steps*
Wednesday 14 November, 6-8pm. Free.
Curator Greg Hilty; artists Marcus Coates, David Cunningham, Jeremy Deller, Tania Kovats and Alison Turnbull; and zoologist Professor Aubrey Manning (University of Edinburgh) explore relationships between Galápagos and the work in the exhibition.
*Title from Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1859)
Thursday 15 November, 6.30-9.30. Free.
The artist and musician David Cunningham (producer of Martin Creed and Michael Nyman and formerly of The Flying Lizards) plays treated electric guitar alongside a randomly generated series of animal sounds, an attempt to create and present an aural ecology as a parallel structure rather than exotic decoration.
Poetry Reading A little world within itself
Wednesday 28 November, 6.30pm. Free.
Peter Riley (Cambridge), Kei Miller (from Jamaica, based in Glasgow) and Tracey S. Rosenberg (from the USA, based in Edinburgh) read from their work in an evening of poetries that chime with themes of human geography in the Galápagos exhibition. Part of Book Week Scotland.
Tour In the Loop
Wednesday 7 November, 2–3pm. Free. 10 places.
A tour of the exhibition for visitors who are
hard of hearing.
Tour In the Frame
Wednesday 7 November, 6.30–8pm. Free. 10 places.
A tour of the exhibition specifically designed for visually-impaired visitors, including detailed descriptions of art work and practice.
A portable FM hearing loop is available at all talks and events for visitors who are hard of hearing. Please contact the Gallery prior to the event to book equipment. This service is available as part of Artlink’s In the Loop programme.
Booking is recommended for all events. To book your place call 0131 226 8181 or email email@example.com
The Fruitmarket Gallery
45 Market Street - Edinburgh EH1 1DF
Opening Hours Mon—Sat 11am—6pm, Sun 12—5pm