Review: Gálapagos, The Fruitmarket, Edinburgh

Originally published in Aesthetica magazine.

Galápagos is the product of a residency programme in the islands undertaken by twelve artists from diverse backgrounds. Pleasingly interdisciplinary and yet still cohesive, it addresses issues of conservation, politics, memory, and more.

 

The exhibition opens with Dorothy Cross’ Whale, a vast, suspended skeleton of a Cuvier whale. This is a neat illustration of chance, and luck – the Cuvier is one of very few whales that can be found in the seas both around Britain and the Galápagos, and it just happens that Cross found the skeleton on an Irish beach.

Obscure species also inform Alison Turnbull’s work, which takes unique pigment prints from museum collections of butterflies and moths, resulting in a kind of oblique family tree in Specimens, a study of the butterflies of the Galápagos islands, and Species, its Hebridean counterpart.

Where Turnbull provides an evocative visual representation of the vibrancy of the islands, Kaffe Matthews explores the aural and the kinetic. Matthews used acoustic tracking devices to document the behavior of sharks, producing You might come out of the water every time singing. This highly tactile piece of work – a platform that moves and vibrates with the noise of the sharks – is deeply immersive, thanks in part to the winding corridors that lead to the dark, chamber-like space it is housed in.

Around the corner, the initial stillness of Semiconductor’s Worlds in the making is reminiscent of Agnes Martin’s Gabriel – but, abruptly, calm shots of nature are interrupted by images of men forging metal, and an animation drawn from seismic data. It is a reminder of the complex man/nature relationship which, for better or worse, is a theme that runs throughout this exhibition.

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