Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Galapagos, The Bluecoat - Liverpool

I am sure I am not alone in doing this but when I wonder around exhibitions making seemingly random connections between the work on display and my own experiences. One of these connections happened while looking at The Bluecoat's current Galapagos exhibition, where I was reminded of a novel I had read I few years ago called The Traveller in Black
by John Brunner. This was a fantasy novel wherein the titular Traveller in Black is charged with bringing order and reason to a world of chaos and magic.

Why would this fantasy novel spring to mind, when the twelve artists involved in the exhibition have rooted themselves within the real world, within the physicality of the Galapagos Islands themselves. It may lay in my perception of the islands themselves, which provides a kind of link to The Bluecoat's previous Topophobia exhibition. The associations between the exhibitions between Brunner's book and the exhibition may have been triggered by Alexis Deacon's sketches of the creatures that dwell of the dream archipelagos.

Within Deacon's rather beautiful drawings there is the reminder of a time when 'here be monsters', things that existed just beyond the horizon, monsters which disappeared into fiction as Europeans expanded their influence across the globe. The islands saw their first European visitors in the 16th century who saw nothing of worth in the islands, outside of providing a rich source of protein in the form of Giant Tortoises. So this pragmatism is counter to the image I have of sailors struck in awe at the creatures living on the islands. Though I have to wonder what the sailor Thomas Chappell saw that caused him to burn one of the islands in 1820.

Maybe this marks the point the starting point where the European idea of reason conquered though exploration and categorization the realms of mythology. Like Brunner's titular hero's quest to bring everything to a single nature. A process that continues to this day, when confronted by Dorothy Cross's hovering whale spine, their first reaction is to assume that it is the bones of a dinosaur. Rather than the bones of some forgotten giant species. I also wonder if this speaks about our perception that we are the top of our evolutionary tree and therefore there is nothing 'bigger' then us currently on this planet.

Taking that supposed place on the top of the tree, eventually humans settled on Galapagos. Their lives and settlements becoming fodder for the exploratory photographs of the likes of Paulo Catrica or even falling under the critical eye of the islands true inhabitants such as The Blue-footed Booby (with the help of Marcus Coates) who sees nothing special in the lives of humans. I guess what we can take from the progression of reason is that we aren't as separate from nature as we seem, and within the ecology of the islands we see ecology of our selves.

I've also written a piece about Kaffe Matthews sound installation read it here




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