The Recent: Exhibition Guide

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Abstract / Description of output

The exhibition guide to accompany the exhibition, 'The Recent' that takes us into a conceptual world of geological, evolutionary, human and environmental time, exploring what art can do to stretch the human imagination, and situate our actions and impact in a deeper, future-oriented timeframe. The geological ruminations that underpin the exhibition are deeply rooted in Edinburgh—a city punctuated by a dormant volcano—where eighteenth century geologists James Hutton, and later Charles Lyell (whose journals and geological specimens feature in the exhibition), developed the theory of deep time that is reflected in many of the artists’ works.

Artists excavate and explore the bowels of the earth. Suspended particles of the oldest mineral on the planet, translucent boulder-like sculptures filled with air, a vivid stratigraphy wall-painting and a prepubescent chorister’s song beneath an ancient stalactite all position our fleeting moment in this world against the deep, geological history of the planet. Artworks position us firmly within the sixth mass extinction event: where we can smell the scent of the first and last forests, hypothesise on what the colonisers of the stars will want to save of human culture on earth, witness lichen growing symbiotically on human figures and ruefully acknowledge the self-defeating hunger of progress.

A community’s dream testimony is gathered within the context of a barren asbestos mine, the future home of our ancestors and our children are mourned and lives lost at sea transform into coral. Fossilised rain prints evidencing climates millions of years in the past are carried forward evolving through technology and the sound of rain is revived by a children’s game. Like a single drop of rain, philosopher William MacAskill appeals to each of us to embrace longtermism: “Mountains erode because of individual raindrops… This is a time when we can be pivotal in steering the future onto a better trajectory. There’s no better time for a movement that will stand up, not just for our generation or even our children’s generation, but for all of those who are yet to come.” (What We Owe the Future, 2022)

The Recent presents an experience of life on this planet that is aged and complex, where the impact of our choices resonates beyond the short-termism that calcifies our ability to take responsibility. Through the visions, provocations, research and poetics of artists, it connects the emotional anxiety of the present with the need to stretch the human imagination into a deeper timeframe, to embrace long-termism, and radically shift our perceptions and priorities.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationEdinburgh
PublisherTalbot Rice Gallery
Number of pages61
ISBN (Print)978-1-7390838-6-1
Publication statusPublished - 28 Oct 2023

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