This exhibition brings together recent place-aware projects: gathering, a mapping of the Cairngorms in poems, essays, photographs, and maps, created for The Fife Arms, Braemar, commissioned by Hauser & Wirth; a wolf among men a man among wolves, detailing innovative woodland remediation at Mar lodge and humandwolves at Trees for Life, Dundreggan, commissioned by Common Ground; Wild City, a survey of wild nature and the potential of urban rewilding, in Glasgow; and Hutopianism, celebrating the hut and bothy movement, from an installation at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale.
Featured artworks include a place-aware map of Mar Lodge estate created from collections of place-names assembled by Adam Watson, covering ruined farms, shielings, hills, glens, springs, burns, and woods in the region, offering an ecopoetic record that suggests the potential of rewilding. The book, gathering, is a place-aware account of the Cairngorms, accompanied by photographs – collaborations with Hannah Devereux and Mhairi Law are included in the exhibition – that record the hills in their seasonal variety, with essays guiding the reader to names that reveal the haunts of wolves and wildcats, and cast a vivid impression of the pinewoods that once grew there and may again. The ecological richness of the hill is expressed in a new audio collaboration with Chris Watson featuring recordings of totemic species.
Place-names mark changes in stewardship and the loss of communities to the crazes of deer-stalking and grouse-shooting. The book is expanded into a collage of paperworks and drawings representing the perspectives of the walker, climber, stalker, forager, and ecologist, revealing the ways in which they reflect perspectives of utility and desire. Other complementary elements include word-mntn poem objects produced at Peacock and book-nests for solitary bees.
gathering is the most ambitious project to date in the flourishing interest in reading the Gaelic landscape. Finlay allies this movement to hutopianism, rewilding, stewardship, and the right to care for the environment, engaging in pressing debates in our culture which impact on sustainability and climate breakdown. Peacock will produce a new screenprint by Finlay, Rewilding Timeline, the first summary of the movement’s evolution in Scotland, from the 18th century to today, made in collaboration with leading experts. This activist approach culminates in Finlay’s Humandwolves Manifesto of posters inspired by Project Wolf, devised by Doug Gilbert for Trees for Life, Dundreggan, and Wild City Manifesto of posters on urban rewilding, inspired by walks around Glasgow in collaboration with the Walking Library.
Place-names also represent potent memories for the chronically ill and infirm, in recent work such as the award-winning A Far-off Land, for MacMillan Cancer Care, exploring constrained walking and imaginative access to landscape.
The origins of these recent projects are traced in the road north (2010-14), a map, blog, book, audio and poem-labels recording a journey through Scotland, with Ken Cockburn, guided by Basho’s Oku-no-hosomichi. By combining poetics, ecology and folk-cartography, Finlay’s place-aware philosophy offers a remarkable insight into evocative and vulnerable landscapes, challenging us to renew our awareness and remediate the world.
gathering by Alec Finlay opens in W OR M, 11 Castle Street, Aberdeen on 4th April 2019 at 18:00 and runs from 5th April – 18th May 2019 from 10am – 5pm, Tuesday – Saturday.
There is an artist talk on Saturday the 6th of April at 2pm in W OR M.