Otobong Nkanga in 'The Recent' at Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh, UK
30 October 2023
The Recent 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.
Alongside work by 10 other artists, a large-scale tapestry by Otobong Nkanga weaves evolving processes of the natural world. On the sea bed, bodies and histories are entombed, reflecting on how the march of progress has failed to benefit all peoples equally.
'The Recen't runs from 28 October 2023 to 17 February 2024.
Find further information via Talbot Rice Gallery.