Opening night Friday 8 July from 6-8pm. Everyone welcome.
Iona-based visual artist Mhairi Killin will open her major new collaborative multi-media exhibition On Sonorous Seas at An Tobar on Mull from 8 July to 27 August.
The installation - which mixes whale bone sculpture, video, poetry and soundscape alongside a series of podcasts - is inspired by the complex relationship between the militarisation of Scotland’s waters and its existing ecosystem.
In 2018, over 45 badly decomposed Cuvier’s Beaked whales washed up on the shores of several Hebridean islands, including Mhairi’s home of Iona. At the same time, another 23 whales were stranded on the West coast of Ireland, and scientists have been investigating this ‘unique mortality event’ in relation to the increased presence of military sonar activity in the area around Porcupine Bank, as confirmed by the Royal Navy in September 2021.
In May 2021 Mhairi spent eleven days at sea with the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust aboard their research vessel Silurian, during the NATO military exercise Joint Warrior: the largest tactically focused exercise in Europe.
During the journey - which ranged from The Sea of Hebrides up to Cape Wrath and involved gruelling ten hour work days - Mhairi and HWDT scientist, Becky Dudley collected sound and visual data using hydrophones and computer software. The result of this research is a series of new artworks that interrogate the power and reliance on sound as a survival tool and the impact of the legacy of military colonisation of vast areas of land in the Hebrides on the natural and cultural ecologies of the islands.
On Sonorous Seas will feature sculpture made from the remains of a Cuiver’s Beaked whale washed up at Bragar on the Isle of Lewis in 2018, its skull suspended above a reflective floor and a 3D scan of its ear bone creating an abstract sea and star map video, a constellation of strandings – created in collaboration with artist Tom deMajo from Biome Collective.
Composed almost entirely from hydrophone recordings of orca calls, dolphin clicks and whistles, magnified sonar and boat engines made during their research trip on the Silurian, Fergus Hall has created an accompanying soundscape across 6 movements, featuring vocals from Lea Shaw.
Dutch-born and Mull-based poet and artist Miek Zwamborn has written a new poem as an elegy and requiem for the whales, with calligraphy by artist Susie Leiper on loose leaf papers imprinted with impressions of whale bones gathered during the stranding event.
There will be performances of elements of the sound composition at locations where the Cuvier’s beaked whales stranded, on Mull and Iona, with talks by the artists and scientists involved in the project, in August.
“By transforming how we tell the narrative of the 2018 mass stranding of 118 beaked whales - a narrative embedded in the overlay of two cryptic environments, the habitats of the military and the habitats of the whales – through a partnership of science, music and art, we transform how we observe this story, and perhaps in doing so we can tell reality differently and bring an audience towards the complexity of this issue.”
On Sonorous Seas is funded by An Tobar and Mull Theatre, AN Bursaries, VACMA Award/Creative Scotland, CHArts and The Space CIC with support from Hebridean Whale & Dolphin Trust, Scottish Assoc for Marine Science, National Museums Scotland, Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme
The first episode of the podcast will be released on 8 July at www.onsonorousseas.com