Thursday, June 24, 2010

Jane & Louise Wilson

Sealander, The New Art Gallery Walsall, 14 December 2007 - 27 January 2008.

I missed this one completely. Here's what the Walsall gallery website says:

This exhibition, originally shown at Haunch of Venison in Zurich, consists of eight large-scale photographs and a multi-screen installation.

Black and white photographs show decayed, abandoned coastal bunkers. Though monolithic and compelling, these now useless edifices have become merely repositories for graffiti and litter, perhaps a place for shelter for local tramps. They occupy a place between land and sea. Though they carry the scars of battle, they now seem to defy any sense of time and place.

In the multi-screen installation, an exploration of the bunkers is inter-cut with footage of a rare deep sea squid, the Vampire Squid, which possesses the largest eye proportional to its body of any known creature. The eye of the squid seems to embody both the eye of the spectator and also of the camera as it moves constantly and fluidly through the sea or over the surfaces of the bunkers.

More information on this show, including installation views, can be found at the Haunch of Venison site. See also J.G. Ballard, 'A Handful of Dust,' The Guardian, Monday 20 March 2006, which is included in the Haunch of Venison catalogue for the show.

The vampire squid, according to the Sea and Sky website, 'is covered with light-producing organs called photophores. This gives the squid the unique ability to "turn itself on or off" at will through a chemical process known as bioluminescence. When the photophores are off, the squid is completely invisible in the dark waters where it lives. The squid has incredible control over these light organs. It has the ability to modulate the size and intensity of the photophores to create complex patterns that can be used to disorient predators and attract prey. The photophores are larger and more complex at the tips of the arms and the base of its two fins. Unlike most other squid, it does not have the ability to change its color. This ability would be useless in the dark environments in which it lives. The squid's light show is probably its main form of defense, since it lacks the ink sack which is present in other squid species. It can, however, eject a thick cloud of glowing, bioluminescent mucus from the tips of its arms when threatened.'