The Living Field took part in a Biodiversity theme day on Saturday 9 January 2016 at Dundee Science Centre.
Aisha Schofield of the Centre wrote “This event will be part of Dundee Science Centre’s monthly programme of public engagement in 2016, aiming to encourage curiosity, confidence, and engagement with science for the whole community by providing a platform for scientists and other experts to communicate and promote their work with the public.”
The main topics presented by the Hutton revolved around the importance of biodiversity to cropland ecosystems.
Dundee Science Centre 9 January 1100 to 1500 (11am to 3 pm).
The High Mill, derelict for some decades, has been restored at Verdant Works and is open to the public as part of the Verdant Works Museum, Dundee. This magnificent restoration reveals the skills in engineering, architecture and construction that arose with the industrial revolution. The restored ironwork is a superb sight while the roof timbers reflect the colour of jute fibre. See for yourself.
The name Verdant arises from the flax fields that used to grow in the area of the Mill, yet the flax disappeared many years ago. The museum tells of the changes in the textile industry from its beginning as a distributed home-based craft, cultivating flax and making yarn and linen cloth.
Local cultivation gave way to imported raw material. Then local production gave way to steam power and to industrial manufacture. Even this was out-competed in the 1800s as the industry turned to jute grown in India and Bangladesh. The main museum presents the story of jute.
The spaces created at High Mill are intended for exhibitions and education …. but they make you wonder, both at the engineering skills that created the building and the industry it served, and the often appalling conditions and treatment of the people who worked there.
This fine exhibition, on themes of Empire, is housed at Wall Projects II in the Old Ropeworks off Bents Road in Montrose. The venue itself is a work unique, including an upper room (image below) and the very long and narrow rope works on the ground floor, disused and part derelict and now open in places to sun and rain.
Dark in parts, this exhibition: it makes you think of how ordinary people become complicit in dire trades and livings, in buying and selling people, in slavery on a massive, organised scale.
Here’s the earner: sail to european ports with some good local Scottish produce like salmon, textiles and things to smoke; offload the cargo – but an empty ship costs money – so off down to Africa to fill up with slaves; take them to the Americas, leave them there to be sold and worked; then bring back tobacco. Scottish enterprise! So tells the audio exhibit Considered Cargo by Carolyn Scott.
The dehumanising of peoples considered little more than zoological specimens continues in the utterly mesmerising four-minute video Shadow Show by Kyra Clegg (an image captured above by K Squire).
Other artists tell of the whale trade, the driving to near extinction of these great, warm blooded, social mammals; the realisation that they individually suffer. Linen, whale oil, jute, slaughter, wealth inextricably linked.
It’s not all dark – there is lightness and humour among the twenty artists exhibiting here, but threads recur of claim and exploitation.
Take the insidious link between beverage and narcotic, tea and opium, Camellia sinensis and Papaver somniferum, a leaf-stimulent drunk by most people in Britain and the poppy-head-latex source of the heroin trade. Those Europeans who like tea, should perhaps know its origins. But no blame to the tea plant, and no blame to the poppy for it also gave us one of the best painkillers.
At the farthest end of the rope works is an impenetrable mass of ivy roots, hanging down, and from them (or to them if you look the other way) stretches the orange to yellow to grey to black complex curve of coloured, filled balloons in Meltwater by Juliana Capes. It’s the seasons played out.
We spent some hours at Empire. Sorry not to mention all the artists exhibiting, but go and see for yourselves. One of the very best.
On at the McManus Gallery & Museum until 10 May 2015, an exhibition of antiquities, from the British Museum and local collections. See the earthenware pot (amphora) found near an Angus earth-house, said to have held French wine, and the linen-backed, bronze scale armour from Carpow where Tay and Earn meet. Web link: Roman Empire: Power and People – a British Museum Tour.