Talbot Rice Gallery is pleased to announce the first exhibition in Scotland of Angelica Mesiti (b. 1976, Sydney), one of the leading Australian artists of her generation. Mesiti's body of work is characterised by scientific reflection and historical research and, formally, incorporates aspects of music, dance and performance. The exhibition will be the most in-depth exploration of Mesiti’s practice yet held in the UK.
Mesiti has long been fascinated by performance: as a mode of storytelling and a means to express social ideas in physical form. In recent years she has been making videos that reveal how culture is manifested through non-linguistic forms of communication, and especially through vocabularies of sound and gesture. There is a focus in her work on the unquantifiable social role played by music — and, by extension, sound in general — in our relationship with the world.
Mesiti’s multi-sensory installations transform their environments; and the exhibition at Talbot Rice Gallery will be activated by the inherent contradictions of the building’s neo-classical Georgian and contemporary galleries. Drawn from Mesiti’s rich research practice, the exhibition broaches subjects ranging from legal infrastructure to the language of plants; and reflects the paradox of human isolation in tandem with collective action emerging from the 2020 pandemic.
In the Georgian Gallery, an historic space that reflects the humanist and colonial ambitions of European Enlightenment, Assembly - made for the Australian Pavilion at the 2019 Venice Biennale - foregrounds questions relating to language, the law and music, which are thrown into sharp relief by the Gallery’s location, above the University of Edinburgh’s law library and world-leading School of Law. A three-channel video, Assembly comprises an evolving set of translations from the written word of a poem to stenographic codes, to musical notation, improvisation, re-interpretation and performance. Filmed in the Senate chambers of Italy and Australia, Assembly travels through the corridors and parliaments of government while performers, representing the multitude of ancestries that constitute cosmopolitan Australia gather, disassemble and re-unite.
The upper Georgian Gallery will be filled with items selected by Mesiti from University Collections, displaying historical instances of musical notation illustrating how different cultures have developed a process of recording music and song. Examples include early European manuscripts revealing the first steps towards the common notation used in Western music today, to medieval Indian Ragamala paintings that demonstrate a completely different approach to the transmission of musical intent - where illustrations transfer colour, mood and tone for the improvised Raga.
In the White Gallery, Over the Air and Underground, commissioned for Busan Biennale 2020, explores the communication methods of organic networks - trees that are interconnected via subterranean fungal webs, or the electrically charged exchange that happens between flowers and bees. The soundtrack to the 5-channel installation is comprised of 10 individual voices, each humming in harmony at 220 Hertz - the frequency recorded underground emitted from tree roots.
In the adjoining space, Mesiti will present Hum, a new wall-based granite sculpture inset with resin produced for Talbot Rice Gallery. The circular forms engraved in the stone’s surface are echoed by The Boundary of Balance – the work of jeweller and recent ECA graduate Dong Ding - which has been selected by Mesiti along with other items from the University Collections that explore the notion of deep time, including: Max Ernst’s Antediluvian Landscape; fossilised raindrops collected by Scottish geologist Charles Lyell; and a section of the Gibeon meteorite which is as old as the earth.
Upstairs, Mesiti’s four-channel installation Citizen’s Band (2012) documents the performances of musicians who work outside official structures of presentation – from Cameroonian performer Geraldine Zongo drumming the water in a Parisian public swimming pool, to Sudanese immigrant Asim Goreshi whistling in his Brisbane taxi. The work is presented alongside a 17th century Atlas Maritimus, or Sea Atlas: a rendering of the world produced in such a different time to our own, yet which still reflects contemporary issues of colonialism, immigration, borders and home.