Ahilapalapa Rands and Fiona MacDonald: Feral Practice – Encounters

7th July – 24th August 2018

Whitby Library, Whitby, North Yorkshire, UK

‘Encounters’ was part of the worldwide events on the 250th anniversary of James Cook’s first voyage to the Pacific in 1768. Artists Ahilapalapa Rands and Fiona MacDonald: Feral Practice created new commissions for an exhibition at Whitby Library. ‘The Oceanic Reading Room’ and ‘Plant Hunting’ explored the scientific and artistic impacts of Cook’s voyage, and the shared histories of encounter between Cook and the Peoples of the Pacific. 

The exhibition opening was accompanied by a lively programme of events including a talk from British Library Curator Dr. William Frame and an in-conversation event with award-winning, international bestselling author of The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, Natasha Pulley. The programme also included an introduction to a new Invisible Dust project, ‘Many Hands‘, curated by Invisible Dust’s Young Curators, Layla Hendow and Natalie Lee and Under Her Eye Fellow, Yasmine Akim. 

Invisible Dust were delighted to work in partnership with Caedmon Community College and Eskdale School to enable seven students to take a trip of a lifetime on a tall ship, The Atyla from London to Whitby. Before sailing the young people investigated the art and science of the Cook story with visits to ‘James Cook: The Voyages’ exhibition at the British Library, the Royal Society, Kew Gardens and the Natural History Museum.

Thanks to the volunteers from Whitby and Great Ayton Libraries, visitors to Whitby Library were able to discover another view on the Cook story through unique archive material. ‘Archive Explorers: Riding the Waves of Discovery’ explored art and the natural sciences and Whitby in the time of Cook – drawing on original archive material from North Yorkshire County Records Office.

‘The Oceanic Reading’ Room by Ahilapalapa Rands

‘Aʻohe pau ka ʻike i ka hālau hoʻokahi’
All knowledge is not taught in one school – Hawaiian Proverb

In ‘The Oceanic Reading Room’, New Zealand artist Ahilapalapa Rands introduces us to ways in which knowledge and learning is gathered and shared by some of the indigenous peoples from the Pacific Islands.

Through film, maps, books, quotations and interviews, Ahilapalapa Rands created a library within a library, a comfortable and welcoming space in which to explore art, science and research from a non-Western perspective. By looking at different ways of holding and acquiring knowledge we can start to find different ways of accessing our shared histories and make space for our sometimes shared, sometimes distinct worldviews. The books from the Reading Room are still available to enjoy in Whitby Library. 

‘Plant Hunting’ by Fiona MacDonald: Feral Practice

What might it mean to ‘hunt a plant’ in the 21st Century? ‘Plant Hunting’ is an artistic and scientific exploration, reminiscent of that undertaken by botanists Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander, and artist Sydney Parkinson, aboard Cook’s Endeavour, and recognises that while systems of knowledge and modern technologies can vastly increase our understanding of these plants that fascinate us, there will always remain some excess, mystery, and a potential to know more.

‘Plant Hunting’ was an immersive installation examining plants that grow in Whitby in the present day, but have their origins in the Pacific. Alongside personal visual investigations, Fiona invited local experts, the Whitby Naturalists, who have a specific perspective and interest in plants, to describe these same plants using the technical language of their discipline.

‘Encounters’ opened together with events all over Whitby at the Cook 250 Whitby Festival over the weekend of 7th and 8th July 2018.

‘Encounters’ was created in partnership with North Yorkshire Library and Information Service and is funded by Arts Council England and the Wellcome Trust with support from Scarborough Borough Council.

Image: © Plant Hunting, Fiona MacDonald : Feral Practice, for Encounters 2018.

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