Atlakim ceremony
Atlakim ‘Dance of the Forest Spirits’ ceremony, St Cecilia's Hall, 2020. Image courtesy Talbot Rice Gallery, The University of Edinburgh

Dear friends of Talbot Rice Gallery,

I send you greetings from Edinburgh, where the sun is shining, but the streets and parks are empty. While front line health and essential services staff look after us all, and museums and galleries are locked up, awaiting our return, I wanted to share with you what we have been working on as a team and as a part of Edinburgh College of Art and the University of Edinburgh.

Many of you enjoyed the opening reception of Pine’s Eye, the magnificent exhibition that opened just weeks before the pandemic closed it down. Thanks to the generosity of our lenders and artists, it has been extended until – well, until we can open it to you all again. In the meantime, we’ve produced an illustrated Exhibition Guide, and the exhibition’s curator, James Clegg, has been creating videos for you – as a sort of extended exhibition tour – focussing in on one of the artists at a time. First up, he explores the work of Taryn Simon, and will set about creating more of these videos over the coming weeks.

In February 2020, for the first time, members of the Kwakwaka’wakw community performed the Atlakim or 'Dance of the Forest Spirits' ceremony outside of Canada. Hereditary Chief Alan Hunt led the performance, with members of the Kwakwaka’wakw community, and a few helping hands (and daughters) from our own community. This was a remarkable experience that you can view online now.

While our exhibition plans for 2020 are constantly being re-evaluated, we remain committed to the artists we have been working with and continue – behind the scenes – to develop and evolve their exhibitions, catalogues and commissioned work.

Our Talbot Rice Residents are also working from home, and we were really pleased when the Freelands Foundation reached out to offer an extension to their time with us. Our assistant curator, Stuart Fallon has been working on publications that introduce their practices, which you can now access for Stephanie Mann. Look out for more in the coming weeks.  

Soon after the lockdown we also launched an artist’s book by Jack Handscombe, a recent Edinburgh College of Art graduate which you can view online or download and keep.

As you may have read, all of the Festivals of Edinburgh, including the Edinburgh International Festival and the Edinburgh Art Festival, which our planned Twin Pillars exhibition was to be a part of, have had to be cancelled for 2020. While this results in heartbreak for artists and audiences alike, culture evolves through adversity and we look forward to being part of both EIF and EAF when they return in 2021.

While we weather the storm of this pandemic, different communities are emerging because of it. When Talbot Rice Gallery opens again to welcome you back into our much-loved galleries, we will be a community transformed – and this is the preoccupation that will direct our curatorial thinking in the months to come. While pressure mounts within populations and economies to ‘get back to normal’, we are deeply troubled by what ‘the normal’ can be understood to be. If you are interested, as we are, in Bruno Latour’s assertion that the current health crisis is embedded in ‘an ongoing, irreversible ecological mutation’, then you might share with us a desire to ask how we might use this exceptional situation to rethink the relationship of cultural and natural orders within our societies. These are the preoccupations that we are working on as a team that will, crucially, feed the discursive, conceptual and visual potentials of our future exhibition-making.


Stay tuned,

Tessa Giblin, Director