Shona Illingworth is known for her powerful and evocative video and sound installations. In this, her most ambitious work to date, the artist returns to the place in which she grew up – the remote community and former radar base of Balnakiel, on the North West Coast of Scotland.
The film work at the centre of the exhibition offers a vivid portrait of this remarkable location, situated at the furthermost edge of Britain. Here, the extremes and vicissitudes of weather are echoed by the intermittent thunder of RAF and Royal Navy manoeuvres, as the area remains an active bombing range. Balnakiel reveals this brooding, melancholy landscape and the lives of successive residents, both of Balnakiel and the nearby, older clearance village of Durness, which has its own violent legacy dating from the time of the Highland Clearances.
The personal journeys of a young girl and the voices and recollections of other local inhabitants build a captivating picture of this community situated at the forefront of social and cultural change.
The work considers the complex interaction between individual and collective memory, informed by a series of exchanges with cognitive psychologist Martin A. Conway. Through these conversations, the artist has produced a range of scientific drawings that, alongside the film, attempt to map a new understanding of the experience and behaviour of human memory in the face of trauma.
The exhibition also features a powerful collection of photographic portraits of the Balnakiel community, taken by Illingworth. Celebrating the resilience of these isolated settlements, while noting the slow and progressive history of depopulation that haunts this landscape, Balnakiel gives voice to contrasting perceptions and constructions of the past.
Shona Illingworth has exhibited extensively in Europe, Canada and the UK and has received a number of high profile awards, including commissions for Channel 4, the Hayward Gallery and the Wellcome Trust. She lives and works in London.
Professor Martin A. Conway is a neuro-psychologist and one of the foremost international experts in the field of Autobiographical Memory. He currently holds a prestigious ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council) Professorial Fellowship at Leeds University.
Film and Video Umbrella is the UK’s leading agency for the commissioning and production of artists’ film and video work. For over twenty years the organisation has presented an ambitious and engaging programme of contemporary moving image commissions, delivered in collaboration with galleries and venues across England. Projects of the last decade include commissions by Tacita Dean, Dryden Goodwin, Isaac Julien, Mark Leckey, Gillian Wearing and Jane & Louise Wilson. FVU is funded by Arts Council England. www.fvu.co.uk
Balnakiel is commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella in association with John Hansard Gallery and Wolverhampton Art Gallery. Funded by Arts Council England and an Arts Award from the Wellcome Trust.