Art project will explore Shetland's relationship with the sea

Issue date: 10 July 2017


Shetland image

A Visiting Research Fellow in Fine Art from the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), Dr Janette Kerr has received Creative Scotland funding to support the creation of an installation entitled 'Confusing shadow with substance'.

The installation will be shown at Da Gadderie, Shetland Museum, Lerwick, from 22nd July – 27th August 2017.

Confusing shadow with substance is a phrase used by local fisherman Davie Smith, describing the process of direction-finding and the use of local landmarks called 'meids' to aid navigation - extended in their project to consider a temporal navigation.

This collaborative project explores aspects of Shetland's relationship with the sea. Dr Kerr and Dr Jo Millett, a moving image and sound artist, have produced a three-screen video and sound installation work creating spatial and temporal disjunctures and connections that navigate between sea and shore, permanence and transience.

Working with local museums and archives and residents, the artists have investigated traces of a once thriving fishing station where hundreds of men worked and lived for the summer months in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Navigating between shoreline to far haaf (deep sea fishing grounds), in the passage between fishing grounds and shore, events and journeys are re-imagined. Weaving together contemporary and historical images of Stenness, Shetland voices and music merge with oral testimony and sounds to produce a work that is a poetic response to place.

Dr Kerr explains, “Our approach considers the sea as neither inert substance, nor neutral space, and examines the close relationship between land and sea. Unlike the better known and preserved Fetheland fishing station on Shetland, material remains at Stenness are less discernible, but it remains a portal to a place and time of great activity and sounds - a threshold between land and far haaf, and a place for imagining.

“We hope to encourage dialogue between contemporary Stenness – now described in tourist brochures as a 'beautiful, deserted and tranquil beach' – and its historical condition as a place of trade.”

The work offers local and visitor audiences an opportunity to relate past with present, bringing an awareness of the layers of memory imbedded in a place.

The project is also supported by Shetland Museum & Archives and Shetland Arts.

To find out more see the project blog.

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