A new exhibition at the Scottish Fisheries Museum offers visitors a chance to explore life at sea in a “pre-electronic age” via digital media.
Confusing shadow with substance is a collaborative project between artists Janette Kerr and Jo Millett, exploring aspects of Shetland’s historic relationship with the sea. The project investigates the traces – tangible and intangible – of the once thriving fishing station at Stenness, Northmavine, Shetland, where hundreds of men worked and lived for the summer months in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The three screen and sound installation re-imagines events and activities on shore and sea. A poetic response to a place, it is concerned with the interplay between past and present. Looping continuously with images and sounds the work navigates between distance and nearness, permanence and transience.
Confusing shadow with substance refers to the old practice of direction finding and navigation using meids, which was often uncertain. It is a quote from fisherman Davie Smith who said:
“Mindin meids was wan thing, but usin dem wis anidder, for da wadder had a big effect. Da further from land, da more distorted da meids become, and it was easy to make mistakes. Snow on da ground changed da appearance of everything; bright sunshine made maitters worse, confusing shadow with substance”. Charles H Simpson Water in Burgidale: Shetland Fisheries in a pre-electronic age (Shetland Amenity Trust, 2010).
The project was supported with a grant from Creative Scotland and by the Shetland Museum and Archives, with in-kind support from Shetland Arts.
Janette is also exhibiting at this year’s Pittenweem Arts Festival.
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