Borderlines is a politically driven, mixed-media exhibition in The Talbot Rice Gallery, curated by its director, Tessa Giblin. It includes a variety of curiosities, such as giant sugar cubes, framed photos of Irish country roads, and Mediterranean blueprints. What links these oddities is the complication of socio-economic and physical borders. Giblin seeks to encapsulate these complexities through artists such as Willie Doherty and Amalia Pica.
Immediately, the sugar cubes stand out when entering the exhibition. Spanning three rooms, there is a vast amount to digest. What better way to start than with something seemingly sweet? Van Brummelen and De Hann’s Monument of Sugar (2007) reveals the effects of EU inflation on sugar and its Nigerian import. Trade rises tensions, as does, of course, the threat of violence. Willie Doherty’s Between (2019) depicts the calm roads of Donegal and Derry, masking their deep-rooted reality. You could scarcely imagine the historical violence behind these border crossings with their lush green backdrops now. “Between the Future and Past. Between Delusions and Dreams” reads the thought-provoking caption and perfectly depicts the border’s current position – in limbo.
Whilst the pieces are highly wrought with meaning, the layout of the exhibition itself feels quite incoherent. You could interpret that as fragmentation of borders, but really, it feels thrown together. Works, such as Journey (2016), by Rossella Biscotti, a pile of papers on the second floor of the exhibition leaves you wondering what can and cannot be touched. The informational booklet is key to your understanding, as without it, the visual may not suffice. The walls are particularly lacking in descriptions. Thankfully, there are lovely volunteers on hand to answer any questions. However, an exhibition should be able to tell its own story and display for the most part.
With all that said, the spontaneity of each room sparks great intrigue as they plunge you into many individual bordered worlds. The mini-cinema, showing van Brummelen and de Haan’s Episode of the Sea (2014) swallows you up into the dark visuals and pleasing, ASMR-like audio of fishermen hauling fish onto their boat. This exhibition loves to surprise, and this simplistic film is no exception, symbolising the setbacks of the Urk (Dutch) fishing community and their eventual contract with the UK to allow them British fishing rights. It will leave you contemplating how the UK will retain their many ties, as they break out of the EU.
The exhibition is available to visit from 23 February until 4 May. Giblin sets out to expand awareness on the consequences of borders. The very accessible location allows you to jump in and take in as much as desired out of the very individual pieces. Everyone experiences borders in some way. Maybe you simply have some beef with a neighbour. This topical exhibition has an immense variety and spunk for you to delve into.
Image: Carlos Finlay