• Gaudie Arts

Gaudie Exclusive: BAS9 reviewed

Updated: Jul 11

Inside Aberdeen Art Gallery's newest exhibition


by Rory Buccheri

picture courtesy of the author.


BAS9 has taken over Aberdeen Art Gallery and is here to stay (until October 2021). Aberdeen has the honour to be the first city to host the magnificent number 9 of the British Art Show, which will be travelling across the UK until the end of the year.

This eclectic exhibition features contemporary artists from across Britain and beyond, showcasing works in a variety of medium: from prints, to photography, video displays and performance art.


This exhibition is one you don't want to miss out. It asks the viewer to ponder difficult topics such as estrangement, objectification, and loss of humanity, and at the same time broadcasts messages of healing, rediscovering community, and imagining new, sustainable futures.

Aberdeen, as oil capital of the North East, has much to answer in terms of sustainability. Which is why artists like Kathrin Böhm don't shy away from asking brutal questions. Her work in Gallery 4 asks: "How can we talk about art and ecosystems in Aberdeen without talking about oil?" in an overwhelming display made of words, printed paper, and punchy, geometric colours and shapes.

Bohm's work is a breath of fresh air, especially coming from the gloomy atmospheres of Gallery 3, which I have renamed: The Stuff of Nightmares.

A phantom-like puppet glaring at you, two ovaries-like balls hanging ominously from the ceiling, one enormous hand coming out of a coffin-like box. All of it enveloped by a dark purple light.

A purple panel explains to me that this is stuff barely hanging between life and death; it is an exploration by artist Tai Shani of concepts of physical extinction and its relation to the soul. "The dead - we are so alike."


pictures courtesy of the author.


Artists like Kathrin Böhm don't shy away from asking brutal questions. Her display in Gallery 4 ask: "How can we talk about art and ecosystems in Aberdeen without talking about oil?"

Among my favourites on the first floor space are Anne Hardy's 'pockets of wild space' in Gallery 17 (my beloved among all exhibition spaces, and previously hosting the Abstract Art collection), and Patrick Goddard's Animal Antics (2021) in Gallery 16. Gallery 16, above all others, really requires a leap of faith from the viewer. Coming from the blinding light of the central oculus, you are asked to step into total darkness, and to walk on a floor littered with sculpted animal heads. The enticing oddness of the inside is something you cannot quite resist, and as you watch the black and white video you are presented with a string of conversation on animals, antropomorphism, and, yes, David Attenborough. All of it is told by a very interesting narrator.


pictures courtesy of the author.


The Special Exhibition space on the top floor is the one that dares more with video and sound.

One of my favourite spaces in the entire exhibition is the screen room, where headphones are provided for each of the 3 video screens, asking you to physically tune in to the stories being told. Those shown are stories often untold, tales of moving, adapting, surving hostility, and occasionally triumphing. They are stories of rage, of otherness, and of simple everyday life. Artists like Rehana Zaman and Katie Schwab offer their precious insight on society with sharp, fractured documentaries. One of the most striking of the video documentaries featured is by the Liverpool Black Women collective.

Equally powerful and evocative is Elaine Mitchener's sound installation [NAMES II] (2019-2021), memorialising some of the 2,000 enslaved African people owned by an Aberdeenshire sugar planter in Jamaica.


picture courtesy of the author.

From stunning sculptures and videos voiced by animals, to absolutely disturbing talking AI installations (the one thing capable of giving me the creeps), I believe this exhibition has a powerful aura of its own. Even reflecting back to what I saw today, it is difficult to choose which works were the most impressive: each piece struck a different chord.

Had I not ventured that far into the Special Exhibition space, I would not have noticed the dark, almost hidden room cointaining Hrair Sarkissian's masterpiece Deathscape (2021).

You are in a dark room, deeply immersed in sounds. Digging, scraping, lifting, slamming. Not quite an ASMR experience, rather taxing on the senses when you first come in. Deathscape documents the sound of forensic archeologists excavating mass graves in Spain.

Personally, the feeling of being immersed in a dark room, surrounded by sound, made me feel quite queasy. Only after a while I was able to embrace Sarkissian's motto of seeing without looking and to tune in with the artwork completely.


picture courtesy of the author.


Aberdeen Art Gallery strikes again. After having reopened in 2019, it won Museum of the Year in 2020, bringing this victory to the north east. Now it is the geographical headliner for BAS9 in the whole of the UK.

BAS9 is undoubtedly another jewel on the Gallery’s crown: it features exceptional talents and works full of inventive and concept.

From stunning sculptures and videos voiced by animals, to absolutely disturbing talking AI installations (the one thing capable of giving me the creeps), I believe this exhibition has a powerful aura of its own. Even reflecting back to what I saw today, it is difficult to choose which works were the most impressive: each piece struck a different chord.


A list of events organised as parts of BAS9 can be found here: https://britishartshow9.co.uk/whats-on/

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