The Colony is an exhibition by artist Dinh Q. Lê and curated by Orla Ryan and Maoliosa Boyle.
Dinh Q. Lê’s work features newly filmed footage of the Chincha Islands off the coast of Peru which are inhabited by large colonies of birds and are rich in guano – a powerful fertiliser. Currently these islands are uninhabited but during the mid 19th Century the Chincha Islands were central to global markets and contested by Spanish, American, and Peruvian powers in order to lay claim to what was then one of the most valuable global commodities. At the height of the ‘Guano Rush’ thousands of bonded Chinese labourers were forced to live on these islands in brutal conditions to harvest the fertiliser. The United States passed the Guano Act in 1856 and Spain and Peru went to war from 1864-1866 because of the Chincha Islands. By revisiting 19th Century imperialism and colonial economic disputes, The Colony also poses questions in relation to contemporary conflicts over mineral exploitation. In the accompanying catalogue, in which Dinh Q. Lê is joined in conversation with Zoe Butt, they also discusses this project in relation to the current political instability over the contested islands in the South China Seas taking place between Vietnam and its larger neighbour China.
Environmental historian Frank Uekotter from the University of Birmingham launched the exhibition on Saturday 14 May at 6.30pm with a talk based on the legacy of Guano.
The Colony is part of The Artangel Collection – an initiative to bring outstanding film and video works commissioned and produced by Artangel – to galleries and museums across the UK. The Artangel Collection has been developed in partnership with Tate, is generously supported by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and The Foyle Foundation and uses public funding from Arts Council England. The Colony has been commissioned by Art Angel and Ikon Gallery in association with Han Nefkens H+F Collection and Proyecto Amil, Lima and with the support of the Arts Council England, and Artangel International Circle.
Artangel is generously supported by Arts Council England and the private patronage of the Artangel International Circle, Special Angels, and The Company of Angels.
With additional support from Catherine Petitgas Private Collection, New York Shoshana Wayne Gallery.
For more about Ikon Gallery please visit their website.
For more about ArtAngel and this project please visit their website.
Please find the press release here: Dinh Q.Le The Colony Press Release 2016.