Ilana Halperin

Hanna Tuulikki 18th June 11am
4th June 2021
SUGAR AND SOOT & ALL THINGS MOOT : Denise Ferreira da Silva & Arjuna Neuman @ CCA by Johnny Rodger
5th July 2021

Ilana Halperin was born in New York and is based between Glasgow and the Isle of Bute. She received her MFA from the Glasgow School of Art and her BFA from Brown University. Her work explores the relationship between geology and daily life. She combines fieldwork in diverse locations – on volcanoes in Hawaii, caves in France, geothermal springs in Japan, and in museum, archives and laboratories, with an active studio-based practice. She shares her birthday with the Eldfell volcano in Iceland. Felt Events, a forthcoming volume on her work edited by Dr. Catriona McAra will be published by Strange Attractor/MIT Press in Autumn 2021.

For over twenty years Halperin’s work has explored the relationship between geology and daily life. Through drawing parallels between very personal events, for example when she was born or when her father died, with the birth of a volcano, she has allowed for a space to think about our place within the geological time continuum from a more intimate perspective. To articulate a corporeal sense of geological time, she forms sculptures using natural geological processes, which change within our own life spans – from high velocity calcifying springs in France to geothermal pools in Japan. Her work deals with geological intimacy, vivacity, and the uncanny fact that something as apparently inert and certain as stone was once liquid, airborne, ash and alive. 

There is a Volcano Behind My House 

Mount Stuart, Isle of Bute 

4 June – 15 August 2021

For one of her largest solo exhibitions to date, Ilana Halperin has created new works inspired by the geology of the island of Bute where she now spends much of her time. Situated throughout the house, four distinct yet contiguous series of sculptures, works on paper and textiles reference ‘immigrant’ minerals embedded in the fabric of the building, as well as geologic phenomena found on the island. Halperin describes this work as a constellation combining personal, poetic and corporeal responses to the house and island. 

Alongside the exhibition, Excerpts from the Library is an audio field guide designed to take you on a journey from Glasgow to the Isle of Bute. The field guide builds on Halperin’s narrative performative lectures to tell a new story of love, lava, loss and the unexpected journeys that we now find ourselves on together. It also marks the artist’s 20th anniversary of working on active, quiet and sleeping volcanoes. Listeners are invited to embark on a domestic geologic field excursion with the artist and contributors Andrew Patrizio and Veronica Geiger, which takes us into Halperin’s solo exhibition There is a Volcano Behind My House at Mount Stuart. We encourage listeners to experience it whilst travelling, walking, working or engaging in other armchair expeditions. 

The field guide was commissioned in partnership with Patricia Fleming Gallery and Mount Stuart Trust, with generous support from Creative Scotland, as part of Glasgow International 2021.

To visit the exhibition at Mount Stuart please contact to book. 

Listen to Excerpts from the Library here:

Ilana Halperin, The Rock Cycle, 2021, Terracotta bricks and drainage tiles encrusted in a new layer of limestone over 3 months in the calcifying springs of the Fontaines Pétrifiantes de Saint-Nectaire. Install view at Mount Stuart, Isle of Bute. Photograph: Keith Hunter
Ilana Halperin, The Library, 2020, Etched books of 400 – 800 million year old Inverness-shire and New England Mica. Install view at Mount Stuart, Isle of Bute. Photograph: Keith Hunter
Ilana Halperin, Our Hands Enact the Geologic Process (part one), 2020, Recycled wool.
Install view at Mount Stuart. Photograph: Keith Hunter

Further thoughts on The Rock Cycle

In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, he recounts “Nothing perishes in this world; but things merely vary and change their form.”  The rock cycle is a geological concept that describes how rocks change from one type to another through geologic time. Rocks also evolve from life to stone.  We are part of a deep time calcium carbonate family tree – from mollusks, starfish, coral and fish, to limestone, marble, our teeth and bones. We are animal and mineral at the same time.

Over the last few years, I spent days collecting eroded bricks from the beach in Kilchattan Bay on the Isle of Bute.  From around 1844 until 1915 there was an old brick and tile works in the Bay that produced 1,250,000 tiles and half a million bricks every year. The bricks were quite porous, so production eventually stopped. Numerous remaining bricks were then thrown into the Firth of Clyde, where for over one hundred years they tumbled in and out with the tides each day, becoming more like rocks again. In a nearby bay, there was a tradition of throwing plates into the water when someone died—from ground, to table, to ocean. These bricks from Kilchattan Bay call to mind the idea of Domestic Deep Time. 

There is another rock cycle, one that incorporates our own geologic processes. I remember that at the same time my mother was diagnosed with dementia, I met with a geologist in Yosemite. He told me that the Lyell Glacier will likely be completely gone in five years, about the same length of time it could take for my mother’s cognition to melt away. I have been thinking about the act of geological grieving. I wrote down the phrase BEARING WITNESS and underlined it several times the other day. This is not a passive act, just as grief is not a point of stasis. I guess with all the current seismic upheaval of our contemporary moment, geological grief asks us to consider the relevance of what we do, while simultaneously demanding that we forge active responses in the face of the incomprehensible. So, in a discrete geologic action, I picked up bricks from Kilchattan Bay and sent them to Saint-Nectaire in the Auvergne in France.

There, seven generations ago, the Fontaines Pétrifiantes were founded to create limestone sculptures through the same process that forms stalactites in a cave. In a normal limestone cave, it takes one hundred years for limestone to grow one centimeter, but in these caves it takes only one year. Urban stalactites can be found closer to home too, in the Mount Stuart Boathouse. At the Fontaines objects are left to rapidly encrust in new layers of stone as part of a unique geo-cultural alliance. To cultivate a new branch of this hybrid geology, eroded bricks from the Isle of Bute merge with layers of French rock to create new international conglomerates formed by hand, sea, carbonate life, and cave – through a process of mineral-rich accumulation that began 70,000 years ago in a chain of volcanic eruptions.