Ilana Halperin Fuses Geology With Art At The Manchester Museum

By Rosanne Dawkins | 01 April 2008
Magic lantern slides of an erupting volcano

Magic lantern slides. Photo by Anna Hopkins

Exhibition preview - Ilana Halperin: Physical Geology at the Manchester Museum until June 1 2008.

Rocks. Fossils. Stones. They silently stand testament to our past and our ever-changing lives. A new exhibition at the Manchester Museum takes these examples of the physical geology that surround us and relates them to the political, historical and everyday nature of humanity.

Physical Geology by Ilana Halperin is part of the Alchemy project, an ongoing programme which offers the opportunity for UK-based artists to research, produce and exhibit work in cooperation with the Manchester Museum and Manchester University.

Through the combination of her own works and the collections of the Manchester Museum and Whitworth Art Gallery, Ilana Halperin uses geology as a language to understand our relationship to a constantly evolving world. The Physical Geology exhibition documents the 1909 eruption of Vesuvius from different ideological perspectives.

A coin embedded in lava, presumed from Vesuvius

Coin in lava. Photo by Anna Hopkins

Her drawings and watercolours, a result of her year’s research in conjunction with the museum, form a fascinating narrative of humanity’s physical interactions with geological phenomena and their effect on daily life.

“Whether boiling milk in a 100-degree sulphur spring or celebrating her birthday with a landmass of the same age, Halperin’s work is directly informed by the geological history and environmental situation specific to the locale in which she works,” says Alchemy project curator Bryony Bond.

A lava Jesus head with blue glitter and a piece of lava from Mount Etna

Lava Jesus and pieces of lava from Mt Etna. Photo by Anna Hopkins

Halperin’s research took her to one of England’s oldest tourist attractions, Mother Shipton’s Cave, which boasts a calcifying well.

It was here that she was joined by members of the public, museum geologists and palaeontologists who all participated in the exploration of the site. Myths and tales of petrification were told throughout the day and can be heard when viewing the museum’s collection of petrified material.

Alchemy aims to “reinvigorate museum displays, encourage diverse approaches and present alternative voices; creating an exciting programme of contemporary art and revealing inspiring research.”

It is the first sustained research programme for artists at the Manchester Museum and is funded by the Arts Council England, Enquire and the North West Museums Hub. Halperin holds one of four fellowships.

A magic lantern slide of the aftermath of an erupting volcano

Magic lantern slide. Photo by Anna Hopkins

The exhibition runs until June 1 2008. For those who are inspired by Physical Geology, the Alchemy Art Ideas Café is holding an evening entitled 'The Geology of Volcanoes and Caves' on Monday April 28 2008, 6.30-8pm to discuss the subject with the artist, Ilana Halperin, and Dr Amanda Edwards from the University of Manchester.

This is an exhibition preview. If you’ve been to see the show, why not let us know what you think?

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