Seasons End: More Than Suitcases, her first solo exhibition in Ireland, gathers an ever-changing body of work centred on a cast of human-like figures dressed in colourful, embroidered robes; vessels of communication between different states of conscious and unconscious.
First developed during an artist’s residency at Scotland’s Hospitalfield (2015), Seasons End was presented in the Mitchell Library as part of the Glasgow International 2016, before travelling to REDCAT in Los Angeles as Seasons End: Panting Healer. A new landing and performance took place as part of the Serpentine Galleries’ Park Nights, and most recently was presented in Oakville Galleries, Ontario as Seasons End: Out of Body (2017); all captured in the 16mm film Seasons End: Out of Body (2018).
As the installation has travelled, the cast of characters has transformed, adapting to their environment and absorbing new materials and narratives along the way. In Glasgow, a looming figure - the Garden Photographer Scarecrow - presided over a group of 24 anthropomorphic sculptures. With a pinhole camera hidden in her body, she recorded images of the empty space between night and day. In REDCAT, this giantess was laid to rest on a makeshift hospital bed of timber and twigs and attended to by the figure Panting Healer, before being cremated in a ceremony on a nearby beach. At Oakville Galleries, her ashes were given new life in the stomach of the Bar of Body, a winged figure that breathes in and out with the aid of a mechanized breathing apparatus. Her bodily fluids perfume the space with a scent deterring fabric munching moths, while the figures gather around her. From a photographer’s studio to a hospital bed and funeral parlour, ideas of illness, healing, death, and transformation carry across all iterations of Seasons End.
The next phase of the project presented at the Douglas Hyde brings together for the first time 25 figures from Panting Healer and 25 from Out of Body, as Seasons End: More Than Suitcases. Made by the artist with collaborators Aude Levère and Jake Tilbury, these collected figures and their costumes were fashioned from fabrics gathered on the artist’s travels, some from Turkey, others from markets in Athens dyed with plants from the island of Seriphos, alongside many other materials; objects crafted from the Bay of Fundy mudflats in Nova Scotia to polaroid images of themselves. Henderson’s references are wide ranging, from spiritual texts, such as the Tibetan Book of the Dead, to historian Tiffani Watt Smith’s The Book of Human Emotions and works by countercultural gurus like Terence McKenna, or the essays of Helen Keller. Animals and the natural world also feature; from books such as composer and naturalist Bernie Krause’s The Great Animal Orchestra, to guides on weaving and dyeing with plant materials.
These figures include Eminonou’s Brenda (2016), and three Eye Witnesses (2017), Panting Healer (2016) and The Doc (2017), while the Editor in a Suitcase (2017) houses exhausted pencils and multiple notepads in their armour. Some wear fantastical hats, one formed from a curling seashell, headdresses, or elaborate beekeepers’ veils, however the ceremony is unclear. To their feet are strapped oversized handmade cork and leather shoes, each carrying passport-like identity booklets. Here in Dublin, the Body Bar(2016) stands upright among them, breathing in and slowly out. In the recesses of the gallery six Scratch Negative figures gather to create a functioning darkroom, capturing the passage of time, 24 frames in a second, 24 hours in a day, while a vehicle is upturned on a gallery wall to take on a journey of dizzying heights.
The concept of travel - whether as exile, pilgrimage, odyssey or spiritual quest - is paramount to Seasons End: More Than Suitcases. Not only has the project itself migrated, changing its name and identity as it shifts from place to place, but the narrative these figures weave is clearly also peripatetic. With a makeshift vehicle and bespoke passports at hand, they have amassed and appear poised to traverse borders, be they physical or spiritual, like a crowd of spectral bodies making the ultimate transition from one world into another. Henderson’s voyagers weave together an intensely personal story of travel between countries and states of being, of material alchemy and transformation, of everyday objects and experiences, of death and (re)birth, of seeds reaped and sown, and of slipping between worlds, ‘out of body,’ and beyond.
Costumes designed and produced with Aude Levère. Sound design by Dan Riley.
With special thanks to the artist’s studio associates Aude Levère and Jake Tilbury, and to Nectar Efkarpidis for his continued support.
Produced by REDCAT and Glasgow International with support from Oakville Galleries, Serpentine Galleries and Rodeo, London.
Tamara Henderson is an artist from Sackville, NB, Canada, and currently based in London. She studied at NSCAD University in Halifax and Städelschule in Frankfurt am Main, and holds a Masters degree from the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm. She has exhibited at Glasgow International (2016) and dOCUMENTA 13, Kassel (2012), and in 2017 staged a performance for the Serpentine Gallery’s 2017 Park Nights series. Solo exhibitions include Oakville Galleries (2017); Rodeo Gallery, London (2017); REDCAT, Los Angeles (2016); Moderna Museet, Stockholm (2016); ICA, Philadelphia (2015); and Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York (2014). She has a forthcoming solo exhibitions at KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, and is included in the Geneva Biennale of Moving Image, Geneva, both 2018.