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Shetland Arts is working with with London-based commissioning body Artangel to host The Colony, a film installation by Vietnamese born artist and filmmaker Dinh Q. Lê.

The Colony will be in the Auditorium at Mareel from 3 February to 9 March, from 10am to 8pm daily (some dates and times may occasionally vary due to events in the auditorium, see below). It marks the first exhibition of Shetland Arts’ off-site programme of visual art exhibitions in new and exciting locations around Shetland.

Jane Matthews, Exhibition Manager explains, "Beyond Bonhoga marks a new chapter for the visual arts; over the next two years we are taking work out and about around Shetland, with exciting exhibitions in new and challenging locations. These shows will sit alongside those at Bonhoga.

The Colony is a fascinating piece of work that focuses on bird populations, land use and exploitation in the Cincha Islands, off Peru. I thought it would be of particular interest here, relevant in the context of our own ecology and bird populations and the fact we are an island with an interesting history of land use. And, apart from anything else, it has amazing footage and a beguiling story to tell. The work has been shown previously in London, Sheffield, Birmingham and Rotterdam, and will be shown in Lima, Peru after it's shown here in Shetland. It is excellent to be a part of the story of this artwork as well. "

The opening of The Colony will take place at Mareel on Saturday 3 February from 6-7.30pm, everyone is welcome.

The powerful three-screen installation immerses the viewer in panoramic scenes of the timeless and desolate Chincha Islands and gradually reveals a sublime landscape with a complex history…

By the mid- 19th century the islands had become mountains of guano. A potent fertiliser, guano quickly became one of the world’s most valuable natural resources. British merchants controlled its trade, using indentured Chinese labourers working under brutal conditions. War was triggered by Spanish, American and Peruvian forces scrambling for control of the islands and in 1856, the US Congress Guano Act enabled it to seize uninhabited islands around the world. The advent of chemical fertilisers saw the islands re-colonised by birds. Architectural traces of the conflicted past remain in ruins.

The islands have not been permanently inhabited for more than a century, but labourers return to harvest the guano by hand every few years. Accompanied by Daniel Wohl’s elegiac soundtrack, Lê films from a boat approaching the islands, cameras on the ground and drones circling above to capture a bleak landscape haunted by its brutal past.

Dinh Q. Lê was born in Hà Tiên, in what was then South Vietnam, in 1968. In the late 1970s, his family escaped by boat before eventually settling in the US where he completed his education. He now spends time in both Vietnam and Los Angeles producing his work, which includes installation, video, sculpture, and urban intervention. He has exhibited extensively in many international group shows and was the first Vietnamese artist to have a solo show at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2010).


Chincha Norte Island

Production shot of The Colony, 2016

Photo courtesy of the artist, Dinh Q. Lê.

Opening Times

3rd Feb - 9 March

Usual Opening Hours 10am - 8pm

Exceptions for events in the auditorium:

3rd Feb - Opening Event

4th February - Open 2-8pm

10 February - CLOSED

11 February - Open 2-8pm

20 February Open 10-4pm

25 February - CLOSED

26 February - Open 2-8pm


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