Collective ready to welcome artist Cauleen Smith

An Edinburgh arts venue’s 2022 arts programme opens with a new exhibition of Los Angeles-based artist Cauleen Smith’s film H-E-L-L-O.

Being held at Collective, this will be Cauleen Smith’s first solo exhibition in Scotland and the film is a search for connection during a time of uncertainty and unrest. The exhibition takes place from January 22 to May 1.

Smith’s work reflects upon the everyday possibilities of the imagination. For over three decades she has employed radical thinking to envision a better world through film, video, sculpture, textiles, installations and drawings.

Bringing together themes of historic erasure, presence and loss, Smith believes in the redemptive and transformative power of art, music and text. Drawing from the language of Third World Cinema, science fiction and Structuralist film, Smith explores themes relating to the African diaspora, environment and the human condition.

H-E-L-L-O, made in 2014, signals a search for connection in a time of uncertainty and unrest. H-E-L-L-O translates the famous five-note musical motif from Stephen Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind into a greeting for sites around post-hurricane Katrina New Orleans, loaded with the histories of music and procession.

At each site, musicians from the city play the sequence on a series of instruments, from trumpet, to cello and bass saxophone. Their interpretations of the sequence, originally written by film composer John Williams as a coded extra-terrestrial hello, speak mournfully of New Orleans’ enduring spirit despite a troubled recent past and uncertain future.

Presented in Collective’s City Dome space, H-E-L-L-O sits alongside the rich history of the site as a place of astrological study and observation, monument, time and communication, themes at the heart of Smith’s work. Although situated in the geography of New Orleans, the film allows us to contemplate Edinburgh’s relationship to its own landscape, inhabitants and history in a time of turbulence and change.

The architecture of the site brings together Smith’s deep-rooted interest in science fiction, Afrofuturism and public space. When the need for connection is increasingly imperative, Smith’s faith in the importance of culture and trust in transformation is not only essential, it’s how we might begin to heal.

Cauleen Smith said: ‘I’m really excited to be exhibiting H-E-L-L-O at Collective. It is of great interest to me that the film can be a way of opening up thinking about presence, absence, waters and erasure in Scotland.’

Emmie McLuskey, associate producer, said: ‘It is a great pleasure and a privilege to bring Cauleen’s work to the City Dome in Edinburgh. The skilful way she weaves together past and future, grief and optimism is complex, deeply felt and heartbreakingly human. In a time of great turmoil worldwide, I feel Cauleen’s work invites us to sit inside difficulty, feel the beauty of listening and ground us in the power of community.’

Collective brings people together to look at, think about and produce contemporary art in a new kind of City Observatory.

Collective was established in 1984 and opened its new home on the redeveloped City Observatory site on Calton Hill in 2018. Collective’s mission is to bring people together around new art.

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