'The Visitors', 2009

Timespan Residency, Helmsdale, Sutherland, 2009

The Visitors – Anne Brodie | Yael Rosenblut
Timespan Gallery & The Ice House, Helmsdale

The Ice House , Helmsdale’s monumental deep freeze. Once a store for salmon catch, later a coal fired fish and chip shop. The vaulted chamber played host to the last in a series of three double sited works.

The final response to the Ice House comes from two very different artists, Chilean video artist Yael Rosenblut and Scottish artist Anne Brodie. Working primarily in digital, lens based media, this intensive one month residency has derived two swift pulls of focal length from both.

Anne’s previous life as a salmon farm worker on the West Coast has drawn her informed and intimately observed images and sounds from the little known quarters of Helmsdale’s smoke house. Coming from a long line of fishermen, father and son Sandy and Alexander Cowie, represent the current thin layer of Helmsdale’s once rich fishing industry.

Throughout cultures and histories our past serves to anchor and define our place in the world. Collectively and individually we strive to know who we are by looking at who has gone before, making connections and consolidating patterns.   

In 2009 Anne Brodie was artist in residence at the Timespan museum and arts centre, based in the small village of Helmsdale, Sutherland in the far North East of Scotland.  The landscape defines Helmsdale; it exists because of its proximity to one of the best salmon fishing rivers in Scotland and its historical associations of a thriving fishing industry. The area has a very strong sense of identity, suffering a period of brutality and loss of a large percentage of its population as people were thrown off the land during the Highland clearances in the 19th Century, and a further decline of population as the fishing industry dwindled from thousands of people to just two remaining today.

Timespan gallery houses an extensive photographic archive of its past. Relatives of the displaced Highland population come from all over the world to put a face to their Scottish ancestors; everybody is searching for somebody.

Anne Brodie created two series of work devoid of faces and landscape. They have one thing in common, they are all fishermen. The black and white images are of long dead people taken 150 years ago, some are contemporary photographs of the two remaining fishermen. They were all printed out on to paper, cut out with scissors, then rescanned, a meticulous manual labour democratising people and history. Without the context of landscape and identity, the grey body shapes become their own landscapes and can only hint of their individual histories. 

Coming from a long line of fishermen, father and son Sandy and Alexander Cowie, represent the current thin layer of Helmsdale’s once rich fishing industry and are the subject of the colour photographs and short film filmed and shown in Helmsdale's icehouse built in the 19th Century to store fish.

Images: 'The Visitors', Anne Brodie, 2009

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Review in Northings