‘In Paint; in Teeth; in Wood; in Sheet-Iron; in Stone; in Mountains; in Stars’
Herman Melville, Moby Dick, 1856

In Moby Dick, Herman Melville lists various ways in which whales are visualised. Such iterations in the re-imaginings of whales lead to questions on the reliability of the portrayal of a species that Melville states humans have ‘no earthy way of finding out precisely what the whale really looks like’. From the “chase” of the whaling industry to the effects of climate change and wider anthropogenic threats to the marine environment, the representation and lives of whales have been further complicated and intertwined through various human narratives of exploitation, objectification, and only more recently conservation.

Here Be Whales is an exhibition bringing together a number of artists who explore and question the authenticity of whale representations. It reflects, in ethical terms, material and cultural methods and how these are challenged, not only by whales’ damaged past, but also by their threatened present and speculative future. As the author Boria Sax states ‘every animal is a tradition… when we contemplate the inner life of animals, myth is finally our only truth’. Considering the past and current ‘traditions’ and multiplicity of whale depictions, this exhibition seeks to offer alternative ways to interrogate the process of myth-making and animal representation.

The works will include drawings, sculpture, collage, textile and video pieces, with a new writing work by Sophia Nicolov to accompany the exhibition, which will be produced as a publication.

Artists (in alphabetical order):
Helen Cann | Martha Cattell | Angela Cockayne | Filippa Dobson | Hondartza Fraga | Caroline Hack | Sophia Nicolov | Marina Rees | Kathy Prendergast

Curated by Martha Cattell, Hondartza Fraga and Sophia Nicolov.

Here Be Whales is possible thanks to an award by the White Rose College of the Arts and Humanities (WRoCAH), with support from the University of Leeds and the University of York, Hull Maritime Museum, Left Bank Leeds and East Street Arts.

As part of the exhibition, we have produced a book, published by East Street Arts, with a written contribution by Sophia Nicolov. the book will be available for free at the exhibition venues.

You can view the online version in ISSUU: