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Woolly mammoth reintroduced into Scotland with new art exhibition

8 November 2013

An art exhibition exploring what would happen to the environment if woolly mammoths were reintroduced into Scotland, has opened in Aberdeen.

The artworks on display include sculpture, drawings, music and film, and were inspired by a residency in which six artists and nine scientists were brought together to consider how art and science can be used to find innovative solutions to environmental conflicts.

One of the most contentious conflicts in the Scottish uplands at present is the proposal to reintroduce species – such as wolves, brown bears and lynx – into areas where they have become extinct.

In order to address this issue without any competing conflicts of interest, discussions between the artists and scientists during the residency focussed on something with which there would be no conflicting agendas.

The woolly mammoth seemed an obvious choice.

Dr Rebecca Wade, from Abertay University, explains:

“Introducing animals into parts of Scotland where they no longer live is a hot-topic amongst politicians and land owners at the moment, and it fitted well with the aims of the residency because we are trying to move beyond advocacy arguments and polemics to consider how alternative viewpoints can help break down barriers, bring about understanding, and help find solutions.”

“As far as we know, no one today is planning to 'de-extinct' mammoths into Scotland. But using them as an example is a way of looking at environmental conflicts - by deliberately avoiding a real, current issue - we can detach ourselves and look at the ways conflicts develop.”

The idea of integrating science and art to tackle difficult issues is becoming more common, and these types of collaborations often inspire the participants to look at their own craft differently, enabling new and unexpected questions, and solutions, to arise.

Each scientist involved in this residency brought their own knowledge and experience to the table, and each artist reacted to, and interpreted, the conflicts discussed.

The works in the exhibition include a chess set which evokes the power play between different landowners by sculptor Helen Denerley; drawings by Sera James Irvine; a film by Matt Hulse about one Scottish, and one American, dog, which contrasts the different environments they inhabit; and a new work by playwright Alan McKendrick.

Dr Wade continues:

“Although many of the pieces created in this collaboration don't involve the woolly mammoth story directly, for some reason it was this idea that got the whole group animated and involved.

“For example, I was delighted to see how my collaboration with the musician Richard Craig developed into a piece of new work for live electronics and flute which explores scientific ideas and relationships between our perceptions of nature and the impact of our actions on the environment.”

The exhibition opened at Seventeen in Aberdeen on Thursday 7th November, and runs until Saturday 9th November. There will be live performances with talks, music and readings performed in the gallery on Friday 8th and Saturday 9th November.


For media enquiries please contact Kirsty Cameron T: 01382 308935 M: 07972172158 E:

Notes to Editors:

• The residency was a Creative Futures project, funded by Creative Scotland.

• The six artists involved were:

Richard Craig, flautist
Helen Denerley, sculptor
Jo Falla, author
Matt Hulse, film maker
Alan McKendrick playwright
Sera James Irvine, artist

• The nine scientists involved were:

Professor Bill Adams, University of Cambridge
Professor Maggie Gill, University of Edinburgh
Dr Justin Irvine, Jame Hutton Institute
Aly McCluskie, RSPB
Professor Steve Redpath, University of Aberdeen
Professor Paul Rogers, University of Bradford
Bill Slee, James Hutton Institute
Dr Rebecca Wade, Abertay University
Pete Moore, University of Aberdeen

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