Passage @ The Byre: Stine Bidstrup, Æsa Björk, Matt Durran, Jeffrey Sarmiento, Petr Stanický

September 4, 2021 - March 31, 2023
Caithness, Scotland - Bullseye Projects presents Passage, a series of site-specific installations developed in response to Caithness and the paths we take to reach remote destinations.

Exhibitions in The Byre traditionally begin with a journey. The artists gather in Caithness to work alongside one another for a brief period before returning to their respective studios to build upon their experiences, the architecture, and the surrounding landscape. The COVID-19 pandemic altered this course. Instead, artists Stine Bidstrup (Denmark), Æsa Björk (Norway), Matt Durran (UK), Jeffrey Sarmiento (UK/Australia), and Petr Stanický (Czech Republic) are creating their work based on photographs, drone footage, historic maps, written documentation, and memories from previous visits to the area. In a collective form of remote viewing, the artists are projecting themselves into one of the five distinct spaces of The Byre complex: Horse Barn, Cow Barn, Store Room, Hay Barn, and the exterior. Passage is the third exhibition at The Byre, and will run from September 4, 2021 to March 31, 2023.
 
Yi-Fu Tuan, in his book Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience, describes two types of mythical space. One is the “fuzzy” area that surrounds our direct perception. When we imagine what lies beyond the mountains, or envision an object we left in the next room, we are engaging in a form of mythical geography. The second form is more broad, dealing with our place in the larger scheme of existence from a locale to the cosmos. In order to “articulate our experiences,” we construct a space for ourselves, our perceptions, remembrances, and our community. It is through these constructions that we seek connection and meaning. The Byre is a mythical space the artists are traversing to explore confabulated geologies, the fallibility of perception, paths to salvation, identity, and thresholds to unknown spaces.

Stine Bidstrup is an artist and curator based in Copenhagen, Denmark. Often exploring the optical qualities of glass, Bidstrup’s Architectural Glass Fantasies and Imaginary Crystallisations series play with perception, both physical and cultural, in an intentionally disorienting amalgamation of utopian architecture, crystalline growth, and what some see as the chaos of the natural world. Building on this work, Bidstrup is developing an installation for the Store Room that draws upon the jutting, angular, sedimentary coastal formations and the ordered stone dykes and buildings that she remarked on during her only visit to the area in early 2020.

Æsa Björk’s work examines the layers of human experience through observation of the inherent dualities in existence: interior and exterior, perception and the perceived. Björk uses material to embody the entanglement of the observer and the observed. In her recent collaborative work, Björk combined imagery of people projected upon a “canvas” of fused glass with audible extrapolations of their brain activity. Through technology we apprehend the aspects of the world that are unknowable to the viewer and, in many cases, withdrawn from those who are being viewed. Perception informs our sense of self and yet technology reveals its biological limits; moreover, perception is made unreliable through age and disease. Björk’s project for the Cow Barn examines this fallibility and how subjectivity shifts as memory fails and our senses diminish. 

London-based artist and curator Matt Durran works primarily in large-scale installations that combine upcycled materials, emerging technologies, and crafted objects. Defined by curiosity, Durran’s interests encompass geological deep time, the human body, climate change, and the built environment. Creating what he has casually referred to as a “Cathedral for One,” Durran, informed by the stark landscape of the far north, is using found glass tubing, engraved glass fragments, and cast glass objects to create a human-scale locus of contemplation in the Horse Barn; a site for the search for meaning and connection during the 2020 pandemic. 

Jeffrey Sarmiento, though originally from Chicago, has lived primarily outside of the US since traveling to Denmark on a Fulbright Fellowship in 2003. Through his work, he has explored the creation of cultural and individual identity as an outsider interacting with a place. Sarmiento began visiting northern Scotland five years ago and his installation in the Hay Barn, possibly his last in the UK before his move to Australia, is the culmination of his journeys between Sunderland and Caithness. Using mapping and GPS data, Sarmiento is creating vibrant serpentine forms that will be combined into a tangled installation following the treacherous passage from one place to another. Altered by nature and human intervention, these paths inform the character of a place, outline individual biographies, and trace the contours of a culture.

Outside The Byre, between two crumbling exterior walls, is where Petr Stanický’s contribution to the exhibition will be installed. Artist Richard Drury describes Stanický’s art as being “focused on an explicitly architectural conception [that] draws us into a symbolic arena of a questioning dialogue about our humanity.” Defined by architectural language and imagery of ruin or imagined perspectival follies, Stanicky conjures transformative spaces effervescent with layers of human activity. Drury continues: “Drawing on his own essential character, [Stanický] endeavours to create a monumental fabric through which he can indicate the transient course of human life against the background of eternity’s unchanging structures.” The Byre is a structure rich in traces of the human habitation that is inscribed in its stone. Furthermore, being situated amongst a landscape bursting with cairns, brochs, and ruined castles, The Byre is an apt backdrop for what Drury calls refuges for “existential protection,” and the “continuity of human memory.”

ABOUT THE BYRE

The Byre, a remote complex of stone buildings in the northernmost county of Scotland, sits amid a hillside pasture overlooking Latheronwheel strath and the North Sea. Beginning in 2016, The Byre has opened its five distinct spaces to artists, who develop work in response to The Byre’s unique surrounds.