Dream-whales and deep listening
I first met visual artist Tanja Thorjussen in 2014 through Art in Translation, the international conference on language and the arts that I founded in Reykjavík in 2012, and we reconnected when she visited London in March 2019. Strolling around together at the opening of the Emma Kunz exhibition at the Serpentine, we realised that over the years, our artistic and personal interests had continued to converge. So I was honoured when Tanja commissioned me to write an essay for her ongoing Mythistoria project, which is interested in the liminal and psychological landscapes of human-animal relationships.
Mythistoria III: The Great Whale, the third iteration of Tanja's project, was exhibited at Wind and Weather Gallery in Reykjavík in late spring 2019. The window installation consisted of delicately rendered pencil drawings on paper and ink on the windows themselves, showing sea creatures and ocean-inspired forms along with the eponymous Great Whale. My essay, "Dream-whales and deep listening", situates Thorjussen's whale illustration within the context of three whales described by other writers: a sociologist of science, a cultural historian, and a philosopher-musician.