Clara Ursitti: Amik

Clara Ursitti: Amik
Gallery 3
23 June 2022 – 29 January 2023

Clara Ursitti often works with scent and social space, creating ephemeral installations and interventions that engage and challenge our sensory perceptions as well as the understanding that artworks are purely visual. Amik is a commission from Glasgow Museums drawing on the histories of trade and exchange in the area where the artist grew up and this city where she now lives.

The show includes sculptures, including found objects; film recordings and sound work from residencies in Canada; scent; and a whole tree ethically sourced and prepared by Glasgow-based environmental community GalGael.

A starting point for this show was castoreum, a substance extracted from the glands of beavers. Ursitti was attracted by the fact that a by-product of beaver trapping is still used by trappers in lures for the beaver, but also used in perfumery and as a natural flavouring to replace vanilla. Fascinated by the passion of those involved in beaver trapping and the fur industry, she also wanted to explore ideas of the by product – castoreum – how it is used for scent and allure to entice consumers to wear and consume it, often unaware of where it from and how that knowledge unsettles what we understand of our desire for the product. Her work also shifts the focus away from beavers’ popularity as cute animals with a view to haunting her audience with a more embodied version.

In Canada the beaver is an iconic symbol and connected very much with the identity of the country. The beaver pelt trade has been key in defining the relationship of colonial settlers with the land and the indigenous peoples that they stole it from. Through works looking at politics, the parliament, economy and exchange, Ursitti explores the connections between this building’s colonial history and the Hudson Bay Company which operated in Canada on behalf of the British Crown.

Initial research was done through a residency with White Water Gallery in North Bay, Canada in 2019. There Ursitti visited and learned from indigenous communities in the area where she was born and raised, before producing film and sound recordings during trips to Nipissing Nation Reserve and Teme Augama-Anishnabai Nation Reserve in February 2020.As part of her research in Glasgow, Ursitti collaborated with Katie Bruce, GoMA Producer/Curator, to study beaver histories in Scotland, the use of imported beaver pelts and other items contained within Glasgow Life Museums’ collection connected to the history of the city’s Royal Exchange building. The Mitchell Library’s archives also helped the artist to explore the Canadian fur trade’s ties to these shores.

“It’s been fun and fascinating to work with GoMA and to access material, both in Glasgow Museums’ collection and in The Mitchell Library archives, in the development of this new work. The opportunity to reflect on where I was born and raised in relation to the linked history of Glasgow and the GoMA building has been invaluable. I am also very grateful to all the people I worked with in Canada, including those from Temagami, Teme-Augama Anishnabai, Nipissing, North Bay, Algonquin-Mètis communities, and at Galgael here in Glasgow.”

Clara Ursitti 2022

Engaging all of our senses we hope this exhibition evokes ideas of exchange, bartering, trade and histories of human, animal and botanic migrations.

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