Opening at The Amelia Scott is Leviathan, a large-scale triple screen immersive video installation by
the artist Kelly Richardson. As part of a collaboration with the Arts Council Collection, through the
Borrow Big! scheme, the presentation of Leviathan at The Amelia will be the first time the work has
been exhibited since being acquired by the Arts Council Collection in 2015. Leviathan was originally
commissioned by Artpace, San Antonio.
The work draws on Richardson’s distinct art practice which focusses on ideas around conservation
and a careful observation of the effects of humanity on the planet. She films the bald cypress trees,
indigenous to Caddo Lake in Uncertain, Texas, and manipulates the footage, creating a series of
twisting, snake-like tendrils of yellowish light in the water with an eerie soundtrack replacing the
sounds of nature.
Richardson explains, ‘I’m trying to create contemplative places which are both beautiful and
mesmeric, but at the same time, unsettling.’
Presented as a triptych, the landscape is viewed from a single vantage point, like a painting set in
motion. The immersive environment of Leviathan is entirely devoid of people and invites viewers to
‘insert themselves into the work’ and become its sole protagonists. Richardson’s manipulation of the
video suggests several foreboding plot lines: the birth of primordial life, the emergence of a malign
aquatic creature or a post-apocalyptic Earth.
Caddo Lake, the setting of Richardson’s Leviathan is thought to be the first site in the world for
underwater oil drilling and plays a significant role in the shaping of current fossil-fuel debates
concerning the global climate crisis. Tunbridge Wells has strong links to conservation, having
enshrined the protection of wild plants, animals, and natural habitats in The Tunbridge Wells
Improvement Act of 1889. This ground-breaking legislation ensured the protection and stewardship
of the extensive commons found locally and the plants and wildlife that dwell and flourish on it.
The staging of Leviathan at The Amelia Scott comes at a significant time historically, in reflection of
growing global climate concerns and places Tunbridge Wells once again at the centre of
environmental and conservation debates.