Alberta Whittle
…Moving Beyond the Time of Salt
22 June—15 December 2024
Opening: Fri 21 June, 7 p.m.

Opening hours of the exhibition:
Mon, Thu and Fri, 12—7 p.m.

Guided tours with Lisa Klosterkötter:
15 September, 13 October, 23 November, 15 December, 3 p.m.


Curated by Sour Grass

You can find the booklet accompanying the exhibition here.

You can find a talk with Alberta Whittle and Sour Grass here.

Alberta Whittle’s childhood, shaped across several parishes on the small island of Barbados in the southeastern Caribbean Sea has impacted her work through its physical geography. Living close to the south and west coastlines she could explore the landscape, walk the beaches, dive, snorkel, climb trees, and play in pasture lands, igniting her relationship with the natural world. As a young child, Alberta found places to reclaim, burrow, and build nests; taking refuge in and with the land.

Alberta’s work begins with reading and research, informing her interdisciplinary response to the deep inadequacy and injustices of contemporary society. Threads running throughout the work include rebellion, fugitivity, and a quest for what we can do now from personal, political, and planetary perspectives. How can we collectively make change happen, and manifest the shifts contemporary society requires? Her capacity to respond quickly in her filmmaking practice to what’s happening in the world is evidenced by her ability to provoke dialogue through the collaborative process, attending to the cognitive dissonance especially as it relates to Black Women, the ignoring or erasing of their knowledge, and the general disregard for Black thought.

Another hinge that connects Alberta’s work to the now is her deep and continued interest in collective action and collaboration. Many of her works involve long-term engagement, with many weaving hands and stories growing tapestries considering how care, love, liberation, and justice can be raised consciously across her communities. As the epistemological gap widens between European and Caribbean perceptions of itself and its differently understood shared histories. Alberta’s practice asks difficult questions of our time–what can we do to create more self-compassion and inspire collective dreaming away from colonialist and capitalist production and isolation leading to neglect, erasure, and silos to consider the wholeness and entanglements present within our histories and lineages.

RESET, a 2020 moving-image work co-produced and co-commissioned by Forma and Frieze on the occasion of Alberta becoming the recipient of the annual Frieze Artist Award, anchors '…Moving Beyond the Time of Salt', the artist’s first solo exhibition in Köln, Germany at Temporary Gallery. In the thirty-two-minute collaborative call-to-action, RESET’s first three minutes open with the artist beckoning the viewer to join her in meditation in an attempt to heal, to ground into one’s body, to become embodied, and, with the body establish a path to healing. Transitioning to a dream-like sequence, the artist narrates fragments of a poetic text, On Touching, by Ama Josephine Budge. The original score, Maroon Rage by St. Mozelle, aka YBG, accompanies the viewer throughout, punctuated by the artist’s voice reading words that also float up the screen. A recognition of the ancestors by recalling a great-grandmother’s tidal singing and the exhalation of marbles from a mouth, the screen breaks open into fractured frames of watery sites, wake worlds, murmurations of migrating birds, and protesters in widespread cities interrupted by vertical rectangle-shaped stripes of visual discord, further breaking up the screen into a montage of dislocated frames of reference.

Created during the COVID pandemic and influenced by the lack of outdoor space and Alberta’s deep longing to be in the natural world during lockdown, the artist meditated on what walking, freedom, and caring for the environment mean. Her place of retreat during that time – the curtilage of the Barbadian family home– included a wild garden with calabash trees and bird song. Alberta's reflection on a sense of longing in RESET suggests that the landscape, more than a setting, becomes a different player in the piece to speak about history's complexities.

The film’s arc starts with the artist’s tender and calming voice transitioning to the sound of a ringing bell, followed by an ululation building to a crescendo shaped by Alberta and her accomplices (collaborators)—including a writer, dancer, performer, and composer—whose wide-ranging participation plays out in spaces deeply rooted in colonialism. The use of sound throughout Alberta’s practice is a deliberate borrowing from the hybrid structure of Creole languages deployed across the Caribbean region. Barbadian poet Kamau Brathwaite’s conception of Nation Language can be highlighted here to understand how the qualities of the mash-up, and syncopations draw together seemingly disparate and multi-layered sounds that borrow heavily from Dancehall culture, South African Amapiano, and orchestras all paying reverence to the sounds of that natural world and the lineages across generations. Songlines drum up an ancient rumble in our belly as we witness this work bring forth new movement and memories.

The black female body–often associated with the demands of their labour while being little cared for–moves throughout the film in new ways to reset communal networks of care, while not neglecting ourselves. Women’s work here involves composting—integrating, assimilating, and action—as seedbeds are prepared for creative and agentive action. Humus, death, and decay are woven into the tapestries of primordial life and the sacred feminine is liberated by the aqueous and fugitive undercurrents writhing in the snake's presence. As the work becomes more urgent, public actions and demonstrations across the world including those in Glasgow, South Africa, and the Black Lives Matter protest in Barbados, populate the screen, shaking the viewer away from complacency and comfort.

A male limbo performer, bopping and weaving under the front bumper and grilles of a parked car on a Havana side street, further disrupts the screen, heightening the sense of precarity. Breath becomes a uniting and unequal force while considering multiple interconnected histories. Made during a time of loss of so many people including Simone Francis in the UK, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor in the US–those who did not have the luxury of drawing air into their lungs, the film invites us to take a pause, sit with shared collective grief, give thought to what it means to be human and hold each other and ourselves with greater care while advocating for justice and liberation strategies.

Alongside RESET is a sound work and installation titled A portal for breathing love into the Elders or an Adoration for kith-folk who we long for and a series of unique prints where the artist mines the vast catalogue of historical imagery that engages with themes of colonisation, abduction, and Indigenous dispossession. Installations that attend to different knowledge systems that look back to the land and indigenous knowledge as guides to the future.

A digital catalogue deepening aspects of syncopation, multivocality, and collaboration will be released during the duration of the exhibition. '…Moving Beyond the Time of Salt' will further Whittle’s collaborative network with institutions, fugitives and activists across Cologne interrogating strategies of justice, liberation, and joy, culminating in a gestation period of research and engagement which will inform new commissioned work for 2025.

Barbadian-Scottish artist Alberta Whittle’s multifaceted practice is preoccupied with developing a personal response to the legacies of the Atlantic slave trade, unpicking its connections to institutional racism, white supremacy, and climate emergency in the present. Against an oppressive political background, Whittle aims to foreground hope and engage with different forms of resistance. Whittle represented Scotland at the 59th Venice Biennale and is a 2022 recipient of the Paul Hamlyn Awards for Artists. In 2020, she was awarded a Turner Bursary and the Frieze Artist Award, she was the Margaret Tait Award winner for 2018/19. Whittle is currently presenting a new solo exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and is also participating in the 14th Gwangju Biennale. A major solo exhibition of her career to date was on display at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Modern One), Edinburgh, throughout 2023.

Sour Grass is a curatorial experiment and duo founded by Holly Bynoe and Annalee Davis in 2020. This venture seeks to work with artists and creative practitioners from the Caribbean and across its diaspora, to build relationships with museums, cultural institutions, collectors, publishers, biennales, and both private and public entities. Sour Grass is particularly interested in alternative arts pedagogy, building discursive programming, and connecting with global worldviews and mythoi, bringing to life affinities and parallels with the Caribbean. Sour Grass functions as a decolonial body and a bridge to activate cultural manifestations of seeding, cross pollination, germination, cultivation and harvest.

Funding and support:
Ministerium für Kultur und Wissenschaft des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen
Kulturamt der Stadt Köln
Deltax contemporary
Hotel Chelsea
ifa - Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen

1: Alberta Whittle, RESET (film still), 2020. Co-produced and co-commissioned by Frieze and Forma. Courtesy the artist and The Modern Institute/Toby Webster Ltd., Glasgow.
2—22: Alberta Whittle: …Moving Beyond the Time of Salt, 2024, installation views

Works on view:
Jamestown mythology: Amonute, 2023, Laser-engraved woodblock print on Somerset Satin with saliva embossed in gold

Kithship Transmissions (Silver), 2021, Photo etching on copper plate printed on Somerset Velvet 250gsm

Kithship Transmissions (Copper), 2021, Photo etching on copper plate printed on Somerset Velvet

Sticky Mythologies (Secota) II, 2021, Photo-etched copper plate with ink residue on hand-carved music stand

Sticky Mythologies (Secota) I, 2021, Photo-etched copper plate with ink residue on hand-carved music stand

Jamestown mythology: Amonute (copper bottom), 2023, Laser-engraved woodblock matrix with photo-etched copper additions on hand-carved music stand

Coiling beneath the waves, the sand reminds us to believe, 2024, Cowrie shells, glass beads, pony beads, jewellery wire & shackles

A portal for breathing love into the Elders or an Adoration for kith-folk who we long for, 2021, Audio, chair, scarves, bowl, snake & aloe plants in plastic tubs, machete, cowrie shells, conch shells, bells and other items

RESET, 2020, Video (Original shooting format: 4K, 2K and HD), Duration: 32 mins

All works courtesy of the artist and The Modern Institute/Toby Webster Ltd. Glasgow
All photos: Simon Vogel, Cologne