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17 Apr 2018

Ross Birrell's The Transit of Hermes comes to CCA for Glasgow International

Ross Birrell, Criollo (2017) film still. Image credit: John Engstrom.

Ross Birrell - The Transit of Hermes
CCA Glasgow


Thursday 19 April - Sunday 3 June // Free Preview: Thursday 19 April, 6pm-9pm Tue-Sat: 11am-6pm // Sun: 12noon-6pm Open Mondays, 11am-6pm, during Glasgow International (19 April – 7 May)


+44 141 352 4900

Centre for Contemporary Arts
350 Sauchiehall Street
Glasgow, G2 3JD

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Two of Ross Birrell's 2017 documenta 14 projects, Criollo and The Athens-Kassel Ride: The Transit of Hermes, come to CCA's galleries in April, accompanied by new film, objects and photographs documenting both journeys, and installation works conceived specifically for CCA. The exhibition combines literal and metaphorical journeys, traversing north and south, human and animal, myth and materiality.

In Birrell's film, Criollo (2017), we encounter a solitary horse at the threshold to Central Park at the end of 6th Avenue - Avenue of the Americas. Accompanying photographs document the animal's journey as it appears at three identical equestrian statues to the Argentine revolutionary leader, José de San Martín, in Buenos Aires, Washington D.C., and New York.

Linking the two cities of documenta 14, The Athens-Kassel Ride was undertaken by experienced long riders (Peter van der Gugten, David Wewetzer, Zsolt Szabo and Tina Boche and their equine companions (Artvin, Issy Kul, Paco and Calfino Sancho), documented by Birrell with Mark Wallis and Samuel Devereux, both graduates from The Glasgow School of Art, where Birrell teaches. The 100-day ride traced a 3000km trail through Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria and Germany. The riders were accompanied by a Greek Arravani horse 'Hermes,' named by Birrell after the Greek god of border crossings. The Transit of Hermes is the journey of this horse which also becomes a mythical messenger of the Gods, constantly in motion between two worlds. The exhibition includes new film work which centres on the journey of Hermes as the animal travels through the landscapes of Europe, evoking symbolic conditions of migration, exile, and perpetual movement.

Ross Birrell said 'Horses played an integral part in the evolution of the human species. They were essential to the development of agriculture and industry and the building of cities. They are profoundly intelligent and beautiful creatures and we have all but exiled them from contemporary life. As the German writer Ulrich Raulff observes, the last century witnessed 'the exodus of the horse from human history'. Horses are now 'ghosts of modernity'. But Raulff adds 'the more they forfeit their worldly presence, the more they haunt the minds of a humanity that has turned away from them'. The work developed for documenta 14 and exhibited at CCA revisits the spectral and visceral animal presence of the horse, and documents the maintenance of a co-existence of companion species in projects developed in collaboration with equestrian Long Riders.'

The projects were inspired by Tschiffely's Ride, a 10,000 mile journey from Buenos Aires to New York (1925-1928) by Swiss-Argentine Aimé Félix Tschiffely on two Argentine criollo horses, Mancha and Gato. The criollo horse is a mixture of Arab and Barbary breeds, the name stemming from 'creole' with associations of social and cultural mixing. Tschiffely's account was published in 1933, the same year Hitler seized power in Germany, implementing a bio-politics of hatred based upon an ideology of racial purity. In contrast, Tschiffely's Ride is dedicated 'to many friends – of whatever race, nationality or creed – who did their utmost to make rough places smooth.'

A series of events and publications accompany the exhibition. On 20 April, writer and editor Filipa Ramos presents a talk on animal presences focusing on representations of animals in art and how humans perceive their companionship. On 27 April, Ross Birrell and CCA Curator Ainslie Roddick will lead a talk and lunchtime tour of The Transit of Hermes, followed on 23 May by the launch of Birrell's book, The Parasite, a fragmented text published in English, German and Greek 'variations' made using words excised from the respective editions of Arthur Conan Doyle's The Parasite.

Birrell said 'The exhibition in CCA for Glasgow International is very important for me as it will bring together the documentation of the journeys of Criollo and The Athens-Kassel Ride: The Transit of Hermes for the first time. There are also new works specifically conceived for the gallery spaces of CCA. The exhibition in Glasgow was also present in the approach to filming and documenting the projects as they developed. So Glasgow was always for me a third city in the projects devised for documenta 14: Athens, Kassel… Glasgow.'

Part of Glasgow International 2018.

The Transit of Hermes
Ross Birrell

Thu 19 April – Sun 3 June 2018
Tue-Sat: 11am-6pm // Sun: 12noon-6pm // Free // Preview: Thu 19 April, 6pm-9pm
Open Mondays, 11am-6pm, during Glasgow International (19 April – 7 May)

Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA), 350 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, G2 3JD


Talk: Filipa Ramos on Animal Presences
Fri 20 April, 11am, GFT, Free (unticketed) / All ages
Artist tour with Ross Birrell and CCA Curator Ainslie Roddick
Fri 27 April, 1pm, CCA, Free but ticketed / All ages
Podcast discussion with Filipa Ramos and Ross Birrell, released 30 April on CCA website
The Parasite, Book Launch, Wed 23 May, 6pm, CCA, Free but ticketed / All ages