The Scale of Things

26 Jan-6 Apr 2024

Cooper Gallery
Dundee DD1 4HN


Three moving image works consider relations between humans and non-humans forming an exploration through history, intimacy and spirituality.

Cooper Gallery at the University of Dundee is proud to present the Scottish premiere of Grace Ndiritu’s Becoming Plant (2022), alongside Saodat Ismailova’s The Haunted (2017), and on its fiftieth anniversary, Aerial (1974) by Margaret Tait.

The three moving image works are brought together by a desire to unsettle how we imagine and see ourselves as part of nature. Understanding the recurring need for intimacy, to feel a connection that is commeasurable with our ability to impact and control, the exhibition approaches desire itself; the desire to plunge our bodies deep into the earth and transcend the bounded individualism of being ‘human.’

The Scale of Things is co-curated with Professor Sarah Perks (Teesside University).

Artists' Biographies

Saodat Ismailova is a filmmaker and artist who came of age in the post-Soviet era and has established artistic lives between Paris and Tashkent while remaining deeply engaged with her native region as a source of creative inspiration.  

Following graduation from State Art Institute of Tashkent, she co-directed Aral: Fishing in an Invisible Sea, which won Best Documentary at the 2004 Turin Film Festival. In 2005 Ismailova developed her debut award-winning feature film 40 Days of Silence while DAAD Artists-in-Residence, Berlin, which premiered at Forum, Berlin International Film Festival, 2014. She participated in the 2013 Venice Biennale as part of the Central Asian Pavilion with her video installation Zukhra. In 2017 she was artist-in-residence in OCA (Office of Contemporary Art, Norway) where she developed her short film The Haunted, presented the same year at Tromsø Kunstforening.  

In 2018 Ismailova graduated from Le Fresnoy, France’s National Studio of Contemporary Arts, where she developed Stains of Oxus and Two Horizons. In the same year, her multimedia performance Qyrq Qyz was presented at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) in New York, and Musée du quai Branly in Paris. In 2020 Ismailova initiated the educational program CCA Lab and Tashkent Film Encounters at Center for Contemporary Arts, Tashkent. In 2021, Ismailova established a research group Davra dedicated to studying, documenting, and disseminating Central Asian culture and knowledge. 

In 2022 Ismailova participated in The Milk of Dreams, 59th Venice Biennale with the film Chillahona and in documenta fifteen in Kassel with new work Chilltan and Bibi Seshanbe. The same year she was awarded Eye Prize for Art & Film, Amsterdam, where she presented her exhibition 18 000 Worlds.  

Works by Ismailova are in the collections of the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Centre Pompidou, Paris and Almaty Art Museum and many others.

Grace Ndiritu is a British-Kenyan filmmaker and visual artist whose artworks are concerned with the transformation of our contemporary world. Her work has been featured in Art Review, The Guardian, TIME Magazine, The Financial Times,  Elephant,  BOMB,  Mousse,  Art Monthly,  Metropolis M,  Phaidon: The 21st Century Art Book,  Apollo Magazine 40 under 40  list, and recently on BBC Radio 4,  Woman's Hour.  

Her films have been at prestigious international film festivals such as the 72nd Berlinale, FID Marseille and BFI London Film Festival in 2022. She is also the winner of The Jarman Film Award 2022 in association with Film London. 

Her 'hand-crafted' textiles, painting, photography, shamanic performances and videos  have been widely exhibited in solo and group exhibition including a mid-career survey  SMAK, Ghent (2023); British Art Show (2021 to 2023); Wellcome Collection, London (2022); Gropius Bau, Berlin (2022); Kunsthal Gent (2021); Nottingham Contemporary, UK (2021). Her work is housed in museum collections such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), The British Council (London), LACMA (Los Angeles), Modern Art Museum (Warsaw) and  Foto Museum  (Antwerp).

Margaret Tait was born in 1918 in Kirkwall, Orkney, Scotland. Tait qualified in medicine at Edinburgh University 1941. From 1950 to 1952 she studied film at the Centro Sperimentale di Photographia in Rome. Returning to Scotland she established Ancona Films in Edinburgh’s Rose Street. In the 1960’s Tait moved back to Orkney where over the following decades she made a series of films inspired by the Orcadian landscape and culture. All but three of her thirty two films were self financed. She wrote poetry and stories and produced several books including three books of poetry.

Screenings include National Film Theatre (London), Berlin Film Festival, Centre for Contemporary Art (Warsaw), Arsenal Kino (Berlin), Pacific Film Archives (San Francisco), Knokke le Zoute, Delhi and Riga. Tait was accorded a retrospective at the 1970 Edinburgh Film Festival and has been the subject of profiles on BBC and Channel Four.

The feature length Blue Black Permanent (1993) opened the Edinburgh International Film Festival. Her final film Garden Pieces was completed in 1998. Margaret Tait died in Kirkwall in 1999. Her work is distributed by LUX.