CEIBA takes its title from the Mayan tree of life.
CEIBA - Casa de Todos los Muertos is the result of photographer and artist Ross Fraser McLean’s research of Mexican culture over the past two years, specifically exploring Mexico’s relationship with death and mortality.
For the first time McLean pairs photography with installation and sculpture, collaborating with Scottish artists and designers; such as painter Rabiya Choudhry, installation artist Fiona Beveridge and fashion designer Emily Millichimp. The immersive experience is complemented with artist books, created in collaboration with writers and designers, unpicking and responding to the exhibition's materiality and themes; writers include: author Bill Duncan, artist Lewis Den Hertog and Design Curator Dr. Stacey Hunter.
In contrast to most other cultures Mexican's embrace death as part of life. They annually come together to remember and pay homage to their loved ones elaborately celebrating Dia de los Muertos, translated as Day of the Dead, affirming their belief in the afterlife and easing grief. McLean’s experience of Day of the Dead inspired him to visit cemeteries and people across the country, giving him insight into Mexico’s relationship with death, born out of its complex heritage.
McLean captures moments – sombre and quiet, vibrant and noisy - conveying the richness of the country. The images span the everyday to the iconography of the underworld. They explore the Mexican viewpoint - that death is an equaliser. The exhibition is an allegory for Mexico’s tumultuous history, mirroring its blend of Western, European and pre-Hispanic influences and the complexities of contemporary society and faith.
The Laboratory Gallery cabinets are transformed into Altares de muertos (Altars of the dead), adorned with ofrendas (offerings), intended to welcome the dead to their altar settings. The ofrendas are reflective of the country’s past and current socio-political dynamics - each dedicated to characters McLean met in Mexico. Framed by natural produce – flowers, berries, oranges and pumpkins, and a mixture of collected traditional Mexican craft and replica techniques - the photographs, objects, and decaying organic matter, serve as an homage to memory, ageing and time.
Casa de Todos los Muertos translates as House of All the Dead.
CEIBA - Casa de Todos los Muertos is part of the 'Festival of Ian Smith: A Celebration of Death' at Summerhall, 28 October – 27 November 2016.
Ross Fraser McLean is a Scottish photographer and artist. His photographic projects have taken him to Russia, Mongolia, China, Japan, Europe, Lebanon, USA, Cuba and India. In 2011 Ross was held captive by an outcast community of snake charmers for 22 days. He has recently returned from 8 months exploring Mexico looking at death from both a socio-political and spiritual standpoint.
Mischief La-Bas and Summerhall Present Festival of Ian Smith: A Celebration of Death
28 October – 27 November 2016
Following Summerhall's award-winning 2016 Fringe, this new special festival will celebrate and challenge how we live with death. The festival is supported by Luminate, SMHAFF, The Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care and Final Fling. Funded by Creative Scotland.
Summerhall Programme Manager Verity Leigh on the Festival of Ian Smith: A Celebration of Death: “Death is something we will all experience but something that society finds difficult to talk about. We’re interested in exploring how art and artists might be able to help with that. The festival brings together the different elements of Summerhall’s programmes with an eclectic mix of art, music, performance and installation – all investigating, challenging, confronting or celebrating death.”
Holly Knox Yeoman, Curator of CEIBA: "Ross' experience of living in Mexico has generated a remarkable body of work, exploring the countries embracing of death, born out of its complex history which continues to have socio-political repercussions to this day. It reflects the burdens the country and its people carry, often dealt with through rituals and the coming together of community to acknowledge the dead. The exhibition is a window into Mexico's infectious warmth and vibrancy, offering an alternative approach to the way in which as a society we deal with, and remember, the dead."
Ross Fraser McLean: “It's been an honour to work with Holly Knox Yeoman and the Summerhall Team on CEIBA. Two years in the making, I hope this exhibition, offers visitors insight into Mexican culture, a beautiful and unique culture which is scarcely discussed in the UK. This project deals with the injustices many of its people face whilst also dealing with something we all share - death. I hope by creating this work it generates further discussion around these important subjects and their often interlinked nature."
Ross Fraser McLean is a Scottish photographer and artist. His photographic projects have taken him to Russia, Mongolia, China, Japan, Europe, Lebanon, USA, Cuba and India. In 2011 Ross was held captive by an outcast community of snake charmers for 22 days. He has recently returned from 8 months exploring Mexico looking at death from both a socio-political and spiritual standpoint. Special Thanks: Printers: Calum MacDonald and Chris Pearson, Giclee UK Floral Installation Artist: FlowerBoy Florists: Mill Pond Flower Farm, Narcissus, Pyrus, Snap Dragon, Rose and Ammi Framer: Michael Mochrie Artistic collaborators: Fiona Beveridge, Emily Millichip, Rosamund West, Rabiya Choudry, Tim Grieve from Crail Pottery, Scottish Sculpture Workshop, Camilla Richardson, Sally Hackett, Greer Pester Writers: Alex Hetherington, Bill Duncan, Rosamund West, Gwendolen Dupre, Lewis Den Hertog Designers: Kenneth Gray, Stewart Armstrong, Martin Baillie, Dr. Stacey Hunter Summerhall Visual Arts Team: Thomas Anderson, Kasia Jackowska, Tari Nyabinde, James Findlay, Nina Lehrfreund, Wenna Potter, Alice Mainstone, Sergio Madrigal, Jordan Munro, Emily Grieve Mir Vazquez, Guillermo Olguin, Alberto Ancona, Danny Ramirez, Horte & Charles Portillo A series of publications will be launched midway through the exhibition. Please see website for further details: www.summerhall.co.uk