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Ross Birrell - The Transit of Hermes

19 April 2018 until 3 June 2018
CCA: Centre for Contemporary Arts

CCA presents Scottish artist Ross Birrell’s 2017 documenta 14 projects, Criollo and The Athens-Kassel Ride: The Transit of Hermes, including new film and installation works conceived specifically for this exhibition.

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.”

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. Photographs document the animal’s journey via air and road transportation as it appears at three identical equestrian statues to the Argentine 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). The 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 a Greek horse which also becomes a mythical messenger of the Gods, constantly in motion between two worlds.

The Transit of Hermes is an exhibition, therefore, which combines literal and metaphorical journeys, traversing north and south, human and animal, myth and materiality.

Part of Glasgow International 2018.

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


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Ross Birrell, The Transit of Hermes (2017). Documentation video still. Image credit: Samuel Devereux. Courtesy of Ellen de Bruijne Projects

Ross Birrell, The Transit of Hermes (2017). Documentation video still. Image credit: Samuel Devereux. Courtesy of Ellen de Bruijne Projects