On Sonorous Seas
GSA Exhibitions / An Tobar and Mull Theatre

Event Type:



Reid Gallery, Reid Building, GSA, 164 Renfrew St, Glasgow G3 6RF


26 Nov 2022 - 17 Dec 2022

Mon 10:00 - 16:30
Tue 10:00 - 16:30
Wed 10:00 - 16:30
Thu 10:00 - 16:30
Fri 10:00 - 16:30
Sat 10:00 - 16:30



Mhairi Killin, 'On Sonorous Seas'
Photo: Shannon Tofts

On Sonorous Seas

Event info

Mhairi Killin
In collaboration with 
Fergus Hall, Tom deMajo, Miek Zwamborn and Susie Leiper
On Sonorous Seas
26 November 2022 - 17 December 2022
Preview: Fri 25 November 17:00-19:00 (Book via Eventbrite)
Exhibition: Mon - Sat, 10:00-16:30
Reid Gallery

The story of On Sonorous Seas began with a whale carcass that came ashore in August 2018 at Traigh an t-Suidhe/Strand of the Seat, at the north end of the Isle of Iona, where artist Mhairi Killin lives.

Finding out why the whale had died led the artist on a journey into the tangled overlay of two cryptic environments; the habitats of the military and the habitats of deep diving whales. It took her on a ten-day sea voyage aboard the Hebridean Whale & Dolphin Trust research vessel, The Silurian, during the largest tactically-focussed, NATO-led, military exercise in Europe - Joint Warrior - and immersed her in a pelagic world of sound.

What became of the Iona whale is a story told with the voices of science, art, music and poetry. It interrogates the power of, and reliance on, sound as a survival tool for both the whales and the military, and the complex relationship between the militarisation of Scotland’s seas and their existing ecosystems.

The central video piece, A Constellation of Strandings, was created in collaboration with digital artist Tom deMajo (Biome Collective), with a new composition by Fergus Hall. Composed almost entirely from hydrophone recordings of orca calls, dolphin clicks and whistles, mid range active military sonar and boat engines made during Killin's research trip on the Silurian, Hall has created an accompanying soundscape across 6 movements, featuring vocals from Lea Shaw.

Dutch-born and Mull-based poet and artist Miek Zwamborn wrote a poem as an elegy and requiem for the whales, with calligraphy by artist Susie Leiper on loose leaf papers imprinted with impressions of whale bones gathered during the stranding event.

Killin produced a podcast series which explores both the research behind the project and these collaborations. All six episodes are available online www.onsonorousseas.com

The Nature Library has curated a selection of reading materials that respond to the themes of the exhibition.

Mhairi Killin lives on the Isle of Iona, in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland, where she works with the precious relationships between land, sea, humans, and other living beings. Her practice explores the island landscapes that surround and are her home, and she seeks to understand how belief structures - religious, mythopoeic, and socio-political - have shaped the physical and metaphysical spaces she journeys through.

On Sonorous Seas was commissioned by An Tobar and Mull Theatre, where the exhibition was first presented in July/August 2022. The project was funded by AN Bursaries, VACMA Award/Creative Scotland, CHArts and The Space CIC with support from Hebridean Whale & Dolphin Trust, Scottish Assoc for Marine Science, National Museums Scotland, Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme. Thanks to Innis & Gunn for their support of the Preview at GSA.