Bird dung a metaphor for resource envy and greed at the Void

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‘The Colony,’ a major new video installation by renowned Vietnamese artist Dinh Q. Lê, which will explore themes such as resource hunger, greed and the imperialism, will open at the Void in Londonderry on Saturday, May 14 running until July 2.

Curated at Void by Maoliosa Boyle and Orla Ryan, Lê’s new work features newly filmed footage of the Chincha Islands off the coast of Peru, which are inhabited by large colonies of birds and rich in guano, a powerful fertiliser.

Currently these islands are uninhabited but during the mid 19th century the Chincha Islands were central to global markets and contested by Spanish, American and Peruvian powers in order to lay claim to what was then one of the most valuable global commodities.

At the height of the ‘Guano Rush’ thousands of bonded Chinese labourers* were forced to live on these islands in brutal conditions to harvest the fertiliser.

The United States passed the Guano Act in 1856 and Spain and Peru went to war from 1864-1866 because of the Chincha Islands.

By revisiting 19th century imperialism and colonial economic disputes, Colony also poses questions in relation to contemporary conflicts over mineral exploitation.

In the accompanying catalogue Lê, in conversation with Zoe Butt also discusses this project in relation to current political instability over the contested islands in the South China Seas taking place between Vietnam and its larger neighbour China.

The Colony has been commissioned by Artangel, Ikon, Han Nefkens H+F Collection Proyecto Amil, Lima and is part of The Artangel Collection, an initiative to bring outstanding film and video works, commissioned and produced by Artangel, to galleries and museums across the UK. The Artangel Collection has been developed in partnership with Tate, is generously supported by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and The Foyle Foundation and uses public funding from Arts Council England.

Environmental Historian Frank Uekotter from the University of Birmingham will launch the exhibition on Saturday, May 14 at 6.30pm with a talk based on the legacy of Guano.

Abridged Magazine will also launch their latest issue ‘Why is it always December?’ that evening in the gallery. Admission is free and refreshments will be served.

Lê will deliver an Artist’s talk at Void on Wednesday, May 25.

‘The Colony’ will continue at Void until July 2, 2016. Void is open Tuesday - Saturday from 11am to 5pm. Admission is free. To book a tour of the exhibition please contact our Head of Access and Participation Sally Murphy sally@derryvoid.com.