As part of its Edinburgh Art Festival offering, Collective has commissioned a new installation ditto ditto ditto (2021) from Alison Scott at its Hillside gallery space. The artist is two years into the ongoing, research-led project Can we talk about the weather? This project explores our relationship with weather and how that relates to structures of power and privilege. It delves into the different ways we have sought to understand and predict the weather, from old philosophies and experiments to modern-day methods of weather-watching through satellite and open-source technology.
Glasgow-based artist and writer Alison Scott has mostly worked with research-led, performative and collaborative projects; she graduated in Art, Philosophy and Contemporary Practices at Dundee’s Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, and Art Writing at Glasgow School of Art. This cross-media installation presents the ways we try to find knowledge and control in weather systems and patterns.
The gallery space is stark and contains two wall pieces, an audio work (on a loop) and a central sculptural installation. Of the wall pieces, one is an enlarged wall-drawing – a reproduction of a ‘perpetual weather table’ which connects the weather to the moon phases, popular in Victorian times. Another wall is covered with an enlarged marble print wallpaper, typically used to line 19th-century notebooks that logged weather and bound books. The pattern resembles contemporary satellite weather images.
In the looping audio piece, the artist performs her new text A meteor-ontology, bringing together historical research into how women have related to the weather. The writing here is inspired by research from several sources and explores different ways that women have assessed and predicted weather patterns, whether by public systems, folklore or practical methods of observation.
Alison Scott also draws from the Scottish Meteorological Society archives of personal weather diaries which inspired the title – ‘ditto, ditto, ditto’ was repeatedly used in diaristic notes when recording weather patterns. There are aspects from astro-meteorology, looking at the astronomical connections between weather and the sun, moon and planets. There is also a nod to atmosphere divination (the forbidden art of aeromancy) as well as the body holding clues to predicting the weather through sensations and ailments.
Move to the central space to find a table in the shape of a crescent moon. On the table, at one end, is a book with a plant on top. The book is an original bound hardback copy of an Edinburgh weather almanac from 1829.
The plant is called a scarlet pimpernel and is otherwise historically known as the ‘poor man’s barometer’. In the middle is a riso-printed pamphlet with the transcribed text of the audio work with source footnotes.
At the other end of the table is a monitor showing almost imperceptible images from weather system satellites using open-source computer technology – the flickering images come and go. Look closer and you might just recognise, for example, the aerial view outline of the British Isles.
In ditto ditto ditto Alison Scott invites us to contemplate how anecdotal notations of weather have shaped our need to understand and predict it – or even control it – by finding stability in projecting patterns within it. Each element forms a bookmark in history, charting how we have perceived the importance of climate and weather on the nature of being.
Presenting historical analogue records of weather using paper and pencil alongside digital contemporary methods finds connections we perhaps never would have made otherwise. All this is in the timely context of the climate emergency where the predicted rhythms of perceived climate patterns have broken down and produced uncertainty. Such an experiential relationship with the weather, once so important in an agricultural society, seems much less so in contemporary life.
The strength of this installation is in the soundtrack, a performance piece of rhythm and cadence that explores sources of our relationship with weather narratives and embodied knowledge. For me, this sound piece also works well as a stand-alone artwork. Alison Scott has made this project such an immersive concept that perhaps you’ll never think about the weather in the same way again.
With grateful thanks to Artmag contributor Julie Boyne for this review.