Film Exposed

Maeve Brennan: Listening in the Dark

Monday 22 February – Sunday 7 March

Listening in the Dark takes subtle but penetrating soundings of the extent of man-made incursions into nature by considering the nocturnal habits of bats, and how they are profoundly affected by the presence of wind turbines located near their regular flight paths.

Like a bat out of the Holocene and in to the Anthropocene, Brennan’s film steers an agile, intuitive but increasingly troubled course through these fast-changing environmental conditions. Deftly darting from subject to subject rather than pursuing a linear trajectory, it draws from an array of different voices – ecologists, palaeontologists, chiropterologists (people devoted to the study and care of bats) – to examine the insidious ripple effects of humans’ interactions with nature.

The film circles around the figure of Donald Griffin, pioneering zoologist and early advocate of animal consciousness, whose researches into bat navigation helped shape our understanding of the concept of echolocation. The growing appreciation that, just as there are audible frequencies beyond our level of hearing, there are aspects of animal behaviour beyond our initial comprehension is one of Griffin’s enduring legacies.

Like a portal into a cavernous sensory universe, Griffin’s groundbreaking studies opened our eyes (and ears) to natural phenomena to which we were previously oblivious. Following his example, Brennan reminds us, too, of other natural marvels – from the mysteries of animal evolution or the deep historical time of geology – that reveal not only our humbling insignificance in the bigger scheme of things but also the disproportionate damage we are capable of doing to the planet.

Led by a documentary approach, Maeve’s work looks at the historical and political resonance of sites and materials, through film and installation. She exhibits internationally, including British Art Show (2021), Copperfield, London (2020) Jerwood Space, London (2018), Chisenhale Gallery, London (2017). Dar el Nimer, Beirut (2016); and the Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw (2015).

Image: Maeve Brennan, Listening in the Dark, 2018. Commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella. Courtesy Maeve Brennan