This month George Finlay Ramsay receives his debut London solo show, Volcanoes & Regret, at SET Alscot Road, Bermondsey, London.
The eagerly-anticipated presentation, which opens on 27 October, is the culmination of a three-year project that pivots around the act of burning human regrets in volcanoes. It includes three films, a live sonic installation and a Volvo 240 estate car encased in a volcano proof suit.
Its genesis was a call-out to the public to submit their regrets. Finlay Ramsay says: “I read every single one, and carefully wrote them out into a book, doing layouts and lettering (and sometimes even drawings) that I felt reflected the regret. Sometimes I laughed, and yes sometimes I cried.”
He began making the films featured in the show in 2017, travelling to Mount Etna, Sicily, Italy. “I had a dream that I lived at the foot of Mount Etna,” he says. “It was a fancy condo, all glass and stainless steel. We were having a cocktail party. The volcano began to erupt, we went out to the balcony to watch her, and applauded as though it were fireworks for our entertainment. When I woke up I decided I had to buy a 90s Volvo & drive to Etna.”
He admits volcano took him by surprise. “I had no idea what I was doing, when I went into the crater on Etna I couldn’t breathe. I said to myself why I didn’t know more about this. Looking into the mouth of an active volcano, hearing it gurgle and explode is the most beautiful experience I can conceive of. The history of our planet is more volcanic that it is anything else. These are our ancestors.”
Then in 2018 he went to the remote volcanic peninsula of Kamchatka. The film, Book of Regrets: For Kamchatka, documents the 4593-mile journey, and takes in local indigenous legends about volcanoes and witnesses the moment that the book of regrets is hurled into the inferno. Another film, Stromboli: Interview with a Volcano, is a short dialogue between George and the volcanic island Stromboli.
Meanwhile, Vulva to Ulva records his journey to Ulva, a prehistoric volcano off the Isle of Mull, in his car Vulva. The car, which he has covered with a volcano proofed suit, forms part of the show. Vulva to Ulva will be projected onto the car’s windscreen.
Of the car installation, he says: “I think I’m more interested in what people might think this is about than what I think it is about, but one thing I will say is that throughout the exhibition there is an interplay between the domestic and the geological (we will also be filling washing machines with rocks and turning them on) just as the central action comes from intimate, sometimes embarrassing emotions (regrets) and their incineration in the most impressive and terrifying demonstration of our planet’s molten, living core.”
When asked what he hopes the audience will get from the shows, he says, “Some laughs.”
Volcanoes & Regret is accompanied by two live events, two workshops and a publication:
23 Breakfast Psalms & Subsequent Eruptions a risograph pamphlet containing poems and essays by Izabella Scott, Felice Moramarco, Nasim Luczaj, CA Conrad and George Finlay Ramsay.
26 October: First Eruption — an evening of ritual, music, audio visual collage, poetry and southern Italian food featuring CA Conrad, Coby Sey, Rebecca Salvadori, Leah Walker, Nasim Luczaj and George Finlay Ramsay — all creating live work in response to the project.
7pm — midnight
27 November: Last Eruption — an evening of talks and screenings with Prof. David Pyle, Tatiana Degai, Izabella Scott and George Finlay Ramsay.
23 October: Unfold Yr Own Myth — a workshop on creativity and ritual for adults.
25 November: My Neighbour The Volcano — a workshop for school children with Oxford University volcanologist Professor David Pyle.