Michael John Whelan
Video Installation
Paper & Sound
Primary Organs
Exit Pupil
The Good Soil
From the Mountain
Primary Organs
2k video, 1.78:1, colour & monochrome, sound
43:00 min
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A meditative journey along the shores of the Persian Gulf and deep under its waters. 'Primary Organs' intertwines diverse but connected vignettes from historic and contemporary maritime cultures of the Arabian Peninsula: a diver travels to sites once visited by Jacques Cousteau during his 1954 survey for oil, an abandoned pearl diving village built from coral is a site of simultaneous archaeological exploration and restoration, and retired fishermen sing endangered songs once used to add rhythm to their work. Central to the film is the representation of coral as an eco-marker of our interspecies dependency: the marine biologist keeps samples alive in a laboratory aquarium, a village is built entirely from it, and as a votive gesture a diver brings a piece of it to a former oil survey site. Through its slow-paced language and choreographed underwater scenes, Primary Organs explores local relationships to the sea, echoes of petro-state neocolonialism, and the roles of complicity and gesture within our climate crisis. Punctuating this journey is the voice of the marine biologist who shares her poetic observations and trepidation for the future.