“Tales from the Tentacle” : Alix Villanueva

The end of term was marked by Alix Villanueva’s solo exhibition in ECA’s main building, entitled “Tales from the Tentacle”.

The show incorporated three curiosity cabinets, in which two different displays were laid out. The first one was composed of two cabinets, a vertical and a horizontal one, and was entitled “A Healing at Cramond.”

“A Healing at Cramond” is an exploration of how chronic illness comes to interact with the folkloric figure of the Cailleach— the witch figure, the healer, the old woman… A folkloric interpretation of the healer is that she does not cure ailments in the way we are accustomed to through the means of modern medicine. Rather, she points out the disharmonies between this world and the otherworld, the sacred natural. Such disharmonies are suggested to be the root cause of ill health. With that in mind, the chronic pain suffered by one becomes cosmoecological, rather than one individual person’s suffering, and concerns itself with “multiple beings, gods, animals, humans, living, and dead, each bearing the consequences of the other’s ways of living and dying” (Despret and Meuret 26).

Modern medicine does not work well with chronic pain, nor does the modern attitude attached to it, which asks for quick one-time cures for symptoms. Chronic pain is often elusive and requires a larger, holistic understanding of cause and effect, of relationships and entanglements, and requires one to look outside of the individual for answers.

“A Healing at Cramond” brought a healing ritual to the murky industrial waters of Cramond. There is no pure body of water – the crisis is ever-permeating – there is no source of refuge – where can we heal?


The second display was entitled  “The Inventory: A Collection of Objects and their (Hi)Stories“. Each object included within this visual anthology is a tale, co-authored by various poets, human and non-human, organic and inorganic. The role of the artist then became that of the translator and editor, interpreting these tangible poems and allowing them to sit alongside each other. Together, they form a poetic corpus that tackles and weaves the intimate, the domestic alongside the environmental and the elemental. Each object in the cabinet was matched with a text in the poetic inventory.


Works Cited:

Ó Crualaoich, Gearóid. The Book of the Cailleach: Stories of the Wise Woman Healer. Cork University Press, 2006.

Despret, V. and Meuret, M. “Cosmoecological Sheep and the Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet.” Journal of Environmental Humanities, vol. 8, no.1, 2016, pp. 24-36.

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