‘Carrageen Apparatus’ : Alex Hackett and Alix Villanueva

2018 in the Tent Gallery began with a Project Carrageenan exhibition entitled ‘Carrageen Apparatus’. This exhibition imagines and re-invents the harvesting equipment and culinary tools used by carrageeners. Playing on the idea of the makeshift, the crafted objects exist within a liminal space where myth and fact do not form a duality, but rather seem to hold a complicit role. They are informed by both archival research and the artists’ personal interactions with the seaweed, resulting in objects that are ready to receive new narratives.

carrageen apparatus poster

The materials used to form the apparatus are primarily seaware sourced from Scottish shores, then re-purposed, mended and transformed using preowned materials. The materiality of the exhibits reflects a way of life of those who would have interacted with carrageen on a daily basis, living by the shore and relying on what would have been available.

Carrageen is a seaweed commonly found growing on rocky coastlines around the Atlantic, particularly Western Scotland and Ireland, as well as Canada and Northern France.  Traditionally, this seaweed has been used for culinary and medicinal purposes. In Scotland, Ireland and Brittany it was cooked with milk and sweetened and flavoured with spices to make a carrageen pudding. In the past, it has also been praised for its health-giving properties, as a cough and cold cure, a hangover remedy and a stomach settler.

The show was composed of the crafted objects in the main gallery space with an accompanying series of photographic slides depicting the artists’ research and explorations at the shoreline and within the domestic.

On the Friday of the exhibition, the film “Minute Bodies: The Intimate World of Percy F. Jackson” was screened in the cinema space.  A meditative and immersive film of nature’s elusive microworlds with similarities in its abstractness and atmosphere to the exhibition. This particular event emerged out of a collaboration with artist Lee Ritchie.


This exhibition forms part of the wider collection of work by Project Carrageenan. Project Carrageenan sheds light on a complex human to non-human, non-human to human relationship, in all its manifestations. Tentacular by nature, the project overlays the past, present and imagined future by following the assemblage within which carrageen and the human co-exist. It does so by examining the ways in which the seaweed Carrageen, and its derivative Carrageenan, are entangled within culture, focusing on the culinary, the industrial, the medicinal, the technological and the economic, amongst other things. Project Carrageenan is an interdisciplinary artistic research project that weaves together collaborative work and play, in order to reveal real connections and, importantly, enable new ones to form.

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