Talbot Rice Gallery

EXPONENTIAL | collections from 10 to 10 million years and beyond.

Monday 24 April, 6pm

Courtesy Marco Melis


Join an event that accelerates from 10 years to beyond 100 million in just 2 hours, moving from speculative talks to experimental poetic and musical performances. Taking the lead from the works in Between poles and tides, Exponential is an invitation for us to think about the future, the passages of time that we have experienced and those much, much further ahead. Taking collections as a starting point, the event quickly moves into longer periods of time, asking us to imagine the unimaginable: a time beyond our own lives, cities, cultures and languages. In 10 or 100 years’ time, will the things we consider to be valuable today still be of worth? Will people still collect physical objects? And what might possibly lie beyond that?

Admission £5, Drinks Provided.




In an era of unprecedented cuts to cultural institutions across the country, the pressures that collections will face over the next decade are already being felt. Institutions that through the 1990s and early 2000s enjoyed a relatively comfortable period of financial support from central and local funding institutions are now facing up to threats to their very existence. Can collections outside of major population centres survive a period where local governments are increasingly looking at the family silver to plug significant shortfalls in municipal budgets? Unless drastic steps are taken, the next decade could see an unparalleled decline in Britain’s collections and a reversal of the ideals on which they were founded: that culture is for the many and not the few.

Neil Lebeter is one of the curators of Between poles and tides and the Art Collections Curator for the University of Edinburgh.


In 10 years, change is likely to be only incremental, yet the current present will inexorably slip into remoteness, and acquire a kind of mystery. Art objects may appear materially unchanged (moribund, even), yet they will continue to be haunted by interpretations emerging and receding from view. If as Derrida demands, we "speak to" such spectres, what might we discover?

In 2013, Kirstie Skinner established Outset Scotland, a new chapter in Outset’s international network of philanthropic organisations. Outset Scotland works with individual patrons and corporate partners to support a wide variety of contemporary art activity, and to present gifts to public collections in Scotland.



101 years ago on the 1st of February at 6:08AM, my great, great great grandparent used a communication platform on what was commonly described as the Internet to pass on a message from @BrianRathbone to his friends, that simply said: “That awkward moment when you realize plastic dinosaurs are made of actual dinosaurs.” Back then we used dead things to provide fuel, products and services to keep us alive for as long as possible because we were scared of dying. Now things are different. The algorithms helped us to learn how to value death in order to provide energy for the young. Now most energy doesn’t come from dinosaurs that died 300 million years ago. It comes from our grandparents who died 3 years ago.

Chris Speed is Chair of Design Informatics at the University of Edinburgh where he collaborates with a wide variety of partners to explore how design provides methods to adapt and create products and services for the networked society. Chris also co-directs the Design Informatics Research Centre, home to a combination of researchers working across the fields of interaction design, temporal design, human geography, software engineering and digital architecture.


Just over 100 years ago, moralists feared a ‘sex reversal’ or ‘unsexing’ of humans due to women’s entry into previously male-coded spaces and professions, while in 1917 working people looked to Russia for a promised new world order. In the present day, new identities are forged as technologies allow our bodies to take on new shapes online and in the physical world. In 100 years’ time, will all social and economic injustices be over as everyone will be ‘caramel and queer’ (as Ilana from the TV series Broad City hopes)? Or will the same ideas and structures – but with a new interface and new physical objects – still haunt us?

Lena Wånggren is a Research Fellow in English Literature at the University of Edinburgh, where she also teaches. Lena’s research concerns questions of gender in late nineteenth-century literature and culture, feminist theory, literature and technology, and the medical humanities.

10,000 YEARS


10,000 years seems impossibly distant. Travelling back 10,000 years takes us to a time before cities, writing, and monotheism; travelling forwards by the same measure, to a time when language and beliefs will have changed beyond recognition, despite many of the effects of how we currently live remaining tangible or legible in terms of irradiated landscapes, durable plastic waste and a changed global climate. But what might connect us to such distant times and what challenges are there in trying to communicate with the deep future?

David Farrier is a senior lecturer at Edinburgh University and convener of the Edinburgh Environmental Humanities Network. He has written on deep time for ‘Aeon Magazine’ and ‘The Atlantic’.


Geologically speaking, 10,000 years is a very short period of time. As scientists we use the present as the key to the distant past. But what if this past could also be a guide to our future? Unravelling the patterns of past climate change and mass extinctions gives us clues as to how the actions of people today will resonate 10,000 years into the future. But what messages, if any, could we send to help future humans survive?

Gillian McCay completed a PhD in Geology at the University in 2010 and has been assistant curator of the Cockburn Geological Museum for 5 years. Gillian’s interests span geological time, ranging from 600 million year old sedimentary rocks in Scotland and Ireland to the tectonic evolution of the Eastern Mediterranean over the past 30 Million years.



What remains of us in 100 million years? Russell Jones explores the echoes of our lives after we're long long gone, and the ways in which language, art and the universe might record and forget us.

Russell Jones is an Edinburgh-based writer and editor. He has published four collections of poetry, and edited two writing anthologies. He is deputy editor of Shoreline of Infinity, a science fiction magazine, and has a PhD in Creative Writing from The University of Edinburgh.



Formulating a response to Ilana Halperin’s work on Body Stones, this new poetic work will consider  the ability of Orpheus to charm stones with his singing. Accompanied by a singing bowl the piece incorporates Gerard Manley Hopkins’ famous sonnet “God’s Grandeur”. How will our relationship with sound and natural phenomena develop as we are literally absorbed into Earth’s evolution?

Originally a solicitor in general practice, I studied Fine Art while raising a family. My poetry practice developed in tandem with an interest in Dada, and involves largely site specific performances at one off events; although later this year Scotland Street Press will publish a project I have been working on since 2013 –  a written and illustrated response to each of Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets.

1e + 16 YEARS


Marco Melis will create a new work for Exponential called ‘Third Multiplicity’ that creates a movement, from the far distant future and past, towards the here-and-now. As things converge globally, Marco imagines that locally the arrow of time becomes stronger and stronger until we reach its source at the centre: us.

"Third multiplicity" is a label given to one of the central questions of Kant’s third critique, about the heterogeneity of empirical laws of nature. What is the principle on which we can try to unify such variety, he asks? From a merely analytic point of view, all laws of nature fall under the pure principles of Understanding. But the analytic aspect misses all the peculiarities of the particular. Instead, when we look at this particular thing, it can (or cannot) arouse our sense of finality: a nice leaf seems to fit very well the purpose of collecting sunlight (or water, in Scotland), a weak one not so much. Even though we know that nobody “engineered" the leaf, we can pretend it was the case and choose the healthy leaf as an “exemplary". This sense of finality is actually a principle, writes Kant, an aesthetic one that can be only shown in particular things (examples) and never conceptually expressed. This is the principle on which we try to unify the laws of nature and its aesthetic character manifests itself, for instance, in the pleasure of grasping something. It seems that only when we perceive finality, something makes sense to us. From this point of view, "Third multiplicity" tries to highlight our fascination with the idea of deep time and how it can be related to the fear of losing sense. Stretching our hypotheses into the deep future could actually be a way of testing the power of our sense-building ability, something seriously challenged by and desperately needed in our contemporary, multicultural, fragmented society.

After studying philosophy and engineering, Marco became interested in sound art. Born in Rome and currently based in Berlin, he performed in various international festivals and exhibitions (such as ‘Sonorities’, ‘London Design Week’, ‘Emufest’). He works as sound designer for theatre as well.