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Behind MIMA’s new exhibition which showcases pieces that have never been seen before

We meet the creatives behind MIMA’s new collaborative exhibition, Deep Horizons.

Written by Rachael Nichol
Published 03.05.2023

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Whether you’re an art advocate or just love anything to do with modern and contemporary designs, art leaves everything open to interpretation. And MIMA’s new collaborative exhibition is a must-visit.

Deep Horizons – draws together works from the collections of MIMA and the David and Indrė Roberts Collection, cared for by the Roberts Institute of Art, presenting sculptures, drawings, paintings, installations, ceramics, photography and moving images from the last 90 years – with some pieces that have never been seen before in a public gallery.

But what makes this exhibition unique is that it developed through the knowledge, passion and conversations of a collaboration of artists, academics and broadcasters who have drawn upon their research and desire to interrogate ideas to a range of works from the two collections. The collaborators include the likes of Sir Tony Robinson, artists Fiona Crisp and Liliane Lijn, and local historian and former Tees Bay Pilot Geoff Taylor.

Taking place at MIMA, Middlesbrough, and developed through a series of conversations with the collaborators, Deep Horizons explores ideas of excavation to include the mind and dreams, history and time, geology and the land as well as collections, archives and the museum itself.



Sir Tony RobinsonBlackadder star and former Time Team presenter.

Sir Tony Robinson has interrogated history and archaeology throughout his career and it’s this passion for understanding that has made him such an advocate for questioning perceived knowledge. Tony has beenworking with the curators to choose artworks for the exhibition.

‘One of the great pieces of fun about something on a wall is that you can choose to look at it from entirely different perspectives on different days, and you constantly get a different notion from it,’ says Sir Tony Robinson. ‘I don’t know why so much of what I’ve done, has some kind of historical strain running through it, I can only think it’s something to do with the fact that I feel at ease with history, and therefore, people have tended to want to employ me on historical projects. Also, because it’s what I like doing. History is constantly changing as we learn more about it as we learn how to read the sources, and as we discover new sources.’

Liliane Lijn – Artist

One of the first interests in artist Liliane Lijn’s life was archaeology. She studied the subject at the Sorbonne, Paris in 1958 before becoming a well-known and celebrated visual artist with a career spanning seven decades. Her dedication to exploration and experimentation has characterised her practice in sculpture, performance, installation, film and video among many other media. To this project, she brings a deep understanding of materials, and creative explorations into cosmology, energy and how these elements intertwine within human life.

Fiona Crisp and Chamkaur Ghag – Artist and physicist professor

Artist Fiona Crisp and physicist Professor Chamkaur Ghag have been collaborating since 2009 at the UK’s deepest mine, Boulby Mine, located near MIMA and is home to the Boulby Underground Laboratory which conducts scientific experiments and tests including in astrobiology, dark matter and space exploration technology, with NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) having conducted work in the lab.

Professor Ghag is a leader in the field of Physics and Astronomy and seeks to understand the mysterious nature of Dark Matter. Crisp is a respected artist who has spent years making photographs in the mine. The adjacent location of Boulby Mine brings a site specificity to Crisp and Ghag’s contribution to Deep Horizons and also an intrigue that something so other – and outer – worldly could be happening beneath the feet of the residents of Middlesbrough.

Fiona and Chamkaur chat about Nkanga, Otobong’s work, In Pursuit of Bling – Indulgence, 2014-16. ‘This work points to something deeply embedded in the supply chains of our societal organisation,’ says Fiona and Chamkaur. ‘An organisation that relies on extracting materials at any cost to the environment, and to the peoples within the environment. Domination of an economic system that cares not at all for well-being will eventually lead to people realising that they can’t eat money, but the confusion of wealth with money is akin to the confusion of pleasure and happiness. True wealth would be harmony with each other and the planet.’

‘The exhibition looking at excavation, touches a lot of areas of deep interest for me,’ adds Chamkau. ‘I work on dark matter experiments that we site in deep underground laboratories, in mines or under mountains, to shield the experiments from cosmic rays bombarding the surface of the Earth. The excavations are critical – the Earth above the laboratory is as critical to the experiment as the core of the detector itself.’

The exhibition will be showcased between Friday 10th March and Sunday 18th June 2023.

For more information about Deep Horizons, visit MIMA’s website.  

Works on show will include those by Caroline Achaintre, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Mark Bradford, Chiara Camoni, Martin Creed, Ellen Gallagher, Theaster Gates, Emily Hesse, Lonnie Holley, Onya McCausland, Ana Mendieta, Paula Rego and John Stezaker.


Image credit:  Deep Horizons at MIMA, with the Roberts Institute of Art. Photography: Jason Hynes.

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