The Scale of Things

Friday 26 January 2024 - Saturday 6 April 2024

A group exhibition featuring moving image works by Saodat Ismailova, Grace Ndiritu and Margaret Tait

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Friday 26 January 2024, 12:00 - Saturday 6 April 2024, 17:00

Cooper Gallery
Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design,
13 Perth Road,

Cooper Gallery
Booking required?

25 January, 5.30–8.30pm
Exhibition viewing and refreshments, free, all welcome

Exhibition opening times
26 January – 6 April 2024
Monday – Saturday, 12–5pm

Three moving image works consider relations between humans and non-humans forming an exploration through history, intimacy and spirituality. 

Cooper Gallery is proud to present the Scottish premiere of Grace Ndiritu’s Becoming Plant (2022), alongside Saodat Ismailova’s The Haunted (2017), and on its fiftieth anniversary, Margaret Tait’s Aerial (1974).

The three moving image works are brought together by a desire to unsettle how we imagine and see ourselves as part of nature. Understanding the recurring need for intimacy, to feel a connection that is commeasurable with our ability to impact and control, the exhibition approaches desire itself; the desire to plunge our bodies deep into the earth and transcend the bounded individualism of being ‘human.’

Underscored by Donna J Haraway’s call to action in which “we become - with each other or not at all” the three moving image works reminds us that ‘we’ whether sprouting fur, feathers, scales or clothed in skin are at stake to each other in this moment of crisis and that our task, to paraphrase Haraway, is to “stay with the trouble”, to stir up potent responses to devastating events.

But as grand claims rooted in past taxonomies and abilities to measure fall away, how do we leave ourselves behind as ‘species,’ and reconcile the histories, identities and affinities colliding improbably inside our experience of the natural? Perhaps a passing answer can be elicited from the words of Anna Tsing who succinctly argues for humans to share their role as protagonist and accept with due humility that ‘there are other ways of making worlds.’

Acknowledging the ‘stunning frequencies' of the natural world ardently captured in Margaret Tait’s poem The scale of things, which the exhibition humbly borrows as title, the three works detail Tait’s ‘interlaced and inter-related’ possibility of ourselves as co-constituents of nature. This is how we might find the shapes, the sensations, and the stimulation to encounter all the souls of the earth around us ‘if you care to look’: this is the scale of things.

In Grace Ndiritu’s Becoming Plant (2022) six dancers reside on a demilitarised industrial site in a therapeutic group experiment with psilocybin mushrooms. With an essay voiceover by psychiatrist Birgit Bundesen and a soundtrack by GAIKA, their choreography and bodies embracing the consciousness of plants becomes a stark contrast to the architecture that surrounds them, constituting a catalyst for discussing wider social and relational issues of living in the age of Late Capitalism.

The extinct Turan tiger endures for the collective memory of the Central Asian region in Saodat Ismailova’s The Haunted (2017). Uzbek language narration by the artist connects the tiger to her great-grandfather in the Soviet era and to their shared oppression. Khudaibergen Devanov's archive footage reveals how cinematic language can hold multiple legacies from the colonial to the imaginary to the emancipatory.

Margaret Tait’s Aerial (1974) reflects on our position within a range of elements of nature for its short duration, from the meteorological to meadows, trees, worms, birds, and domestic animals. The energetic music heralds the absent auteur, whose incredible montage and sound mix created a work that resonates even more so fifty years later.

The Scale of Things is co-curated by Sophia Yadong Hao (Cooper Gallery, DJCAD, University of Dundee) and Professor Sarah Perks (Teesside University).


To expand and delve deep into the ideas explored by the exhibiting artists, a series of free events accompany the exhibition. 

The Scale of Things | Preview
Thursday 25 January 2024, 5.30–8.30

Exhibition preview and drinks reception

The Deep Ecology Council
Tuesday 13 February 2024, 6–7.30pm

Participatory workshop led by Sarah Perks

rebirth of a fraying body
Thursday 22 February 2024, 6–7.30pm

Performance by Saoirse Amira Anis

Thursday 7 March, 6–7.30pm

A reading event by Daisy Lafarge

Grace Ndiritu: Performance Lecture
Wednesday 20 March 2024, 4.15-5.30

Part of the CHEAD Annual Conference 2024

Artists' Biographies

Saodat Ismailova is a filmmaker and artist who came of age in the post-Soviet era and has established artistic lives between Paris and Tashkent while remaining deeply engaged with her native region as a source of creative inspiration.  

Following graduation from State Art Institute of Tashkent, she co-directed Aral: Fishing in an Invisible Sea, which won Best Documentary at the 2004 Turin Film Festival. In 2005 Ismailova developed her debut award-winning feature film 40 Days of Silence while DAAD Artists-in-Residence, Berlin, which premiered at Forum, Berlin International Film Festival, 2014. She participated in the 2013 Venice Biennale as part of the Central Asian Pavilion with her video installation Zukhra. In 2017 she was artist-in-residence in OCA (Office of Contemporary Art, Norway) where she developed her short film The Haunted, presented the same year at Tromsø Kunstforening.

In 2018 Ismailova graduated from Le Fresnoy, France’s National Studio of Contemporary Arts, where she developed Stains of Oxus and Two Horizons. In the same year, her multimedia performance Qyrq Qyz was presented at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) in New York, and Musée du quai Branly in Paris. In 2020 Ismailova initiated the educational program CCA Lab and Tashkent Film Encounters at Center for Contemporary Arts, Tashkent. In 2021, Ismailova established a research group Davra dedicated to studying, documenting, and disseminating Central Asian culture and knowledge.

In 2022 Ismailova participated in The Milk of Dreams, 59th Venice Biennale with the film Chillahona and in documenta fifteen in Kassel with new work Chilltan and Bibi Seshanbe. The same year she was awarded Eye Prize for Art & Film, Amsterdam, where she presented her exhibition 18 000 Worlds.  

Works by Ismailova are in the collections of the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Centre Pompidou, Paris and Almaty Art Museum and many others.

Grace Ndiritu is a British-Kenyan filmmaker and visual artist whose artworks are concerned with the transformation of our contemporary world. Her work has been featured in Art Review, The Guardian, TIME Magazine, The Financial Times,  Elephant,  BOMB,  Mousse,  Art Monthly,  Metropolis M,  Phaidon: The 21st Century Art Book,  Apollo Magazine 40 under 40  list, and recently on BBC Radio 4,  Woman's Hour.  

Her films have been at prestigious international film festivals such as the 72nd Berlinale, FID Marseille and BFI London Film Festival in 2022. She is also the winner of The Jarman Film Award 2022 in association with Film London.

Her 'hand-crafted' textiles, painting, photography, shamanic performances and videos  have been widely exhibited in solo and group exhibition including a mid-career survey  SMAK, Ghent (2023); British Art Show (2021 to 2023); Wellcome Collection, London (2022); Gropius Bau, Berlin (2022); Kunsthal Gent (2021); Nottingham Contemporary, UK (2021). Her work is housed in museum collections such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), The British Council (London), LACMA (Los Angeles), Modern Art Museum (Warsaw) and  Foto Museum  (Antwerp). 


Margaret Tait was born in 1918 in Kirkwall, Orkney, Scotland. Tait qualified in medicine at Edinburgh University 1941. From 1950 to 1952 she studied film at the Centro Sperimentale di Photographia in Rome. Returning to Scotland she established Ancona Films in Edinburgh’s Rose Street. In the 1960’s Tait moved back to Orkney where over the following decades she made a series of films inspired by the Orcadian landscape and culture. All but three of her thirty two films were self financed. She wrote poetry and stories and produced several books including three books of poetry.

Screenings include National Film Theatre (London), Berlin Film Festival, Centre for Contemporary Art (Warsaw), Arsenal Kino (Berlin), Pacific Film Archives (San Francisco), Knokke le Zoute, Delhi and Riga. Tait was accorded a retrospective at the 1970 Edinburgh Film Festival and has been the subject of profiles on BBC and Channel Four.

The feature length Blue Black Permanent (1993) opened the Edinburgh International Film Festival. Her final film Garden Pieces was completed in 1998. Margaret Tait died in Kirkwall in 1999. Her work is distributed by LUX. 



Cooper Gallery is located to the right side of the DJCAD buildings on Perth Road. The entrance is via double doors which face onto a car park.

The gallery is on two floors. Ground floor has ramped access. First floor is accessible by an internal lift and six steps with a handrail. Wheelchair access is via a stairclimber. Please email in advance if you require lift or stairclimber access.

First floor is also accessible via 24 steps. Two flights of 12 steps with handrails are separated by a landing.

Exhibition video is subtitled and captioned in English. Audio will be played aloud via speakers. Seating is provided and/or additional seating available, please ask an invigilator. 

For all enquiries please email: exhibitions@dundee.ac.uk


The ground floor has a wheelchair accessible toilet. The toilet is gender neutral.


Large print versions of the exhibition information handout are available, please ask our Guides. If you require alternative formats for material in exhibitions please email or ask our Guides.


Press coverage

The Scotsman

Image credits

Top image: 
Grace Ndiritu, Becoming Plant, 2022 (film still)

Grace Ndiritu, Becoming Plant, 2022 (film still)
Saodat Ismailova, The Haunted, 2017 (film still)
Margaret Tait, Aerial, 1974 (16mm film still)

Funding support

The Scale of Things is supported by Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design

Cooper Gallery and Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design logo

Cooper Gallery

Event type Exhibition
Event category Design and Art