$tow High in Transit by Olli Hellmann

$tow High in Transit by Olli Hellmann

$tow High in Transit, a new series of images by Olli Hellmann, is on display now.

It examines the impact of the guano trade by juxtaposing the wealth of Tyntesfield with the barren landscapes of Peru.

This is the last chance to catch the series at at the National Trust property near Bristol.

The exhibition closes on November 22.

$tow High in Transit at Tyntesfield
Installation shot: Stow High in Transit by Olli Hellmann © National Trust Anna Kilcooley

$tow High In Transit

The merchant house of William Gibbs was a major player in the Peruvian guano (seabird dung) trade from 1842 to 1861.

Guano profits funded the conversion of Tyntesfield from an ordinary country house into a grand Gothic Revival mansion.

It was worlds apart from the Chincha Islands where bonded labourers mined guano under the harshest of conditions.

Born in Madrid, Gibbs’ unique combination of Spanish language skills, knowledge of the South American trade and access to London finance markets put him ahead of competitors in the lucrative guano trade.

Eventually, he became known as ‘the richest commoner in England’.

$tow High in Transit is a collaboration between Hellmann and Tyntesfield.

The series of triptychs and diptychs juxtapose the fertile wealth of Tyntesfield’s landscape and lavish interiors with the barren Chincha Islands.

The name refers to the storage of guano on the merchant ship’s return to England.

When contaminated by seawater, guano gave off methane gas, which in certain conditions caused spontaneous explosions.

While being transported, it had to be stored high enough above the waterline to avoid this risk.

$tow High in Transit by Olli Hellmann
Stow High in Transit © Olli Hellman

Olli Hellmann

Hellmann is a senior lecturer in political science at the University of Waikato in New Zealand.

His interest lies in the effects of globalisation and in translating his academic interests into a more visual language.

In this work he seeks to compare Tyntesfield’s fertile wealth with the barren landscape of the Chinchas.

“What fascinates me about the story of Peru’s guano trade is that something as unremarkable as bird droppings could fuel a booming global economy,” said Hellmann.

“When you visit Tyntesfield you get a real sense of how much money Western companies, such as the Gibbs merchant house, made from selling guano to international markets.

“The expensive art, the lush gardens, the various extensions to the original house, the private chapel – all of this was paid for by the excrement of sea birds.

“For Peru, however, the boom proved to be a curse.

“By juxtaposing Tyntesfield with the barren Chincha Islands, Peru’s main source of guano in the 1800s, I want to show that the guano wealth was not distributed evenly.”

Exhibition information

$tow High in Transit is on at Tyntesfield, near Bristol, until November 22.

Visitors can use the hashtag #StowHigh to share their thoughts on the exhibition and the themes it explores.

For more information on the project visit www.ollihellmann.net

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