Commensalis

The winning artist is Scottish sculptor Michael Visocchi, with his work called ‘Commensalis – the Spirit Tables of South Georgia’. This site-specific piece will be situated on South Georgia at the Grytviken Whaling Station, with Michael’s concept drawing inspiration from a number of sources to tell the island’s powerful story of an eco-system in recovery.

The Spirit Tables

Blue Whale Spirit Table, Fin Whale Spirit Table, Southern Right Whale Spirit Table, Sei Whale Spirit Table, Sperm Whale Spirit Table and Humpback Whale Spirit Table.

These Spirit Tables are punctuated by stainless steel button head rivets in various patterns, each rivet implying a live whale or the spirit of a live whale. The Spirit Tables therefore carry the spirit of each whale species persecuted in Antarctic waters during the years of the whaling industry.

The Whale Story

COMMENSALIS

The Spirit Tables of South Georgia will inspire the world by telling the whale’s tale at South Georgia. See the story.

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The Whale Key Table

The Key Table serves as the wayfinder for the installation, it holds the stark information relating to the quantity of whales processed on South Georgia between 1904 and 1966. It utilises the Nightingale chart to display the components of the total 175,250 whales processed. It apportions a section of the chart to each species hunted and processed 

Table Diameter Table Height Rivot Count
5320 812 2411

BLUE WHALE

This pattern emphasises the scale of these creatures with its design consisting of the largest of the rivets contained in the entire artwork. The largest single rivet in the entire artwork is found at the exact centre of this Spirit Table. This rivet acknowledges the largest blue whale ever taken in Antarctic waters and processed at Grytviken, at 30 meters long. 

Table diameter Table at highest point Table at lowest point Rivet Count
7560mm 1260mm 742mm 2010
Each diagrams show the The Whale Table and its relative scale on the Key Table.

FIN WHALE

The Fin whale was by far the most hunted species of whale in Antarctic waters by the whaling industry. The pattern I have employed on this table is that of the Fibonacci Mandala or a Vogel’s Model. The Fibonacci pattern or sequence makes its appearance in all living things and to my mind suits as the best visual memorial to the whale species most persecuted during the Antarctic whaling industry. It is a regal and beautiful pattern. 

Table diameter Table at highest point Table at lowest point Rivet Count
6370mm 1078mm 448mm 3876
Each diagrams show the The Whale Table and its relative scale on the Key Table.

HUMPBACK WHALE

The spiral pattern of rivets on the Humpback whale Spirit Table makes reference to the spiral bubble nets these whales produce to coral krill when feeding.

Table diameter Table at highest point Table at lowest point Rivet Count
6890mm 1344mm 756mm 1490
Each diagrams show the The Whale Table and its relative scale on the Key Table.

SEI WHALE

The Sei whale Spirit Table displays a random arrangement with rivets of even size. The sei whale remains one of the least understood whales in terms of its exact movements. This is suggested in the random layout of these rivets. 

Table diameter Table at highest point Table at lowest point Rivet Count
6020mm 1064mm 672mm 5380
Each diagrams show the The Whale Table and its relative scale on the Key Table.

SPERM WHALE

The Sperm whale Spirit Table displays rivets in a pattern which suggests the ‘marguerite formation’. This is a formation sperm whales use in the wild when protecting calves from predators. The whales form a circle around a vulnerable whale with their tails facing outwards. The flicking of their enormous tails can be potentially deadly to attacking predators. The circular arrangement of the rivets on this table subtly reflect this behaviour. 

Table diameter Table at highest point Table at lowest point Rivet Count
5950mm 1316mm 504mm 2085
Each diagrams show the The Whale Table and its relative scale on the Key Table.
Click to zoom image

SOUTHERN RIGHT WHALE

The Southern Right whale Spirit Table has a crescent moon ‘edge’ arrangement of rivets that refer to the nocturnal ‘skim feeding’ observed in this species and the moon’s effect upon the ocean’s tides. 

Table diameter Table at highest point Table at lowest point Rivet Count
6020mm 1036mm 518mm 746
Each diagrams show the The Whale Table and its relative scale on the Key Table.

This project is generously supported by: Albatross Expeditions, wsp, Creative Scotland