Film from Award Winning Artist Opens New Exhibition at Calton Hill Collective

Collective is an organisation established in 1984 with the mission to bring people together around contemporary art. Since 2018, it has had its home in the prime position on the redeveloped City Observatory site on  the Capital’s Calton Hill offering new art inside while surrounded by the magnificent cityscape outside.

From 22nd January 2022, Collective opens with a new exhibition of award winning Los Angeles-based artist Cauleen Smith’s film H-E-L-L-O. The film, that is a search for connection during a time of uncertainty and unrest, will be Smith’s first solo exhibition in Scotland.

For over three decades Smith has employed radical thinking to envision a better world through film, video, sculpture, textiles, installations and drawings. Bringing together themes of historic erasure, presence and loss, Smith believes in the redemptive and transformative power of art, music and text. Drawing from the language of Third World Cinema, science fiction and Structuralist film, Smith explores themes relating to the African diaspora, environment and the human condition.

Associate Producer Emmie McLuskey said “I’m really excited to be exhibiting H-E-L-L-O at Collective. It is of great interest to me that the film can be a way of opening up thinking about presence, absence, waters and erasure in Scotland.


“It is a great pleasure and a privilege to bring Cauleen’s work to the City Dome in Edinburgh. The skilful way she weaves together past and future, grief and optimism is complex, deeply felt and heartbreakingly human. In a time of great turmoil worldwide, I feel Cauleen’s work invites us to sit inside difficulty, feel the beauty of listening and ground us in the power of community”


Made in 2014, H-E-L-L-O translates the famous five-note musical motif from Stephen Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind into a greeting for sites around post-hurricane Katrina New Orleans, loaded with the histories of music and procession. At each site, musicians from the city play the sequence on a series of instruments – from trumpet to cello and bass saxophone. Their interpretations of the sequence, originally written by film composer John Williams as a coded extra-terrestrial ‘hello’, speak mournfully of New Orleans’ enduring spirit despite a troubled recent past and uncertain future.


Showing  in Collective’s City Dome space, H-E-L-L-O sits alongside the rich history of the site as a place of astrological study and observation, monument, time and communication, themes at the heart of Smith’s work. Although situated in the geography of New Orleans, the film allows us to contemplate Edinburgh’s relationship to its own landscape, inhabitants and history in a time of turbulence and change. The architecture of the site brings together Smith’s deep-rooted interest in science fiction, Afrofuturism and public space. When the need for connection is increasingly imperative, Smith’s faith in the importance of culture and trust in transformation is not only essential, it’s how we might begin to heal.


The exhibition takes place from 22nd January to 1st  May 2022. Opening hours are

Thursday-Sunday from 10am-4pm (Tues-Sun, 10am-5pm from April 2022)

Pre-booking is not required to visit Collective, though indoor spaces may require a short wait during busy times as social distancing measures are still in place.

Irene Brown

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