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Ilana Halperin: The Rock Cycle (Yamaguchi) – with works by Yoshihisa Nakano and Keijiro Suzuki

© Michihiro Ota

“What might shift in our understanding of and relationship with geology and geological time, if we imagine ourselves as part of the rock cycle? As part of a deep time calcium carbonate family tree from coral, limestone and marble to our teeth and bones?” − Ilana Halperin

The Rock Cycle (Yamaguchi) is a cross-disciplinary exhibition connecting Yamaguchi, in Japan, and Orkney, in Scotland.

Like Orkney, Yamaguchi is known for its geological significance – notably through Akiyoshidai, the highest concentration of karst formations in Japan, and Akiyoshido, the nation’s largest and longest limestone cave, located in an area designated as a quasi-national park. 

Building on Halperin’s 2018 residency at Akiyoshidai International Art Village, the project was launched in January 2019. Through research and public programming crossing visual art and natural science hosted by Yamaguchi University, Halperin developed a new body of work utilising materials and narrative unique to Yamaguchi. This culminated in three parallel Yamaguchi exhibitions, including at the Natural History Museum in Akiyoshidai in autumn 2019.

The Scottish exhibition at The Pier Arts Centre features new works from Halperin, developed both in Japan and Scotland. To bring the cultural exchange full-circle, in addition, thematically resonant works by Yamaguchi-based artists Yoshihisa Nakano and Keijiro Suzuki are showcased. Pier’s collection is also displayed in conversation. Halperin’s new works were similarly presented in Akiyoshidai alongside the ancient geological collection of the Natural History Museum. 

The project draws inspiration from the “rock cycle,” a geological concept describing how rocks change from one type to another over deep geologic time. Three chapters in the project conceptually represent different stages of the cycle: “Life as Activity,” “Sedimentary Rock as Accumulation/Consolidation,” and “Metamorphic Rock as Transformation”. The idea of a “life” – or biological – stage is not in the conventional rock cycle diagram, and was introduced into the process by Halperin as a subtle artistic intervention. This helps cultivate our awareness of our interconnectivity with and urgency within the fragile ecological world.

Ilana Halperin: The Rock Cycle (Yamaguchi)
with works by Yoshihisa Nakano and Keijiro Suzuki
curated by Naoko Mabon
3 September – 12 November 2022
The Pier Arts Centre, 28-36 Victoria St, Stromness, Orkney Islands KW16 3AA

For more on the exhibition, please visit The Pier Arts Centre’s website.

There will be an afternoon of events focusing on the exhibition as part of the Orkney International Science Festival on Saturday 3 September. Admission is £10 and spaces are limited so booking is essential through the Orkney International Science Festival website.


The artist and curator would like to express their sincere gratitude to all the funders and partners listed below. The project would not have been possible without their warm and generous support, advice and expertise.


Akiyoshidai Academic Centre, Yamaguchi University | Research Laboratory of Professor Yoshihisa Nakano, Department of Art, Faculty of Education, Yamaguchi University


Akiyoshi-dai Museum of Natural History | Akiyoshidai International Art Village | ‘Karstar’ The Mine-Akiyoshidai Karst Plateau Geopark Center | Professor Kazuhiro Tanaka | Professor Koji Wakita | N3 ART Lab | Keijiro Suzuki | Yamaguchi Institute of Contemporary Arts | Matsu no Yu, Kibetani Onsen | Meizengama Pottery Studio | Ando Quarry Ltd. | Naganobori Copper Mine Cultural Exchange Centre | Nagasawa Clay Ltd. | Chijimatsu Washi Workshop | Mine Seiryo High School | be Art Shop | Michiko Fukuda | Takashi Murakami | The Pier Arts Centre | Dundee Contemporary Arts Print Studio | Graphical House | Patricia Fleming Gallery | Michihiro Ota | Hideyuki Agari | Motoko Soda | LightlyWest | Orkney International Science Festival | Dr. John Flett Brown | Dr. Antonia Thomas | Orkney Japan Association | Yuka Johnston | Megumi & Kohaku Barrington-Uenoyama | Vintage Paper Co | Anne Bevan


Mine City | Mine City Board of Education | British Council


Akiyoshidai Academic Centre, Yamaguchi University | Creative Scotland | The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation | The Pier Arts Centre



*The Rock Cycle (Yamaguchi) is an official event of ‘Japan Season of Culture in the UK’, and an affiliate programme of ‘UK in JAPAN’.