The Beast

Solo exhibition, Collective, Edinburgh, 2022

At the core of The Beast is an animated short film, a morality tale, centred on the story and legacy of iconic Scottish/American steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie and his namesake Diplodocus carnegii. Fossils of Diplodocus carnegii were first found in Wyoming in 1899 on an expedition financed by Carnegie. He subsequently had the species named after himself and commissioned a team of Italian artisans to cast seven replica skeletons in plaster. These objects were donated to international museums between 1908-1913, as a ‘peace keeping exercise’, an act which first brought dinosaurs into popular public consciousness.

Carnegie was one of the wealthiest individuals in history and this project highlights the practices which enabled him to accumulate his fortune. Carnegie’s wealth predominantly came from steel production in Pittsburgh and Homestead, where the growth of surrounding trees was said to be stunted by pollution. In July 1892 Homestead Steel Works was the site of one of the most violent events in U.S. labour history, when a lockout sparked by a 15% cut to worker’s wages, resulted in the deaths of ten men. The lockout is said to have killed unionism in the US steel industry for 40 years. Without the hindrance of a union, Carnegie was able to slash wages, impose a 12-hour working day and lay off 500 workers. Record breaking profits followed.

The Beast installed at Collective. Installation photos: Tom Nolan

Co-written with Ian Saville the story imagines a conversation between Carnegie and a Diplodocus carnegii, that picks at the true nature of his philanthropy. The animation was voiced by Dave Anderson and Keeley Forsyth. Inspired by the aesthetics of the American political satire magazine Puck, the animation was by Regina Ohak with additional effects by Duncan Marquiss with sound and music by Ross Downes.

The crowned heads of Europe 
All make an awful fuss
Over Uncle Andy
And his old Diplodocus

Tavern song (c.1905), author unknown

A collection of archival material relating to Carnegie along with specimens from the University of Edinburgh’s Cockburn Geological Museum including rocks and minerals associated with steel production alongside a fossil of an ichthyosaur were presented in the display cases.

Men killed during The Battle of Homestead. Part of The Beast at Collective.

With the assistance of the Rivers of Steel Archive, Pittsburgh, the names of the workers who died as part of the Homestead strikes, including steel workers and Pinkertons (private security guards hired by businesses to infiltrate unions and keep strikers out of factories), were presented as a wall piece by sign painter Erin Bradley-Scott.

The Beast was commissioned by Collective with funding and support from the University of Edinburgh Art Collection.