saws. Bustard says ‘It‘s a classical building. it has very ordered spaces and we‘re trying to return the galleries to their original design. Edinburgh is a classical city and we wanted to try and link those ideas to the show and make it appropriate to its site and place.‘
He believes too that the Academy ‘gives a cultural anchor’ for the visitor. ‘Modern art isn‘t popular with the public. there‘s a high suspicion of it. If you show it in a modern building — and there is a general distrust of modern architecture — then you‘ve got two things working against you. Ifyou have a respectable building at least you have one thing out ofthe way. More importantly. I think many artists prefer the challenge ofdoing something in an older building which has certain historical and cultural conditions attached which they can pick up on ifthey‘re making new work specially for it.‘
One artist taking up this challenge will be the American Sol Le Wit who has been sent hundreds of photographs ofarchitectural details
Art In Ruins sent offthrec pieces of work to the Geoffrey Neil Gallery in New York and the American customs said it wasn‘t art. It was refused entry. The advice was to get the publicity rolling and/or bribe the customs. So they did and it got through as a cause celebre.
For Art In Ruins. the group name ofGlynn Banks and Hannah Vowles. this kind of battling against administration is part of their work. The finished show is only the halfof it. Bucking the system to get what they want is the other and as most routes to the public are laid with regulations and rules. the ride is often rough. ‘We have this reputation as difficult people. We‘re not. We‘re naive enough to go on challenging administration.‘
Earlier this year they were chosen as Edinburgh University‘s artists-in-residence. Two for the price of one. They were surprised that they got the six-month job. But so far. getting here has been the only advance they have made. This was going to be an article about an installation they planned to open in tandem with the Edinburgh International, but it is now a story about the one that got away.
Arriving in October. they began by looking for empty buildings to lay down their ideas. ‘We had agreed that we would talk to the students about our work when we had some work on in Edinburgh. rather than having slides and people not knowing who we were and without being able to engage in the actual things we were doing.’
Finding that space proved difficult from the start. But it was important that they did not get stuck on some kind of fringe. ‘We wanted to show you can prize open a conservative kind of space. In that way we did not
have to leave what‘s called the mainstream. If you do that you are reduced to being a kind of alternative.‘
ofthe building in order to tailor-make his drawing for one of the rooms.
Many of the artists being shown are relatively unknown in this country. ‘There‘s one American artist called Ann McCoy who no one here has probably ever heard of. But what we didn‘t want to do was put together nineteen artists who we thought were famous. It would have been very patronising to Scottish audiences to say this is where it‘s at and this is where you should have been for the last four years.‘
The classical theme will be split into four ‘chapters‘ which develop the subtitle ofthe exhibition. Reason and Emotion. IfSol Le Wit interprets classicism as order. and in particular abstract order. the German artist Stephen Huber takes a more ironic approach. He attacks what he sees as the pomp and circumstance within the classic ideals and his work sounds particularly spectacular. It will involve a red roof being built in the balcony area with ‘a chandelier suspended from the
cupola which has a small aeroplane
motor attached to it so it swings in a random fashion‘.
The final section addresses no less a question than what makes a work ofart and it is here that the work of the outstanding British sculptors Richard Deacon (recently announced as winner of the 1987 Turner Prize) and Tony Cragg will be located. Classicism is not the first thing you think ofin Cragg‘s work. which sc00ps up the flotsam and jetsam of modern life and rearranges it in huge sculptures to form a critique of a modern throwaway society. The exhibition is designed to work as a whole and maybe it will be seen in a different light when it‘s placed at the end of this show. Some of his work too is being made especially for the exhibition. Unexpected pairings and contrasts can be the lifeblood ofan exhibition, and that may well prove to be the case here. Moreover the event provides ‘a platform for showing significant trends in internatinal art on a large scale which doesn‘t exist anywhere else in Britian at the moment‘ says James Bustard, and it
An installation by Glynn Banks and Hannah Vowles. whose latest work was to have been
shown at ‘Art in Ruins.’
CLASH 0F TRADITIONS
The idea of working with and in the Royal Museum at Chambers Street was struck. The large institution would provide the perfect setting for their form of preconception-bashing. ‘We wanted to take objects out of their museum catagories, mix them about and put them back together again.‘
Timing was crucial. The installation had to coincide with the Edinburgh International down the road at the Academy. Practically, it meant that they could share in the public attention that this major exhibition ought to receive. But seeing the International as a defensive show they would also have been lively commentators. ‘It‘s the agreement between once antagonistic parties, classicism and modernism. but in the face ofa new threat. post-modernism, they join forces. This show conveniently leaves out the implication of social change which was there as the starting point of modernism.‘ Art
which is meant to change the world. is gagged by the respectability of tradition.
Dr Robert Anderson. Director of the Royal Museum, was delighted with their proposal and Art In Ruins were under the impression that the show was on. The foyer space looked ideal. The grandfather clocks in the basement were ‘just what we wanted because they’re like the spires of Edinburgh.‘ They would stand in nicely for the timeless silhouette of the cityscape. Under the roof of Scotland‘s finest museum, Art In Ruins had planned to play on the idea of museum as city, country, even your own home.
Fine. The meetings to sort out practicalities began and it was then that the administrative machinery of the museum ground to a halt in the face of Art In Ruins demands. ‘It always happens but we thought we would push it through. But they saw problems in all areas.‘ Another, unsuitable, space was offered. Art In
is hoped. though they are not making any committments. that it can become a regular. Scottish based event
The Edinburgh International will be at the Royal Scottish Academy. Princes Street 18 Dec—l 4 Feb, closed 25, 26 Dec and 1. 2Jan. [I (50/2). A special lighting display on the outside of the building will be switched on at 6pm. 14 Dec. There will also be a shop selling related fine art books during exhibition hours (Mon—Sat 10am—6pm. Sun noon—6pm ) and a cafe run by the excellent organisers of café at the Gallery of Modern A rt (Mon-Sat l 0.30am—5 pm, Sun [2.30—5.30pm).
A smaller sho w. Memory and Imagination, comprising works on paper and sketches for larger works by seven of the nineteen artists front the Edinburgh International exhibition will be at the Peacock A rt Space, Aberdeen until 24 December and then on tour throughout Scotland.
Ruins would not budge. No element of their original idea could be compromised and so the whole thing collapsed. Time was up and the installation cancelled. In their ten years working together. the team say this was the first time they had ever been given permission to do a show and it has not happened.
But their philosophy which they say other people describe as ‘a difficult attitude‘ has got them rejected in other circumstances before. After three years teaching in Kingston Polytechnic‘s architecture department, they and eight others were dismissed. ‘We encouraged the students to think about the social and cultural context ofarchitecture. but they didn‘t like their students to be critical, confident and enthusiastic about this.‘ Ever-uncompromising in their actions. Glynn and Hannah are no less so with their words.
What a pity the museum couldn‘t accommodate Art In Ruins. Dr Anderson says that as a large national museum, they have never been able to deal with spontaneous happenings. He was very interested in their idea but at a housekeeping level it was not possible. Art In Ruins say that it could have been
done in the time alloted, but that it was wasted in meetings. ‘With too much time you end up inventing problems. Experiments go wrong sometimes. Some people seem to think that one day we’ll have a world which is perfectly administrated and nothing will go wrong.‘
Though depressed by the struggle they are having in getting through the Edinburgh systems, Art In Ruins have not lost. In simple terms reconstruction from destruction, phoenix from ashes, is what Art In Ruins stands for. So making something out of failure comes naturally. In February they plan to make their flat over to an installation — take the museum into the home, put everything front-to-back again.
The List 11 Dec 1987—7Jan 1988 7