SCREEN ON THE HILL
Atterdark. there isa strange light on Calton Hill. Like the message in a bottle it has to do with survival. It is a short code. An image without words. Sent by a visitor. Krzysztot Wodiczko.
Wodiczko lives in New York. but his Polish background is alive in the tenorot his voice. An artist now in mid-career. his work since the early eighties has been literally to project ideas. Away trom the confinement 01 galleries he waitstill dark and anonymously throws light on buildings and monuments already soaked in a history 01 meaning and associations. Just belore the American presidential election 011984 he beamed a hand of allegiance across the breast of the A T & T building in New York. 1985 - London. Wodiczko dazed South Alrican embassy ollicials by throwing a swastika light across the brow of their neo-classical head-quarters. lnevitably. there was a tuss. Now at Calton Hill he wrapsligures olvulnerablity. a drug addict. an old man, a child with no shoes. around the Parthenon pillars of ‘Edinburgh‘s Disgrace'.
Wodlzko is an imposing. prolessor-Iike artist with little time lor side-track or small talk. On arrival in Edinburgh he was buttoned up and ready for research. A slight setback. the loss of his test-slides in transit left him untroubled - it meant a clear path tor thought and ideas. Besides. his work is tastand geared towards improvisation and change. At Trafalgar Square his original locus was Nelson's Column but a
' to introducing him to the works of 1 our national poet. A Man‘s a Man for a‘ that. Mr Bishop.
Robert Dawson Scott
BIG AUDIENCE DYNAMITE I There‘s one show which is attracting an average of7()()() people a day. not in Edinburgh. admittedly. but good going for performance art at its most elusive and enigmatic. It is. of I course. happening in Glasgow.
It started as a drip. On the main concourse of the Buchanan Street Underground. slowly. inexorably. a puddle formed. For days nothing else seemed to happen and then suddenly. one morning. just as you were beginning to think. it‘s just a . drip. there it was. The bucket — dirty. 2 metal. galvanized. but unmistakably a bucket. You could almost hear the enthusiastic applause of the Glasgow commuters hurrying to work.
The next development. an ! L-shaped yellow and black wooden
demonstration in front of the South Atrican Embassy. Thatcher‘s position over sanctions and the ‘authority of the architecture' of the embassy itsell caught the attention of his eye. The swastika was beamed.
The site which demanded his attention in Edinburgh was Calton Hill andthe monuments which live there. in particularthe so-called National Monument. Wodiczko had already checked on its 'otiicial' biography; that it was originally dedicated in the early 19th centuryto those who had fallen inthe Napoleonic Wars; thatmen like Sir Walter Scottthen wished it to be the burial place at tamous Scots; that in 1823 Playtairwas appointed overseeing architect and that in 1829. lack of money torthe ambitious scheme ol building a replica Parthenon torthe ‘Athens ot the North‘ stopped work at twelve columns. Thereafter the National Monument (tor what nation?) became locally known as
‘Edinburgh's Disgrace' and was described byits architect as 'the pride and poverty' ol Scotland.
Once versed in history. Wodiczko’s priority was to discover today's stories and symbols. 'I cannot pretend to knowthe place I'm visiting and coming to work with until I at Ieasttryto contactpeople and institutions who are systematically engaged in the problems and tensions ot the place. Eventourists do those things. They ask questions and collect information.‘ Precise with language and a serious searcher of accurate language. Wodiczko's aimed to be an ‘intormed tourist'.
Todaythe hill has many layers of lives. Tourists and locals alike drive and walk to Calton Hill as much for the spectacular view otthe city as the monuments in its crown. At night. a steady trickle ot headlights move silently up the back road. Buses still paradetheir clients. but it is said thatthe hill also becomes a place of
barrier protecting the bucket. showed how clearly the artist. whose indentity is as yet undisclosed. has grasped the essential dichotomy of city life: closed and hostile on two sides. but open and sociable on the other two. As suddenly as the barrier came. it went. to be replaced by a piece ofstring suspended from the roof. it's tail dragging in the bucket. clearly representing the very umbilical cord of life. linking us inextricably to our past and to our future. a symbol so charged with meaning and yet so eloquently
The string has gone from the bucket now. Only the bucket remains. What is so extraordinary about the whole installation is how. by the use ofevery day materials. it blends so naturally into the Underground-scape. I‘m sure many Underground users are not aware that they are in the presence ofgreat _
: business where drugs and
prostitution can be bought and sold. It isthese connections with past and present. with symbol and realityto which Wodiczko directs his work. ‘I illuminate a selected site. otten a historical site and force that site to speak at contemporary issues. Somehow these monuments are already operating as symbolic sites so they are also some kind of projection of events and desires ot those who are visiting those sites. local people and tourists.‘
Wodizko takes every group seriously. neglects no one. His work is torthe public arena. tor raising consciousness towards specilic issues. It is critical but immediate. 'I try always to develop work which is popular.‘ It has to be absorbed in a short time “by people who already have otherthings to do. who are on their way somewhere. as well as by people who are informed. by your magazine tor example'.
From an oblique angle the figures on the columns ot the National Monument look like soldiers. But moving round to tace them. you discover that has been a trick otthe column. The young boy has no shoes. the old man carries a Tesco's bag and a stick. a teenager drinks Coke. an arm accepts heroin and a man carries a bottle ot spirit. The National Monument llickers with ‘Edinburgh's Disgrace'. heroes become victims. It is a pity that the group cannot be seen trom the centre 01 Edinburgh. But the message is sharp enough close up. Wodiczko gives challenge
and critical voice to this sleepy. muddled monument. (Alice Bain)
art — indeed in the presence of art at all. ()fcourse. it could be that Buchanan Street station has a leak in the roof. But I prefer to think that somewhere buried in the deep bosom of Strathclyde Passenger Transport Executive is a forgotten genius sending usa signal. Andit's 1
Wodcziko’s projections on Calton Hill can be seen every night until 24 August lrom10.3me-12.303m.
It is an ill wind. as they say. When the Yugoslavian theatre company who had a hit last year with Tattoo Theatre pulled out otthis year's Traverse programme. the theatre had to quicklylind another show. Fortunately for Fringe audiences they lound Dead Dad Dog. a two-man show that had the audience in pleats when it waslirst shown in Spring this year.
The play was commissioned lrom John McKay. known best to some as a writer and pertormer with the Merry Mac Fun Co. ‘lt’s got stutt in it I've been wanting to write for a long time. but because I had the chance to say it. it all came together.‘ says McKay. an equable soul. rather quieter off stage than on.
In the play. young Eck gets up gleelully anticipating his big day— intervlew with the BBC; date with the girl he fancies. He hasn't bargained torthe arrival over breaktast ot his dead father's ghost, however. The latter proceeds to cheertully accompany him wherever
he goes. wreaking havoc on Eck’s plans and making for wondertul comic situations. At the heart 01 the play isa serious argumentthough—
McKay (who has himselt recently left Scotland for London) explores the dilemma 01 many a Scot: whether to leave lor London or not. ‘There‘s alunny attitude to accents in Scotland. ltyouraccent changes. you‘re a traitor. but yet that's the only wayto be mobile within the power system. When you‘re ina culture undermined and undervalued. you're damned if you do and you're damned it you don‘t. Eck is awalking dilemma.’
Much ol the play’sspark. however. comes from exploring serious issues through this crazy scenario and llamboyant comic style. 'I really love those Hollywood moviestrom about 1935—1955 where reality got bent bythe intrusion 01 a supernatural agent.‘ says McKay. “It's a really good way ot showing up what's wrong with reality - putting something unreal in it.“ (Sarah Hemming) Dead Dad Dog. Traverse Theatre (venue 15) 226 2633. 23 Aug—3 Sept. 10pm. John McKay also appears asJohnny Whackhead atthe Gilded Balloon Theatre. Late ‘n' Live on 19. 25 & 30 Aug.
How much would you pay fora prosthetic penis‘.’ Not even a prosthesis really. just a realistic model. since it didn‘t have to work or
i at least not in the waythat penises
understand the word. The Wow
It is very reassuring to see that the Scottish National Orchestra have heeded my warnings about the need
show wanted such a thing for their act and approached a model maker for a quote. £600. however. seemed
for a new administrator so pr()mp[ly_ 21bit. CT. SIIII. SO the IitdS from IITC
Will you welcome. please. Christopher Bishop. lately ofthe Philharmonia in London. Mr Bishop has insisted on becoming the orchestra‘s chiefexecutive. not its general administrator. He was quoted as saying that the title of administrator suggested you did a certain amount ofemptying wastepaper baskets. I look forward
Wow show settled for a £ 15 number at Ann Summers and a pot of paint. lfyou want to know what they do with it you‘ll have to see the show. I'm certainly not going into it in a family magazine but Mark Arden wants anyone who had seen him either entering or leaving the store to know that it was all in the cause of
_4The List 19— 25 August 1988