Ross Thomson investigates a festival hoo-ha at Collective Gallery, and visits ‘Word and Image’ at Edinburgh College of Art.
On Heat, a group ofthree related installations at the Collective Gallery. has been generating a little more heat than intended. In reacting to the title theme, Ceilia Hayes chose to line the ﬂoor, walls and ceiling of the end gallery with sanitary towels, transforming a normally cold and sterile room into a haven. Her interpretation has led to demands from a Conservative councillor. Daphne Sleigh, that the show be dismantled, or the District Council grant withdrawn from the gallery, on the grounds that it is ‘offensive’.
Installation art is, by its very nature, experimental and difficult to view. The point is to challenge the way people look at and think about things, to get them to open their minds and use their imaginations. So 0n Heat cannot be judged on its aesthetics alone -— if a viewer cannot negotiate the initial obstacle of
simply seeing the component parts of 1
each installation (a few fan heaters, a mirror on wheels and several thousand sanitary towels), then they
Ceilia Hayes's controversial sanitarytowel installation
with the aid of fan heaters and slide projectors, then Susan Brind furnishes the viewer with a mirror on a trolley to provide unorthodox images of oneself against various sections of the gallery‘s ceiling before coming to Hayes’s aforementioned lined room. The clinical machinery of the heaters. mirrored trolley and womb-like chamber creates an unsettling
Roy Wood and his contribution to ‘Word and lmage'. at the College of Art
As a letter of support to the gallery points out, everyone is offended by something, and all artworks will are failing to understand what the show is trying to do.
Each of the three rooms of the gallery has been used in a different way to reﬂect on the idea of heat. In the first, Marcus Cole leads us round offend somebody. Daphne Sleigh seems to be making an issue out of a personal grievance. Since the Collective Gallery benefits a large number of people, should Council business not reflect the views and interests of the community as a whole?
In Word and Image at the Edinburgh College ofArt, eight printmakers and one sculptor have come together to “explore the concept ofthe word and image in artwork’. Although the work is excellent in execution, the ‘exploration’ does not really extend beyond traditional ideas and the rather rambling and contemporary introductory note seems at odds with the bygone feel ofthe work, with its charts, logbooks and manuscripts.
0n Heat is at the Collective Gallery; Word and Image at the Edinburgh College of A rt, both until Sat 5 Sept.
Hungary for gold
Cashing in on the new openness In Eastern Europe, the National Museum of Scotland has shipped over a formidable stock of decorative art from Hungary. Each piece is a small monument to an age when artisanry was more than just a hobby. Caveat punter: steer clear it trinkets, swords and silverware don’t appeal.
Just inside the exhibition room, there is a refreshingly brief chronology: in 896AD, the Magyars arrived in Hungary; Roman Catholicism took hold in 1001; from 1342-82, Hungary was a Euro-power;1867 brought the union with Austria. From then on, it’s just a question of drifting from one showcase to the next.
Somehow, the historical nifty-gritty
Partly-gilt silver tankard, 1681
supplied by the text feels superfluous. What makes the objects so alluring is not their Hungarian-ness so much as their age and craftsmanship. Take the tankards. No soulless, mass-produced pint glasses here. Each has its own chiselled, archino handle. One comes wrapped in marble carvings of
centaurs, nymphs, harps and babies. Another has a tiny silver figurine of a soldier with sword and shield fixed to its lid. With gear like this, it’s no wonder central Europeans loved their beer.
Everything from the guns and swords to the challces and crosses has been assembled with the same indulgence. Accessorising was serious business in those days. Particularly arresting is the tiny 17th century prayerbook from Transylvania: studded with enamel, amethysts, garnets and turquoises, its front cover is nearly as thick as the pages within. Heavy with gold, silver and diamonds, the belts and necklaces are nothing to sniff at either.
In three portraits, the pudgy faces of
well-to-do Hungarians are flushed with the weight of so much paraphernalia. Probably too much of a good thing. (Carl Honoré)
From the Heart of Europe: Art Treasures of Hungary 896—1896 continues at the Royal Museum of Scotland until 31
Dec. Admission £1.50 (75p).
Talking pictures ‘
Most of us, should we have found ourselves in Los Angeles the day after the riots earlier this year, would have opted for the course of discretion and maintained a low profile, staying indoors and taking the chance perhaps to catch up on all those overdue letters. Not so 21-year-old photography student Jennifer Drew, who grabbed her camera and went out to take pictures.
The result is Drew’s debut exhibition, entitled simply Los Angeles: The Day After, a small but arresting collection of images depicting the ﬂotsam and jetsam left in the wake of the Rodney King verdict. Shocking, violent events endow inanimate objects with a peculiar eloquence; one of the most striking photographs I saw last year was Sylvia Plachy’s ‘After a Heart Attack’, which depicted an empty, debris-strewn hospital emergency room, the desperate, life-or-death pandemonium of the past few minutes still echoing in the air. Drew’s images possess a similar resonance; in cold, hard-edged monochrome they stand back and enable the heaps of rubble which used to be shop and homes, the still-stunned human faces, to speak for themselves.
One ofthe most powerful photographs shows a group of distraught Korean women huddled in the wrecked shell ofwhat used to be their family business; in another, a black youth stares through a shattered shop window, his face as hard to read as the sticker behind the crazed glass saying ‘Stop Gang Violence’. Pictures ofgraffiti add an oblique, fragmented commentary, incorporating a variety of responses and sentiments — defiance, pleading and even a touch of humour, The single word ‘King’ is a recurrent, tersely expressive leitmotif, and a final message to the nation outside watching the round-the-clock TV coverage reads simply ‘Look What You Created’. (Sue Wilson)
I Los Angeles: The Day After Hill Street Theatre cafe until 5 Sept.
The List 28 August — 10 September 1992 55