Rebel with a cause

Some of the most exciting international visual art you will see in Edinburgh this Festival will be at the Demarco European Art Foundation. Together with a remarkable theatre, music and dance programme, it is one of the most ambitious arts projects Edinburgh has seen for a long time.

Mark Fisher talks to RICHARD DEMARCO about his vision.

wo years ago it looked like Edinburgh was going to lose Richard Demarco. The perennially underfunded gallery director had been forced to sell his premises on Blackfriars Street and had once again seen his pleas for financial support being cold-shouldered by the arts establishment. It was clear that Demarco was more welcome outside Edinburgh than in and he was all set to quit his home city for good taking with him his expertise, his contacts and, most precious of all, his commitment to contemporary art. Edinburgh’s loss was to be Kingston‘s gain the university (in Surrey. not Jamaica) had awarded Demarco a professorship and there was also talk of projects in Eastern Europe where his work over three decades has earned him a formidable repuation. But Demarco and Edinburgh proved to be inseparable and we were spared the dull reality of a Festival without the overflowing creative chaos that he alone can conjure up. Last year he was back, same as ever, having discovered the former St Mary’s School in Albany Street and transformed it into his latest

10 The List 19—25 August I994

centre. the Demarco European Art Foundation. The 1993 programme was on a relatively small scale and was unevenly attended, but it set the critics talking and made it clear that Demarco was no spent force. If anyone was still in any doubt, the publication of the 1994 line-up was decisive: Richard Demarco was back in town, his energy undiminished.

This is not to deny his approach can be exasperating. His rambling digressions, the stories of hassles and misunderstandings endured by his companies and the fact he always keeps everyone waiting are legendary. So I am merely amused and not outraged when he turns up more or less on time for the interview we’ve arranged but then spends over an hour answering phone calls, talking to his designer, his press officer, his archivist. his solicitor board member, everybody but me, except, that is, for the

‘When Europe was changing, when everything was

being questioned,

when we were being given the biggest

challenge I couldn’t have said, “Well, I just chose twenty of the best stand-up comics!”

occasional contentious phrase or two volleyed

across the admin room. ‘There‘s too much fun on the Fringe.‘ he says jabbing at the Fringe Programme at every use of the word ‘comedy‘. ‘funny’ or Waughfi

He has a point but I don’t get the chance to answer back before he sends me off to talk to the guy in the corner who’s trying to catalogue 2000 slides taken mainly by Demarco himself over

his 30 years of putting on exhibitions and theatre programmes. There are.

apparently. a further 30 boxes sitting in some National Museum vault awaiting the time when someone can identify them all. And then I’m talking to the woman in charge of the theatre programme who fills me in on the inevitable late additions and cancellations. while Demarco feeds her cue lines from the other side room: ‘Tell him about our Festival Clubl’. ‘Explain