of bodily fluids across the
' Artist duo SMITH/STEWART enter an
adventure playground for grown-ups as they bite, breath and explore their bodies on video.
Words: Neil Cooper
Morecambe and Wise fans rejoice — double acts do live together. Not that you‘re likely to be asked to take part in ‘plays wot they wrote‘ round at Smith/Stewart's pad. even if the title of their show Ham/ml. liar-ml is lifted from arch-minimalist Samuel Beckett's novella (Tampa/iv. And. despite the provocative two-way physical jerks in (’.\'II‘(’l)ll.S' of the duo‘s early video works — kissing. lovebites across the entire torso. plastic bags over their heads until they‘ve almost breathed their last — there are no exchanges
kitchen table or any visible hints of the work they produce.
Two works dating from last year — Breathing Space. in which the aforementioned plastic bag experience took place: and Dual. which saw each forcing the other‘s hands to write their names. only for the signatures to collapse into unreadable scrawl — sit alongside a newer work. Inside Out. This is a point of view from the body rather than of the body. A camera is placed inside the mouth a la fantastic Voyage. offering brightness when the mouth opens. and pitch blackness when it shuts.
‘lt‘s quite a crucial piece in relation to how our new work's developed.‘ according to Stephanie Smith. the more vocal half of the Glasgow-based partnership. ‘lt‘s interesting with this piece being inside the body and showing the experience of being
'Even though the work does come from our relationship, it's in no way autobiographical.’
On hand: Smith/Stewart's video work Autograph
inside. but also looking out again. It’s also interesting how it works in the space. because when you‘re in complete darkness you‘re waiting for this breath to let you know where you arc.‘
Shades of Beckett again. "The space is like being in either your own head or someone clsc‘s head. It‘s a really physical response we want in this way.‘ Or. as lidward Stewart puts it. it‘s ‘an intimate void that‘s also very highly charged‘.
Stephanie Smith and lidward Stewart first came together in a group show in Amsterdam in the early ()()s and have been together ever since. llomlml. liarwl. however. is a conscious move away from their earlier work. which they willingly admit to being ‘voyeuristie‘. They have now reached the point where they wish to engage their audience in a more active way. and sound is becoming an increasingly important element. ‘We don‘t just want to be seen as video-makers.‘ say s Stewart.
Despite these developments. a suspicion still lingers that the pair are getting off on their own obsessions. lmmortalised on video. they are made both public and permanent. It‘s one they refute. ‘Iiven though the work does come from our relationship.‘ says Smith. ‘and does explore what you can do when you've some level of intimacy with someone. it's in no way autobiographical.'
This is the classic mistake made by critics and public alike in regard to any artist who creates in the first person. Beckett included. "This is why we generally remain anonymous in the works.‘ Smith continues. 'We can't help being male and female. but our work isn‘t about heterosexual relationships. It's about intimate relations and the body. So while there are certain confines we can‘t help. it's certainly not about us.‘
Hooded. Bared is at the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, Sat 1 Aug-Tue Sep 15.
Overheard from behind the installation.
IT'S OFFICIAL. FOTOFEIS - the biennial, Scotland-wide festival of photo-based arts - is no more. The Scottish Arts Council [SAC] have pulled the plug on funding and the organisation is to cease operating. If truth be told, Fotofeis had a good run for its money and perhaps the SAC will divert funds to permanent art fixtures.
ALL IS NOT lost in the world of photo-based arts, however. Artist Zarina Bhimji, known for her photographic ‘body‘ installations at King's Cross Hospital in London, has been appointed Fellow in Photography 8. Digital Media at Edinburgh’s Napier University. Bhimji is to be based in the Department Of Photography, Film and Television from October 1998 to March 1999 and will work towards an exhibition and publication.
EDINBURGH'S ROYAL MILE may be known more for its skirl of bagpipes and rumble of traffic, but a new book, Brilliant Cacophony. is out to illustrate another aspect of the thoroughfare. It highlights the conservation and development of the Royal Mile, in particular Hunter Square, where artists Ian Hamilton Finlay and Peter Randall-Page were commissioned to create artworks.
There has been a mixed response to
the square — and a degree of public confusion as to whether one particular work is a rubbish bin and/or a drinking fountain. The book is an interesting read, with passages from the likes of Robert Louis Stevenson and Alasdair Gray. Ring the Scottish Sculpture Trust for a copy on 0131 220 4788.
TALK IS THAT the art at this year's
Edinburgh Festival and Fringe is better than it has been for years.
i The line-up does look good, with
some real artist heavyweights making an appearance. Every wallspace is a prime spot for a cracking good art show, including the cafe Negociants, which is putting on a show entitled Ann Russell Is Slattern, in which she flaunts her observation skills.
Why Confront?: A Slattern's Observations Of The Mating Curiosities Of Modern Man by Ann Russell
23 Jul-6 Aug 1998 TIIE usr as