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Real life utopia

ROSS SINCLAIR is no neo-romantic. He's just wondering if there are any alternatives out there.

Words: Susanna Beaumont

Ross Sinclair is wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the words ‘Arab Strap’, while talking about Utopia. References to an imagined perfect land and a band from Falkirk who do a fine line in depressive dirges make for quite a contrast. But then that is perhaps the stuff of life, which ties in nicely with what is tattooed on Sinclair’s back: the words ‘Real Life’. What is real life if not a bundle of ideals and their alive-and-kicking bedfellow,’ reality?

Back in 1996, Sinclair constructed Real Life Rocky Mountain at Glasgow’s CCA. An astro-turfed mock-up of a chunk of the Scottish landscape, it teased at the idea of the countryside as theme park. Three years on, at Edinburgh’s Fruitmarket Gallery, Sinclair is investigating a very real swathe of land - the island of St Kilda.

Situated over 100 miles to the west of mainland Scotland beyond the Outer Hebrides, St Kilda was once inhabited. Home to over 200 people, its non- hierarchical parliament met daily to discuss the affairs of the island. Yet as the decades rolled on and communications with the rest of the world increased, the UK’s most remote inhabited island was seen as

'I am really resilient to romanticism. It sounds like a dirty word.’ Ross Sinclair

Rural bliss: Ross Sinclair in Real Life Rocky Mountain

‘cut-off’ rather than a world unto itself. Its last inhabitants were evacuated in 1930. For the past few years, Sinclair has researched this history. The result is Journey To The Edge Of The World, comprising old film footage taken of the island which is screened in a ‘settlement’ of cardboard and mock-stone constructions.

‘When St Kilda was evacuated, it left a vacuum and it captured the public’s imagination,’ says Sinclair. ‘It provided a different model of democracy, and I am very aware of this with the new Scottish Parliament just yards away from the Fruitmarket.’ But with the 70th anniversary of its final evacuation falling in August 2000, does Sinclair feel that it is time for St Kilda’s near-mythical status to be grounded? Is there room for nostalgia? ‘I am really resilient to romanticism,’ he argues. ‘It sounds like a dirty word. This is not a mindless rapture with nature; life on St Kilda was a hand-to-mouth, day-to-day existence, but I hope this work is something with a broader cultural significance.’

While the 905 are talked about as an age of political sedation, Sinclair is posing a few questions about democracy, the imagination and the appeal of Utopia. He wants to create a window onto another space, another possibility. Interestingly, the show is part of. the Fruitmarket’s Visions For The Future project in which a further four artists based in Scotland will be commissioned to make new work. Accompanying Sinclair, in the Fruitmarket’s lower gallery, is the artist Martin Boyce. Boyce is covering the walls with a wallpaper inspired in design by the modern metropolis. It looks at if the two will offer a revealing take on both the urban and faraway.

Visions For The Future is at the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, Sat 25 Sep-Sat 13 Nov.


Taking the pulse of the artworld

LISA GALLACHER HAS been named as the first winner of the £3000 Bulkhead Prize for an artwork by artists living in Glasgow. Gallacher's Sewing Machine includes a five- metre long needle 'threaded' through the former British Linen Bank at 162 Gorbals Street. The runners-up are Roddy Mathieson and Chris Wallace. Gallacher’s Sewing Machine is on display until Fri 8 Oct.

EDINBURGH'S COLLECTIVE GALLERY is now closed for a major Lottery- funded refurbishment and will reopen in spring 2000. Not ones to rest on their laurels, however, the gallery is soon to tour Pixelvision. Video works by eleven Scotland- based artists - selected by John Beagles, Charles Esche and Stephanie Smith - it is to be sent to London's Lux and further afield to France as well as to venues in Scotland.

SAATCHI's NEW SHOW Neurotic Realism: Part No seems to be finding little favour. Describing the art buyer's new show in London as 'a rich man's folly‘, Jonathan Jones in The Guardian goes on to say. 'When he asserts his own taste, the result is laughably bad, and flat like the Royal Academy Summer Show for people in sharp suits.’ Jones then writes of how he longed for Sarah Lucas or Gary Hume to vomit over the work. For those with queasy tendencies. the show runs at the Saatchi Gallery until Sun 5 Dec.

THREE ARTISTS ARE showing work in outside spaces in Glasgow. Jane Brettle, Lucy Skaer and Shirley MacWilliam were commissioned by Visual Art Projects to make temporary artworks along the city’s major thoroughfare, Buchanan Street. Entitled Swift, it runs until Sat 2 Oct with an accompanying publication out on Thu 14 Oct. For details, call Visual Arts Projects on 0141 552 6563.

FOR STAY-AT-HOMES, the Glasgow and Liverpool artist-led All Horizons Club have began their third on-line project. On their press release the following is written: 'Confronted by their own impotence in the face of the issues of the day, Bono and Sting adopted a steely resolve . . .' For enlightenment, visit

Art In The Open: art by three artists in _ Glasgow

23 Sep-7 Oct 1999 THEIR”?