caoup MIXLD MEDIA si-iow DESIGNER BODIES
Stills, Edinburgh, Sat 3 Apr—Sun 6 Jun
Video stills by Gair Dunlop 20 3-4
The debate surrounding the clash of ideologies between art and science has raged on, seemingly without a solution, since CP Snow delivered his 1959 lecture, the Two Cultures. Designer Bodies is a bid to break down the barriers between disciplines and serves as the centrepiece of a season of events, all taking a close look at advances in biotechnology and human genetics, as well as wider issues surrounding the
interface between art and science.
‘What we are trying to do is look at why artists are very keen to engage with issues raised by science,’ explains curator llyana Nedkova. “For a while now, we’ve been setting the ethical and political agenda for biotechnology, but the aesthetic agenda has been left behind. With this show, we’re trying to say that there is room to elaborate on the view of biotechnology and science from the aesthetic perspective artists bring
to the debate.’
The exhibition is also an attempt to unite a Scottish audience with Scottish artists examining scientific themes. ‘I’ve been following this scene around science and art for quite a while,’ says Nedkova. ‘But I haven’t been able to experience this kind of work in Scotland, even though there are an awful lot of Scottish artists working along these lines. So we’re bringing back work that has toured widely, like Christine Borland’s work, or Gina Czarnecki’s - work that has won a Creative Scotland Award, but has never been seen inside Scotland. With the show, the international symposium and the workshops for young people, we’re really putting Scotland on the map when it comes to the debate on science and art.’
Of the artists taking part, Gair Dunlop has long mined the scientific seam of inspiration. With Century 21 Calling, a work revised for Designer Bodies, he is set to examine public perceptions of scientific progress.
‘l’m looking at this shift from science being something good for the world, to something we are more ambivalent towards,’ says Dunlop. ‘l’ve made two ﬁlms with found footage. One is the optimistic, positive, public side of science as progress, then I’ve gone into the archives looking for negative approaches. It’s really a presentation of science that goes back to Jekyll 8r Hide. That duality has always been there.’
Dunlop’s video diptych might, then, serve as a manifesto for Designer Bodies; being a close look at our attitudes to scientific progress, and one that breaks down perceived barriers between the arts and
‘This distinction between science and art is really an old-fashioned one,’ says Nedkova. ‘In the end, it must be questioned, and what we’re doing is providing a platform for people to really challenge that idea, and hopefully one that will continue the debate in years to come.’ (Jack Mottram)
COOL BRITANNIA Glasgow Print Studio, Glasgow, until Sat 1 May 000
Psycho Birds 2003 by David Sherry
It is hard to imagine a title for a show that would be more of a turn-off than Cool Britannia — Celebrity Paedophi/e Jihad. maybe. or Hit/er: He Was OK Real/y — but here one is. The
timing. too. is peculiar. With the YBAs occupying an uncertain space between their first flush of tame. the near-immediate backlash. a subsequent reappraisal. and. now. a state of critical flux that hovers between disdain and grudging appreciation.
Cool Britannia does nothing to clear that log of New Labour buzzwords and tabloid opprobrium over unmade beds. but it makes one thing clear: the YBAs. shown here alongside Scottish contemporaries. weren't just a shouty bunch of shark- picklers: they made much that the most staid galleiy-goer would be happy to hang on the living room wall. That said. many of the prints and etchings here will be familiar from over-exposure. There are Hirst spot and spin paintings. which look a bit like the comforting sort of thing one might pick up at Habitat. ready framed. The fat lines of Julian Opie's Imagine You Are Driving series are
pretty. but pretty undemanding.
The Scottish artists represented fare better, and not just because they side-stepped dilution through ubiquity. There's an engrossing Richard Wright. with intricate plotted lines of ovals and arrows. and the stark text-on-grid of Martin Boyce's Dissappear Here defies easy interpretation. an oddly unnerving work. Christine Borland stands Out. too. with genealogical charts and case notes charting a congenital condition. so beautifully set that it is genuinely difficult to appreciate them beyond their surface appeal
It is. perhaps. unfair to expect a more questioning curatorial hand in the hanging of a commercial show. but Cool Britannia feels more than a little flat. Not that the work on show is bad. but. without the benefit of a bit more distance from the embarrassments of the 1990s manufactured culture boom, it is hard to see the point. (Jack Mottram)
City Art Centre, Edinburgh, until Sat 8 May 0000
Aghhhhhhhhhh! Sometimes that‘s all there is to say. Or just nothing. There are dreadful times when emotions have gone so wrong and got so twisted that words don't even come close. They are futile sounds that have lost purpose and meaning and there‘s only our base selves from which to lash out in Violence or scream a load of incoherence. And more often than not this represents a breakdown of love.
In the exhibition Incommunicado lhlS acute end of communication breakdosxn opens the show. Bruce Nauman's Violent Incident: Man Woman Segment is a video on a loop of a man and woman sitting down to dinner. As the woman is about to sit down, all smiles. the man takes the chair from under her so she falls on her arse with humiliating inelegance. She lunges for his backSIde With her finger and a vicious fight ensues. It's funny in a slapstick kind of way and a neat method of encapsulating that weird and volatile dynamic of sexual relations.
Lip Sync, 1969 by Bruce Nauma
Over in a darkened booth Samuel Beckett's Comedic has three heads. each staring straight ahead wrth fixed. grim expressions. talking in French in rapid succession. The scene is adultery — a man is flanked by two severe looking women. There is no sense in their gobbled words and yOu get the feeling that these talking heads c0uld go on unconnecting forever. A comedy only of the abSLird.
Branching out of the claustrophobic relationship impasses are less intense but more poignant representations of cultural misunderstanding. Mona Hatoum. who was born to Palestinian parents in Beirut and then herself |l\'C'(T I. exile in Britain. has made a Simple installation based on the idea of paper cup and string walkie-talkies. Marble cups Sit on a wooden shelf. joined by string and inscribed with the Arabic for ‘east' and ‘west'. Made in 2002. it resonates poweifully as yOu imagine the fragile attempts to talk. listen and understand across an ever-Widening divide.
It's not a comfonable exhibition. but the pieces are excellently chosen to explore this subject. which is the eternal frustration of being human. We might be limited but we try our damndest to explore and express these limitations and by doing so get a bit closer to understanding them. (Ruth Hedgesi
1»—15 Apr 2()()-’1 THE LIST 87