REVIEW FILM THE ETHICS OF ENCOUNTER PART 1 Stills Gallery, Edinburgh, until Fri 26 Nov ●●●●●
Screened as part of Stills’ The Ethics of Encounter programme, which comprises exhibitions, screenings and workshops exploring artists’ use of documentary processes, Renzo Martens’ feature-length filmwork Episode III Enjoy Poverty is a work of undeniable significance. Documenting excerpts from the
artist’s two-year journey across the politically torrid Democratic Republic of the Congo, Martens alternates his onscreen persona between activist, journalist and entrepreneur, in a performance that draws an uncanny likeness to Klaus Kinski’s Fitzcarraldo. By de-positioning himself, Martens allows for an unbridled engagement with the well-worn documentary mode, empowering the artist to seemingly map the exploitation of third world poverty by news agencies and aid organisations. However, what Martens actually interrogates is the devastating importance of the viewer’s response to these images of malnourishment, profiteering and abuse. Tellingly, the crippling subtext to Martens’ central conceit ‘enjoy poverty please’ remains ‘it is your greatest resource’.
Martens’ form is subversive. It stretches genres of film, documentary process and artistic practice. His work infuriates, rallies and repulses, and perhaps most significantly, his work is productive. The material of this implicit critique is the unthinking, guttural stuff of the viewer’s reaction to the images on screen – the root of change, he suggests, lies in this personal position. (Rosalie Doubal)
N E S T R A A H M O T
REVIEW ILLUSTRATION ALASDAIR GRAY: GRAY STUFF Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh, until Sat 11 Dec ●●●●●
Alasdair Gray is the very definition of a polymath, and Gray Stuff is a loving testament to his industry and curiosity. The artist’s murals, theatre posters, books and
doodles fill the gallery space at Talbot Rice, despite being of rather small physical stature. It’s possible to get lost for hours in one illustration as you try to discern the tiniest detail. Upon entering, you immediately encounter a collection of sketches and final drafts created by Gray for his celebrated 1981 novel Lanark. There is more than a nod toward woodcut and engraving styles of earlier centuries, but each piece has been stamped with Gray’s unique outlook of bold black lines and heavily stylised figures, faces and buildings; creating works which mirror those images of centuries past – but with a modern outlook of distorted perspective and stark imagery. Another wonder of his draughtsmanship is his economy of line: he manages to elicit expression, musculature and
cityscape with the minimum of fuss, and without losing any of the humanity of such subjects. Closer inspection reveals the thought process and
editing behind the works. Gray is a lover of white correction fluid, but rather than spoil the delicate images, the contrast between this and the cream paper used in many of the creations actually adds to the sense of depth in the work. The notebooks on display – including recycled diaries or log books from as far back as the 19th century – also provide intriguing insight into Gray’s working process. In these he writes honestly about deadlines, hospital visits for loved ones, as well as giving a promise to document every day of a year.
Also revealing are the meticulous directions for publishers in the use of his work – instructions for reproducing in smaller scale, margins, fonts, and ideas for the inside of a book jacket. Clearly, this is someone who knows his craft inside out. There is enough within this exhibition to delight newcomers and fans alike – including two short documentaries playing on a loop so that the visitor might immerse themselves entirely in the Gray Stuff. (Miriam Sturdee)
PREVIEW INSTALLATION REVEALING THE INVISIBLE: THE ART OF STANSFIELD / HOOYKAAS FROM DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES CCA, Glasgow, Sat 27 Nov–Sat 29 Jan
When Revealing the Invisible opens at Glasgow’s CCA and Street Level, it will be a spiritual homecoming for Madelon Hooykaas. While the CCA may be unrecognisable from its origins as all- purpose arts lab the Third Eye Centre, it was here in 1974 that the Dutch artist presented her first video installation in partnership with the late Elsa Stansfield, who died in 2004. Commissioned by then Third Eye director Tom McGrath, ‘What’s It To You’ showed images of Barras stallholders juxtaposed with the reactions of passers-by on Sauchiehall Street. Thirty-six years on, the original tapes may be lost, but Revealing the Invisible charts a form that was barely recognised as art when Stansfield / Hooykaas started out.
‘Things have changed so much,’ says Hooykaas today. ‘Elsa was from Glasgow and was
interested in photography and film, but because they weren’t taught in Scotland she had to go to London.’ Revealing the Invisible nevertheless brings things full circle as a new generation of artists turns to
work that came out of the 1960s counter-culture and attempted to redefine how art was presented beyond gallery spaces.
‘Some of our work was very community-based,’ says Hooykaas, who continues to work alone. ‘We showed work in arts centres, but we also wanted to get people in who didn’t normally go there. I quite like that relationship. People who are out walking the dog or just strolling along respond in a very different way.’ (Neil Cooper)
18 Nov–2 Dec 2010 THE LIST 89