Counterpoint with Edinburgh Art Festival and GENERATION at Talbot Rice Gallery

Counterpoint showcases works by eight contemporary Scottish artists as part of the Edinburgh Art Festival and GENERATION a major nationwide survey of some of Scotland’s most prominent artists from the last 25 years. The show presents works by artists crossing boundaries between philosophy, technology, science fiction and the aesthetics and politics of everyday life. And features a recurring theme that questioning notions of authority and autonomy.

Michelle Hannah presents a high-definition video set across four large-scale flat screens. This video is accompanied by a laser-etched black glass panel and a back lit photo transparency of her hand coloured with white grease paint. While at the opening she gives a mesmeric live performance of two songs. Her voice is highly synthesised, her hands and feet painted black, while her ashen face is adorned with jewels. These catch and reflect a spotlight that transmit tiny beams of light across the gallery. Her video, Statue, is set within the University of Edinburgh’s grand Playfair Library, an opulent and ornamental space lavished in gold that houses books on science and law accompanied by lines of busts of eminent male scientists rendered in marble. Hannah is seen, with a serene velocity, walking through these spaces, a green laser beam follows her motion.

These performances and films portray an untouchable hyper-fantastic post-human alter ego. A sophisticated art and glam rock automaton. They confront patriarchy using gender ambiguity and sexual androgyny. A queer slant challenges its distribution and reinforcement particularly in broadcast media and popular culture. She subverts this masculine condition and destabilises its status quo with her image. Her presence is an intoxicating symbol of feminism.

Craig Mulholland’s suite of drawings set in the gallery’s vestibule in silicon carbide and ink Illegitimi Non Carborundum proclaims – in glitter – an steadfast “don’t let the bastards grind you down”. While upstairs his Potemkin Funktion installation sees a ten-pin bowling alley recreated with a 3D computer animation, a video projection and heavy bass soundtrack repeating the word “function”. His works melds objects, print and performance with a scientific methodology that create philosophical refrains on queer theory and subversive notes on Marxism and ontology. Mulholland’s rock and roll aesthetic embraces the deceptive and nonconformist. These works explore politics, policies and economics constructed as frontages that are built to impress, distort and deceive.

Keith Farquhar installation of objects and subtly manipulated printed matter is staged in Talbot Rice’s extraordinary Georgian Gallery. Two enormous aluminium street lamps sit horizontally illuminating the floor. This work More Dream Material plays on scale and power, their function and potential for use is shifted from a vertical position to the floor making them invalid. Further voiding their status he shows that these light beams are powered by a single domestic socket. Leaning against the Gallery’s columns Farquhar rests silver corrugated steel panels ‘printed’ with appropriations of American artist Christopher Wool’s painterly ‘graffiti’. Set apart is a stack of cut University of Edinburgh staff magazines showing physicist Peter Higgs reinforcing this ensemble of works’ suggestion of a fracturing between theory, academia, application and authority.

Alex Hetherington

Counterpoint Ross Birrell, Keith Farquhar, Alec Finlay, Michelle Hannah, Ellie Harrison, Shona Macnaughton, Andrew Miller, Craig Mulholland until 18 October. Talbot Rice Gallery The University of Edinburgh Old College, South Bridge Edinburgh EH8

1. Installation shots Chris Park, © Talbot Rice Gallery.

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