it’s been a while since I’ve been to an art exhibition, having been preoccupied with work, relocating to a new country and entertaining a 2.5 year old.
An online list of exhibitions triggered my curiosity, and so I embarked on a mission to consume culture and headed up to Summerhall, the former Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies in Edinburgh situated on the eastern corner of the Meadows.
The building is an impressive maze of former classrooms, libraries and corridors, a massive art venue that hosts lectures, theater, art exhibitions and film.
Reading Summerhall’s neatly designed catalogue, I had coffee in their courtyard cafe (it was a sunny day!), marked the exhibitions I was interested in and went on a search to find them.
First I went to see ’7x7th Street’ by Jean Pierre Muller. Musicians Robert Wyatt, Terry Riley, Nile Rodgers, Archie Shepp, Sean O’Hagan, Mulatu Astatke and Kassin joined Muller to create a sound installation with 7 wooden cabins. Sounds promising (and suitable for a day out with the little one), but the work was disappointing.
The music in most of the cabins only played for a few seconds, which didn’t work very well as a spatial experience. The visual part of the work was an assembly of letters of the alphabet, colours, and images of historical figures and events, full of symbolism but not much depth.
I continued to see ‘Pain Thing’ by Robert Kuśmirowski, described in the catalogue as ‘a powerful yet playful installation relating directly to the existing fabric of the former veterinary hospital at Summerhall.’
Luckily I went in there by myself first, and was horrified to find something that looked very much like a gutted animal in a surrounding that resembled a torture chamber (‘playful’?). I am not sure it was a real animal, but I was so shaken by it that I didn’t want to have a closer look.
Next on my list were the Art & Language exhibition, and the Remains To Be Seen exhibition of works by Carolee Schneemann.
After failing to find these on my own (!) and failing again despite the kind assistance of the lady at the box office (!!), I decided to call it a day and return another time. The little one was very patient throughout and requested an ice cream.
When I visited Edinburgh in March this year I got the impression that the more interesting scene in art and music was going on in Glasgow, but although Summerhall seemed chaotic and in a ‘work in progress’ state (which could also be due to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival), it has great ambitions and a very diverse program, which made me hopeful for things to come.
Image source: Summerhall catalogue