12 December 2015 - 9 March 2016, Summerhall, Edinburgh
Artists: Riccardo Buscarini and Richard Taylor
by Megan Wallace
Summerhall’s winter visual arts programme comprises of two exhibitions revolving around the theme of memory: Whitney McVeigh’s solo exhibition The Language of Memory and Riccardo Buscarini and Richard Taylor’s collaborative effort In Parting Glass. McVeigh’s work takes up a much larger space than Buscarini and Taylor’s, spanning over several rooms, while the latter is condensed within the three cabinets of the Laboratory Gallery. This disparity mirrors one of the key qualities of memory: its fluidity and tendency to both expand and retract depending on the space allotted to it, due to its lack of concrete shape.
For the exhibition In Parting Glass, the Summerhall curator Holly Knox Yeoman brings together Buscarini, a choreographer and performance artist and Taylor, a visual artist, to explore memory, specifically in terms of how to represent that which is is not present and how people, things and performances leave their mark.
Upon entering the exhibition space, the viewer is automatically hit by the clean, sterile atmosphere surrounding the presented work. This is perhaps unsurprising due to the fact that it is shown in the Laboratory Gallery, a space that lives up to its name with its unadorned white walls and trio of glass cabinets. Indeed, the exhibition actually feels like something of a scientific experiment, with the artists working as scientists to try to capture and dissect the nature of memory despite its essentially intangible quality.
This artificial feeling is further created through the strict separation of the work into three cabinets, the first being a sound installation by Taylor, the second serving as the venue for a performance by Buscarini on the opening and closing nights of the exhibition, and the third containing an assortment of objects and sculptures made and collected by Taylor. Rather than complementing and interacting with one another organically as in a more traditional exhibition space, the body of work is separated into these three sections, creating what initially seems like a sense of opposition between the different pieces.
However, the works are all conceptually united despite being divided in spatial terms. The central cabinet used by Buscarini during his performance is designed to contain the trace of this performance when it is not in use. The sweatshirt he wears during the performance lies folded at the front of the cabinet and slight finger prints are left against the glass walls of the cabinet from his instances of action. The cabinet therefore becomes both witness to the performance and a record through which it is enshrined in memory. In a similar vein, the third cabinet is filled with sculptures relating to Taylor’s memories, making the cabinet function like a catalogue of different events from his life but also communicating these events to the viewer.
It is evident that the function of both these cabinets is to make memory, something intangible into something concrete and to extend the memory’s lifespan by passing it on to the viewer in the form of abstract art. Thus, in this form, the viewer can enter into a dialogue with the memory, can change it and adapt it in a way similar to how memory mutates with time when it is misremembered or suppressed.
Rather than exploring the nature of memory, as in the relationship between cabinets two and three, cabinets one and two are linked by the impulse to remember. In the first cabinet, the music that plays during Buscarini’s performance is played on loop, which accompanies a sound composition by Taylor in the first cabinet. Such an overlap is fitting since music serves as a stimulus to memory, as when it triggers a flood of recollected events or emotions, or when it acts as a catalyst for nostalgic sentiments.
The way the cabinets interact with one another, despite initially seeming to be disconnected, is emblematic of the way the two artists, who work with very different methods, seem to collaborate within the exhibition. While the exhibition as a whole may officially investigate memory, it also serves as an exercise in cooperation between two artists who, despite being of similar generations, did not previously know one another. Indeed, what immediately helps to establish talking points between people of the same era are the shared memories that derive from having lived through the same historical climate.
In Parting Glass is a thought-provoking exhibition which will be a pleasure to those fond of conceptual art, though it may prove a difficult viewing to those geared towards figurative works.
Riccardo Buscarini and Richard Taylor's 'In Parting Glass' | Peter Dibdin Photographer
On till 9th March 2016
Riccardo Buscarini and Richard Taylor's 'In Parting Glass'
Choreographer Riccardo Buscarini and visual artist Richard Taylor work together for the first time, transforming the glass cabinets in Summerhall’s Laboratory Gallery into living archives to explore memory, intimacy and exposure.
Images are courtesy of the Summerhall.
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