Janet Cardiff and Georges Bures Miller @ The Fruitmarket

Nancy Katz | 18 Aug 2008

Everybody likes a little emotional manipulation. We pay for drugs, roller coasters and horror movies because they make us feel something, whether it be good, invincible or scared shitless. This exhibition does all these things. Now, admittedly for some that last statement won't seem to wash, because for most, art just doesn't ever cut the 'real-life' mustard. Reason being, art seems to be stuck behind a thick intellectual barrier. It seems to demand a level of linguistic interpretation which distances it from the ecstasy of pleasurable youthful pursuits, and the almost always instant gratification that they provide. It isn't like skiing or sex, it's like reading and maths. The work of this internationally respected artistic partnership, however, contests this misconception. Janet Cardiff and Georges Bures Miller eschew ideas of discourse or signification as sufficient starting points for artist appreciation, and instead encompass corporeality. Using a series of really rather clever sound editing techniques, the pair have constructed six fictional scenarios which attend not to the intellect but to the sensation.

They've had to build big new walls and sound proof corridors to house these outstanding installations. Encountering them is like meeting some twisted transformers, each equipped with a set of powers capable of inflicting different emotions upon you. Their scale and spectacle is so vast that they seem to make the meek idea of hanging paintings on a wall seem frankly ridiculous. Filmic, theatrical, sculptural and technologically complex, 'The Killing Machine', 'Dark Pool', 'Muriel Lake Incident' and 'Opera for a Small Room' utilise objects, images and sound to play with the viewer. The use of binaural recording uncannily messes with our concepts of space and time, an effect which further adds to the fun-house appeal. Walking around this exhibition is genuinely entertaining. This attention demanding exhibit cleverly disembowels preconceptions of the very purpose and influence of an art exhibition itself.