Seamus Harahan / Bedwyr Williams
The way in which Harahan and Williams have risen to the presented challenge contrasts sharply
Nationalism and individual identity are troublesome bedfellows. The reconciliation of one's patriotic sensibilities with a sense of unique identity is a thorny task and the manner in which Seamus Harahan and Bedwyr Williams have tackled this is startlingly dissimilar. Both of these artists were chosen to represent their countries (Northern Ireland and Wales respectively) at the 51st Venice Biennale in 2005.
Harahan's contribution was Holylands, a film covertly shot from his flat in the eponymous Belfast district. Segments of everyday urban life are captured, ranging from nocturnal drunken antics to eccentric old biddies, rendered with monumentality by the setting of the film to an eclectic soundtrack which marries genres from hiphop to Irish traditional music. Despite the documentary impression, Harahan maintains an impression of the individual artist's vision by the use of an amateur handheld video camera to record the manner in which daily existence resolutely pushes forwards in this community tormented by the Troubles of Northern Ireland.
Bedwyr Williams has chosen light-hearted roots of past and present for his installation, Sir Bedivere, which takes its title from Arthurian legend, a source of inspiration for the artist. Juxtaposed with cocktail equipment, Williams has inscribed a list of 'recipes' on the gallery walls. These humourously recall the individuals and substances which contributed to the artist's seminal rites of passage, such as Bedwithme, a recollection of a somewhat cringe-worthy sexual experience.
The way in which Harahan and Williams have risen to the presented challenge contrasts sharply, resulting in works which have a very different balance of selfhood and community, yet play off each other with a peculiarly successful result. [Rukhsana Jahangir]
Collective Gallery, Edinburgh, until July 22. Free.