Edinburgh Art Festival Platform 2015: In With the New
Edinburgh Art Festival is hosting its first emergent artists-dedicated show this year. We ask what the exhibitors are planning and what the festival means to them
Edinburgh, for Platform: 2015 exhibitor Antonia Bañados, is "a pop-up book" built in different layers and histories. With the EAF this year occupying tucked-away closes and impermanent venues, there’s a sense that they are breaking the spine of the city in order to push the Festival itself past easy limits.
Continuing this opening-out and sense of novelty, EAF has commissioned a four-strong group show, Platform: 2015, in a brand new venue on Blair Street. Combined with The Skinny’s own show of the best graduates of 2015, and the inclusion of the youthful Number Shop as a venue, the festival has put together its most diverse programme to date. With the help of Skinny contributor and Platform exhibitor Jessica Ramm, we catch up with the exhibitors as they make their first contact with one another in advance of installing the show.
On the spectrum of potential forms of the group show, Platform 2015 is more of a set of exhibitions; curated together, but to some extent separate. Ramm herself is constructing a climbable sculpture originally inspired by Earthrise, a photo taken on Apollo 8’s mission to the moon. With the aid of affixed climbing grips – at the time of writing – she prepares to stage her performance, taking the object outside with the help of several rock climbers. She accepts it might fail, but hopes for it will "fail in the right way."
Perhaps the most obvious overlap is between Ramm and Bañados, the latter of whom is new to the city from Chile, and studying in the same MFA programme Ramm completed in 2014. For Platform: 2015, she's planning to make paintings and sculptural work that respond to the vast Atacama Desert, a testing site for NASA-funded exploration technology development. At first sight, she makes paintings and objects that demonstrate an interest in the formal qualities of negative space. She describes her interest as deriving from both the highly designed spaces found in packagin,g as well as architectural forms we directly inhabit day to day. The work she will present extends her exploration of the emptiness and absence she has observed in Chilean landscapes.
There’s a similar kind of tension between absence and presence in the work of Rhubaba-studio holder Ben Callaghan, for whom Edinburgh Art Festival in the past "has meant employment for two years." His presentation within the group comprises a "networked website accessed via mobile devices," furniture he has made and a set of objects to be displayed. Moving between the virtual and the physical, Callaghan is planning to bypass symbolic and aesthetic associations of objects in favour of the utilitarian and functional.
Whereas Callaghan deals with reconditioning objects on the symbolic or metaphorical level, Ross Hamilton Frew takes a more literal and physical approach by pulping works of literature he has gathered. From this raw material, he creates handmade recycled paper. Using the original works as reference, but with enough remove for the sources to become completely anonymised, he in turn creates haikus that pay homage to the pulped texts. On the paper itself, following a strict set of rules, naturally occurring speckles are joined and networked to create delicate drawings from this process.
For each of the artists, the Edinburgh Art Festival and the Platform: 2015 opportunity means something different – even if they all separately choose Charles Avery as a highlight. For Callaghan, the EAF spotlights smaller galleries in Edinburgh who are doing excellent work. Ramm considers Platform specifically as a means of being able to share her work with peers who also live in Edinburgh. Ross Hamilton Frew, who is based on Uist, is particularly appreciative to "have a great space to show work in – with the potential for footfall – in the heart of the city," and cites the chance to engage with the Scottish art scene as "a really big thing for me."
In spite of their different experiences of the city and observedly different practices, the curatorial strategy for the exhibition (as Ramm describes it) has not been pre-determined, but instead potentiates interesting new results and new artistic interrelations. In some senses this is an experimental kind of curating, with hypotheses and projections, but no fixed outcome. There’s an urgency about it, too. Ramm’s mostly joking on the day before her planned performance when she says, "With such a tight turn around time, this is bound to be a white knuckle ride."