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Edinburgh Art Festival 2019

Photo showing the swimming pool with children playing on an inflatable the same wavy shape as the pool. There are a lot of people standing around with unbrellas up. In the background the orange country house contrasts to the new silver dome next to the pool.

Swimming pools and sound installations are the highlights of this year’s EAF for ATLAS’ producer, Shona Cameron.

It took from 10.30am until 7.45pm to travel from Portree to the 2019 Edinburgh Art Festival. An epic journey but worth it to see a high-calibre selection of what the 16th edition of the festival had to offer.

My visit began by attending the Momentum gathering at Creative Scotland’s HQ. The Momentum international delegate programme brings together people from across the arts sector to an event, where invited speakers introduce their work, followed by networking opportunities.  The highlight was Folakunle Oshun, director of the Lagos Biennial, talking about the complexities of establishing and delivering a such an event in the Nigerian capital.

Following this, it was a quick walk around as many shows as I could fit in… The stand out ones in the city were without doubt Samson Young’s Real Music at Talbot Rice and James Richards’ Migratory Motor Complex at the Collective’s City Dome.

Muted Situations #22: Muted Tchaikovsky’s 5th by Samson Young at Talbot Rice.

As usual, it was wonderful to see the university’s gallery transformed into a bespoke space. Utilising the expertise within the University of Edinburgh’s Next Generation Sound Synthesis research group, Young created Possible Music – a composition for instruments that don’t exist. Testimony as to how such collaborations with researchers/academics and artists can reveal new and exciting explorations into the field of contemporary art.

A further playful, yet deeply considered, engagement with music is found in Muted Situations #22: Muted Tchaikovsky’s 5th. A vibrant film of an orchestra, on a huge screen, with a 12 channel sound installation of speakers on the floor surrounded by a rich yellow carpet. In ‘muting’ the instruments, we are tuned into the sounds of the orchestra itself – as a living, breathing entity.

Migratory Motor Complex by James Richards at the Collective.

A similarly bodily experience of sound was felt in the enclosed space of the City Dome, where James Richards’ intricate network of benches in the centre of the space encouraged visitors to move around, lie down, twist and turn, as the multi-channel audio enveloped and engaged with the space and those of us in it. Like Young, Richards’ is pushing the boundaries of our expectations and experience of audio, as his mix of sound effects, field recordings and electronic frequencies give way to vocals and vice versa.

Out of the city, but in my top three, was Joana Vasconcelos’ breath-taking Gateway commission at Jupiter Artland. Entering through the manicured hedges of the formal garden, the swimming pool is an explosion of vibrancy and life. Beautifully hand-painted tiles in a bold, colourful pattern contrast to the conventionality of the garden and the black brickwork, and are played off against the new silver dome to the side.

Gateway (detail) by Joana Vasconcelos’ at Jupiter Artland.

Despite the pouring rain, this new addition to Jupiter’s garden drew crowds as there is something about such a creation that revealed the child in all of us – I just wish I had brought my swimming costume!

Disclaimer – there were many shows I didn’t get to see during this flying visit. Fingers crossed for a repeat visit before it finishes on the 25th August.

Published on 02 August 2019