Festival preview: Edinburgh Art Festival, various venues, Edinburgh, August 1 - September 1 2013
From the Fruitmarket to the National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, as the brochures editors might have it, is a year-round art destination.
But for a month each August, the city’s embarrassment of gallery-shaped riches put on a collaborative treat. And in a capital full of unusual spaces, one of the venues is a church which has seen its own resurrection.
“It used to be on the site of Waverley station,” explains Sorcha Carey, the energetic festival Director responsible for a line-up of immense depth and diversity, discussing the Trinity Apse.
“It was roughly where the Ingleby Gallery is. It was a massive church and had a whole order of monks that went with it.
“In the 19th century, when they decided they wanted to build a train station in Edinburgh, the powers that be said it was in the way, it had to go.
“But rather than demolish it, they decided to take it down brick by brick and number the bricks so that they could then rebuild it in another part of the city.
“In the end they didn’t rebuild the whole thing, just one of the Apses. It’s still quite near to Waverley, but it’s on the other side, on a slope in the old town. When you go into the church you can still see some of the numbers they made in the stones.
“It feels like a 19th century building, from when it was rebuilt, but a lot of the fabric of it comes from the 15th century.”
Given the holy gothic backdrop, an organ – made by muso-artist Sarah Kerchington, titled Windpipes for Edinburgh – is perhaps the most fitting installation possible.
“She’s been collecting organ pipes from decommissioned organs around the country,” says Carey.
“Buying them on eBay, getting them in markets – she’s going to build her own version of an organ which people will be invited to play.
“So it’s a very interactive and participatory piece, but it also has this very nice conversation with the building.”
Now in its tenth year, the Edinburgh Art Festival’s latest programme takes in Gabriel Orozco, Jeremy Deller, Man Ray and Paul Rooney, as well as a string of highly-rated newcomers, a range of site-specific public commissions and the mythology of Mary, Queen of Scots (as seen by Francisco de Goya) amongst others.
Another harmonious name on this year’s bill has a grouchier tack. The Complaints Choir is an arts collective inviting people to sing their grumbles around the world. Carey saw them in Stockholm.
“I was very interested in them because they're performative and musical,” she says.
“As a visual arts festival taking place at the heart of the world’s largest performing arts festival, we want a programme which acknowledges that context and the fact that we have a large crossover audience.
“There are a lot of people coming to the city who are interested in music and live performance.
“It gives us an opportunity to provide work from a visual arts perspective that touches those notes.”
The theme for this year is Parley – or, as Carey puts it, “the way in which arts and creative spaces generate debate, dialogue, discussion and agreement, particularly when you take art outside of the gallery and allow it to rub up against the public and all of the commissions.”
Former Turner Prize nominee Christine Borland, who will be working with New York-based artist Brody Condon, is an obvious headliner. Carey also mentions Bobby Niven (an immersive installation at a former ambulance garage), Lucy Pawlak (a feature film at Rhubaba Studios) and Robert Montgomery, whose site-specific sculpture will become his first in his native country when it is revealed along with most of the precise programme details next month.
“I think for us it’s more about the collective offering,” says Carey.
“That feels very, very strong.
"All of the individual galleries will always have followings. But collectively, when you share a single programme that’s including Turner Prize winners and emerging artists, you inevitably expand that sense of adventure and exploration.
"We’re celebrating being ten with confidence.”
© Courtesy Franz West Foundation / Gagosian Gallery. Franz West (1947-2012) Photo: Markus Roessle 2009
© Courtesy Gabriel Orozco, Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, Galerie Chantal Crousel Paris / Galeria Kurimanzutto, Mexico City
© Courtesy Jacob Dahgren