Ruth Maclennan's Anarcadia takes Kazakhstan to Stills Gallery, Ffotogallery and the Castlefield

By Ben Miller | 13 April 2011
A photo of a woman sitting on gravel looking out under a bright blue sky on barren grassy terrain
© Ruth Maclennan, courtesy Film and Video Umbrella
Exhibition: Ruth Maclennan – Anarcadia, Stills Gallery, Edinburgh, until July 17 2011; Ffotogallery, Cardiff, April 21 – June 4 2011; Castlefield Gallery, Manchester, August 5 – September 18 2011

The central characters in Ruth Maclennan’s Anarcadia – an archaeologist and a prospector journeying across the barren deserts of Kazakhstan – symbolise the psychogeographical themes the London video artist has made her name in for the past couple of decades.

Their preoccupation with scratching deep below the surface of a land full of forgotten legacies both reflects the artist’s own passion for hidden stories and surveys the increasing exploitation of central Asia for mineral wealth.

The two figures’ stories overlap and contradict as confusingly as any argument for ownership of unclaimed wildernesses, but the underlying message is one of hope, positioning the terrain as “a beguiling, open-ended canvas for human hopes and dreams.”

MacLennan’s fascination with the relationship between mortar and mind began in 1989 during a spell studying Russian in Moscow, where conceptual and performance art in squatted studios and reclaimed public spaces surrounded her.

She later won an artist’s residency in the Archives at the London School of Economics, producing an acclaimed body of video work on the affects of architecture and design on behaviour which led to a film commission for the Wellcome Trust.

  • Stills Gallery open 11am-9pm (6pm Friday-Sunday). Ffotogallery open Tuesday-Saturday 11am-5pm. Castlefield Gallery open 1pm-6pm Wednesday-Sunday. Admission to all venues free.
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