Charles Darwent on the Edinburgh Art Festival: It's war and peace in the living room

5.00

Some of this year's most worthwhile shows are to be found in the most unlikely places

One joy of the Edinburgh Art Festival is being made to see work you know you're going to hate and finding, to your annoyance, that you don't. Thus, for 2013, Christine Borland and Brian Cody's Daughters of Decayed Tradesmen (New Calton Burial Ground, to 1 September).

On paper, this ticks every box for Darwent dislikeability. First, it is collaborative, the word "collaboration" appearing between "appropriation" and "intervention" in my index of tiresome art terms. Second, it seems over-conceptualised – the oral histories of ex-Trades Maiden hospitallers recorded on Jacquard punch cards, these hung like skeins of cloth in a cemetery tower. Too much; except not. For this kind of work to work, head, eye and heart have to come together, and, in Daughters of Decayed Tradesmen, they do. Borland and Cody's installation has the Jungian beauty of Angela Carter. I recommend it highly.

Peter Liversidge's doppelgänger (Ingleby Gallery, to 21 September) blurs the living and dead, Liversidge having remade a suite of etchings, Ein Handschuh (1881), from the Austrian Symbolist, Max Klinger. That's collaboration and appropriation: double-tsk.

Still, you sort of see the point. Appropriately for Edinburgh, Liversidge's grave-robbing has a faint whiff of Burke and Hare. Also of deep oddity, the titular glove in the blow-ups of Klinger's etchings materialising, in ghostly marble, on the floor in front of them. These are certainly more impressive than Liversidge's other festival offering, flags with the word HELLO on them flapping grimly around the city.

Krijn de Koning's Land (Edinburgh College of Art, to 1 September) is not so much collaborative as invasive, the Dutchman having taken over, as Dutchmen will, an entire art-school sculpture court. By moving the resident casts around and raising and lowering the floor, De Koning brings his dead subjects to life.

Disturbing life, it must be said – the winged Victory of Samothrace has sunk up to her waist in the new floor-plinth, while all that is left of one horse of Helios is a few sorry inches of mane. At once clever and moving, De Koning turns space into time, casting the college sculptures in a drama of their own forgetting, re-writing history as tragi-comedy. Asked by the artist what they thought of their casts, students at the college replied that they never looked at them. They will now.

Central to this Festival's collaborative theme is an exhibition called Mostly West (Inverleith House, to 22 September) – a title that gives the game away, all the works in it having been made by Franz West with other people. A believer in art as a group activity, the Austrian, who died last year, worked in this and that – chicken wire found favour for a time, as did papier mâché. In the 1990s, he made sculptures that resembled frankfurters, and were meant to. "It doesn't matter what art looks like, but how it is used," West said.

And so, at the top of the stairs, is Spaghetti West, a Mexican bandit made out cigarettes by Sarah Lucas. (This bandido is dangerous. A packet on the floor below says, "Smoking kills.") Except that he isn't by Lucas, but by Lucas and West. ¿Que? Exactly. If I understand West correctly, it takes two to make art, an artist and a viewer. Why not, then, two artists and a viewer, or any permutation of these? Others agreed with him, the roll call of part-West artists being impressive – Albert Oehlen, Jannis Kounellis, Richard Artschwager, Michelangelo Pistoletto, et cetera. Seen together, a collective collective, the works in Mostly West make a deeply subversive claim: that art may be ordinary, and artists, too. I can't pretend I feel West, but I do admire him; maybe even love him a little.

The only collaboration I could find at Fiona Banner's The Vanity Press (Summerhall, to 27 September) was a neon ampersand linking the show to Lawrence Weiner's next door. That'll do, I suppose. As with West and Liversidge, Banner's work questions the worth of originality: her art is often made out of other people's, and there is a stack of "original" Banners to take away for free.

There's no questioning the originality of her three new films in this show, though, most notably Chinook, in which a military helicopter performs a sinister aerial ballet. You'll recall the Harrier jump jet Banner installed in Tate Britain in 2011, its mix of pathos and threat.

 

Chinook's aerobatic set pieces – Double Dipper, Begging Dog, Arse in the Grass – bring these same qualities to a life so scary as to be barely watchable.

It is in the nature of the Edinburgh Festival that the least obvious things are often the most worthwhile, and so I refer you to the front room of Rose Frain, an artist, like Banner, with an abiding horror of war. (By appointment, www.rosefrain.com.) Frain uses the language of domestic Edinburgh to question conflict, Afghanistan being her latest fascination. The hearth stone of her fireplace, lightly rubbed with rust, becomes the story of all wars, of the women they preternaturally effect. Make time to go.

Critic's Choice

Step into the colourful world of Patrick Caulfield in this major survey of the artist’s work at Tate Britain (to 1 Sept). Caulfield, who died in 2005, came to prominence in the 1960s after studying at the Royal College of Art alongside David Hockney. Although often labelled as Pop, Caulfield preferred to see his bright still-lives and interiors as following in the formal tradition of Braque and Gris.

 

Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood

'Whether he left is almost immaterial'TV
Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May

film

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before