Edinburgh Festival 2013: Summerhall, Fringe venue 26


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The Independent Culture

Described by some as the most overly hyped show of the Edinburgh Festival, Gregor Schneider heads the bill of visual artists at Fringe venue 26, Summerhall. Süßer Duft  (sweet scent) does not, however, disappoint. Schneider brings his particular mixture of visual/sensory and performative elements together to produce a work that will linger long in the mind, I am sworn to secrecy but this is a work that you will not forget.

Summerhall is a unique venue. The former Royal (Dick) Veterinary School for Edinburgh University was purchased by Robert Lawrence for a reported £4.5m and converted into an arts centre that brings together the visual arts, theatre, music, archives and with the purchase of a large library – art and science in one labyrinthine building.

Fiona Banner’s show The Vanity Press resides upstairs in the slightly more stately piano nobile. Banner’s continuing interest in aircraft is reflected in Chinook, a balletic video of a Chinook flying gracefully to a playlist compiled by the artist. Janes (2013) another video also obliquely references her interest in collecting and all things military. The final teetering pile of books, The Janes book of planes, that she has assiduously collected, she says “illustrates the sense of futility and sculpture.”  

It is not just well established artists on display here; Coventry-based Martin Green has his first one man show Scuffed Underside, which highlights manipulated found objects collected over a long period of time. His most successful piece, a music stand recovered from a skip adorned with part of his enormous collection of cigarette lighters, is on display here.

If you are not careful you might miss the ambitious Michael Nyman film Man with a movie Camera, installed here on the “forest of screens”, eleven in total that Nyman demanded. Nyman has taken the wonderful film of the same title by Russian director Dziga Vertov and composed music and parallel images carefully synched to match the original. Sadly the swelling score and constant roll of images reflect more Nyman’s sense of self-satisfaction then adding to the wonder of the original, and I wish for something more meaty to chew upon.

Downwards I come across a courtyard filled with huts each containing a separate artist’s show. You can get a haircut for a bargain £10 by artist and barber Stuart McCaffer, and you may add to the hair sculptures that will accumulate during the festival.

Innovative Artistic Director Paul Robinson is clear that there is nowhere in the world like Summerhall, and after sampling only some of the myriad delights and enjoying its unique energy I leave determined to return and dig deeper.

Summerhall, Fringe venue 26 during the Edinburgh Festival continues throughout August