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The 2020 Edinburgh Art Festival was initially cancelled, but lived for a few weeks online and in gossamer strands in the real world in August, like so much else in this strange year, and was curtailed by the pandemic.
But despite all the constraints, some of the main activities of the festival have survived, including the Platform scheme, which provides time, resources and an exhibition for emerging artists to give them a much-needed outlet for their work.
The four artists were chosen in March, a week before the lockout, by Cooper Gallery chief curator Sophia Hao and artist Ruth Ewan, and can finally display their work at the Edinburgh City Art Centre, which opened this month. In a variety of creative mediums, the artists Rabindranath A. Bhose, Mark Bleakley, Rhona Jack and Susannah Stark work, but all are involved in questioning the sociological or political status quo in some way.
It was really one of the last things I personally did before the lockdown began,”It was really one of the last things I personally did before the lockdown started,”
“I took the train to Edinburgh and spent the day in a tiny room. I can’t believe we did that! We sat around the table and had interesting conversations about work, but on the train back in the evening it was so quiet. I remember thinking, This is serious. This is really happening. I’d like to say that the Platform program is the end of the lockdown, but no, it’s not the end, is it?”
Scotland has a track record of providing young artists with opportunities, but they are still difficult to come by, and much more so now that we are living in changing times. Part of the platform’s potential is to have some kind of room to be considered for each artist’s work, a substantial opportunity to display work. At this point, it is so necessary for artists, because it is very difficult to navigate the world of the exhibition. It is very difficult to get a foothold in the world of the exhibition, to find the physical space to work, the mental space, then the rent, the rent of the studio, trying to find the physical space to work, the mental space, then the rent, the studio rent.
The drive of a forum commission for certain artists helped them concentrate and persevere. “normally.”normally.”I hear more and more from artists who can’t be artists anymore. Of musicians who can no longer be musicians. We are in danger of losing a generation of artists. And that goes for older people, too: Artists of all ages face these problems.”
For selection, Ewan had her own criterion. I was searching for artists who were attempting to push the limits of what art practice should be, whether formal or conceptual risks were taken. I think what attracted me to the four artists was that with their work they each make social criticism in very different ways. Before, I didn’t know any of the artists, and it was a real privilege to get an insight into this generation of Scot artists.
In the week leading up to the opening of the show, all the artists I talk to via email tell me that their planned work necessarily changed due to the barrier, from Rhona Jack, a textile artist whose planned installation called for visitors to sit or lie down among the fabrics, to Rabindranath A Bhose, who during his performance was supposed to work closely with another performer. “Instead, I channeled the writing I had done in preparation for a performance script into a poetry pamphlet,” Bhose says.
Essentially, the pamphlet will take the place of the performers and communicate through symbols with the text. Nevertheless, Jack has created a textile installation, but without taking advantage of the tactile, sensory element of the job – there might be no touch – but implying it through the patchwork of used fabrics sewn and loosely hanging on the walls.
In order to explore historical examples of cohabitation, Susannah Stark, who works with music and art and has long been involved in personal cohabitation experiences, has created a soundscape, collages, and composite sculptures from the effects of beach combs and other found materials.
Finally, the col has been analyzed by Bleakley, a dancer who straddles art and dance