THERE are lots of reasons to look forward to Sonica, a “Glasgow-wide celebration of sonic art” taking place over 11 days in November.
It will include the world’s smallest opera, staged inside a desk at Scotland Street school (including a ‘visit’ to the orchestra pit), an installation in which birds play the piano, and a string quartet performing inside what looks like a cross between an hourglass and the teleporters in Star Trek. And no, I am not making any of this up. Go and have a look for yourself at www.sonic-a.co.uk
Most intriguing for me, though, is the fact that its artistic director Cathie Boyd, right, insists Sonica is not a festival. Excellent news. Scotland has become infested with the things, to the point where nobody seems capable of organising more than one event at the same time without insisting on calling it a “festival”.
What’s wrong with that? On one level, nothing. It helps introduce people who like one kind of thing to something else that they might not ordinarily be interested in (like this weekend’s youth-oriented, thoughtfully programmed THAT festival at the Macrobert in Stirling, which has political theatre, the band We Were Promised Jetpacks, and Mark Cousins, right, waxing lyrical about obscure films, all under the same banner).
But why this obsession with turning every collection of events into a “festival”? In most cases it seems to have a lot to do with marketing and little to do with art. A festival, by definition, is “a period of celebration” – which is probably why Creative Scotland loves festivals so much, it being an organisation whose leaders are obsessed with celebrating the arts as publicly as possible but often appear very unsure of why the arts are important in the first place. But art and celebration are not the same thing. Much of the most powerful art is anything but celebratory – it is dark, difficult, awkward and antisocial.
To be fair, that kind of art is not obviously being excluded from Scotland’s festival-obsessed culture – instead, festivals are invented to accommodate it (by organisations like Arika, for example). I just wish they didn’t always have to be called festivals. So thank you, Cathie Boyd, for breaking that pattern. Good luck with your upcoming, er, thingy.
CREATIVE SCOTLAND (AGAIN)
IF, as some have suggested, the recent complaints against Creative Scotland have lacked focus, it’s partly because so many people have so many issues with Scotland’s national arts funding body that it is difficult to know where to start.
The good news is that Creative Scotland now seems to be listening. There will be two public meetings this month at which questions can be asked and grievances can be aired. One is at Creative Scotland’s office at Waverley Gate, Edinburgh, on 26 October. The other is at Tramway in Glasgow on 31 October. Reassuringly, both have been organised by artists rather than Creative Scotland itself – although the organisation will be represented. It’s a brave and positive move on Creative Scotland’s part. Poet Don Paterson, who recently described the organisation as “a dysfunctional antheap”, will reportedly be at the Edinburgh meeting. If you’re at all interested or invested in the state of the arts in Scotland, you don’t want to miss this.
WHAT’S THAT SMELL?
Smelled any good sculptures lately? Sniffed out any good exhbitions? I only ask because I’ve just been alerted to the existence of ScentAir – a company that specialises in using “advanced subliminal techniques … to help create a unique, pleasing atmosphere”.
Apparently the UK-based outfit has already installed thousands of its scent “delivery systems” in shops, restaurants and – yes – art galleries all over the world, pumping out upwards of 2,000 different fragrances to subtly alter the brain chemistry of unsuspecting punters.
This raises all kinds of interesting questions, not least of which is: have The Scotsman’s art critics ever been unwittingly influenced by ScentAir? We don’t think so, but rest assured we’re looking into it, and in future we may have to impose some sort of handicap system whereby venues using ScentAir to make their art seem more wonderful than it really is have a star deducted.
Unless, of course, the scent is chosen by the artist as part of their work – see, for example, Martynka Wawrzyniak’s new creation Smell Me, which opens at envoy enterprises in New York on 20 October. The artist has apparently created a synthetic replica of her own body odour, using samples of her sweat, tears and hair. Will ScentAir be using l’eau d’Martynka in their delivery systems any time soon? Can’t see it being a big seller, to be honest.
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Tuesday 21 May 2013
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