Brian Ferguson: Feel the vibe for new artistic experiences
THE prospect of trying out a vibrating bed at lunchtime was tantalising to say the least. Much of the intrigue came from the destination in question.
Not The Bed Shop at the food of Leith Walk, as one might suspect, but tucked away inside one of Edinburgh’s leading galleries, the Fruitmarket, next to Waverley Station.
The sound of hammerhead shark routes shape the “3D audio experience” which, visitors are politely informed, is best appreciated lying flat out on a large platform after taking your shoes off. You can check it out for yourself for another couple of weeks as part of its exhibition devoted to the Galapagos Islands and how they have inspired artists.
But I found it an eerie and strangely entrancing experience and I’m sure it wasn’t just the height of the platform that left me dizzy. With all manner of controversy, bitterness and disharmony filling the air above the cultural landscape I was clearly in need of a meditative experience.
Kaffe Matthews’ work – entitled You might come out of the water every time singing – certainly had me thinking about whether it really was art. It was unlike anything I’d experienced before, but was also impossible to pigeon-hole, being much more than a simple sound installation.
The last time I could recall having such a dilemma was pondering Douglas Gordon’s 24 Hour Psycho, in which the artist slowed down Alfred Hitchcock’s film to produce his own talk on the classic horror film.
I spent a good hour in a dark room at the National Gallery of Scotland, lost in the experience he had created out of a 60-year-old film. At first I wondered what on earth it was doing in a national institution, but as I left I realised it had won me over.
I’ve been pondering some of the artistic experiences I’ve actually had over the last month alone – from studying the earliest cartoons produced for The Dandy comic and the iconic advertising images used to sell famous whisky brands in the past, to the lifetime’s work produced by artist John Bellany, which now has pride of place in the National Gallery, and how the earliest music of The Proclaimers is inspiring Scotland’s latest big-name movie, 25 years after it was written.
That lunch-time Fruitmarket experience set me off on different train of thought: is it possible to take in a piece of art every day, if you actually put your mind to it?
I’ve been unable to shake off the idea since then, partly because I love a daft challenge, but also because the questions it would pose have been coming at me thick and fast.
How easy would it be to find a different piece of art every day, no matter where you were? Seeking out the new and the different would be part of the intrigue, but what of the old and unloved?
Would it benefit my state of mind to take time out to appreciate some form of art or culture? Or would it become another stress and end up diminishing my appreciation of the work? Would my definitions of art loosen up as the weeks and months wore on? Perhaps I wouldn’t even get that far, giving up after just a few days.
If I’d been harbouring any doubts about the wisdom of all this, they were blown away on a visit to rain-lashed Kirkcaldy on Saturday. Inside the Fife town’s oldest church, fittingly named the Old Kirk, which dates back more than 800 years, I watched the National Theatre of Scotland transform that most famous festive story, A Christmas Carol, into a production that deployed all manner of modern technical wizardry and stagecraft, yet never strayed far from its Victorian roots and Dickens’ creepy creations.
My mind was made up there and then. I would try and take in, take part in, consume or merely appreciate some form of art every day in 2013 and see what comes of the challenge.
I can imagine days at the height of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where it should be possible to have more than 100 different artistic experiences in the one day.
I can also imagine plenty dreary days in the depths of winter when I’d probably rather hide under the duvet rather than venture out into the gloom. “Weather permitting” simply can’t come into this, can it?
At the moment, I’ve no elaborate plans to record this nonsense. If I can remember, and technology doesn’t let me down, I’ll try to post a pic or two on twitter every day.
Other than that I’ll simply take it as it comes. But in a year’s time that vibrating bed might have a lot to answer for.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Tuesday 21 May 2013
Temperature: 7 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 3 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: West