The big art school degree shows in Glasgow and Edinburgh open their doors to the public tomorrow, but with so much work on display, navigating your way around it all can be a daunting business. Fresh from the previews, our reporters select ten artists whose ideas capture the imagination
• Gavin Fitzpatrick is one of the stars from the shows
Can a forgery be art? That's the question MFA student James Hutchinson seems to ask in his degree show display, which is inspired by the story of American forger Mark Landis. Earlier this year, Landis was exposed as the anonymous "philanthropist" who had been donating brilliantly faked works of art to galleries across the USA for the best part of two decades. Hutchinson visited Landis at his home in Mississippi and filmed him working on a copy of American artist Charles Courtney Curran's work Three Women (1894). This film, in addition to a number of pictures Landis was working on and had planned to donate before being unmasked, will be on display at GSA.
If American artist Jeff Koons is the king of kitsch, then Alice Essex (real name Alice Steffen) is its potential queen. Work in her degree show includes sculptural lamps made out of white stilettos and a dramatic installation consisting of two car doors hanging from the gallery ceiling that are reminiscent of an angel's wings. In addition to her skill as a sculptor, Essex also has plenty of brass neck: earlier this year she wrote to Prince William asking for an invitation to the Royal Wedding. The palace turned her down, but her letter is on display here, along with the official palace reply.
If you thought the intricacies of the Alternative Vote system were confusing, you'll find MFA student Kathryn McCain's work Double Bind even more so. McCain started by getting a group of people to sign contracts agreeing to relinquish their right to vote independently in the recent Scottish Parliament elections. Then she asked them to indicate their voting preferences and agree that, come election day, they would vote for whichever party received the most votes from the rest of the group. She describes the project as "a futile voting strategy, with ultimately nothing at stake, designed to reflect the paradoxical nature of the democratic system itself." The signed contracts will be shown in a stack as part of her exhibit.
Julia Scott's previous projects have included taking a group of women on a naked ramble up a mountain and leading a group of men down a Glasgow street wearing nothing but guitars and platform shoes. She is also inspired by the naked body paintings of Yves Klein, and her degree show includes works in a similar vein. At intervals during the week, the artist will spend time lying naked in her exhibition space, suspended by three gold strips of cloth, while members of the public peruse her work.
Sculpture and environmental art student Hannah Brackston has already won awards for her public art projects, which include a humorous hand-crafted steel gate for Glasgow's Bellahouston Park, but her degree show work has a less solid, more mobile feel. The Nomadic Workshop of Travelling Tools is a trailer full of craft tools and books on how to make things that can pack down small enough to be towed behind a bike. Gallery-goers are invited to apply for a chance to borrow it.
Gavin Fitzpatrick is exhibiting two works in his final degree show, both inspired by natural history. In the first, entitled We've a man nest, he has built himself a giant, hanging weaver bird nest, which he will continue to add to throughout the degree show. In the second, a film called Becoming Animal, we see him give birth to a shark, which emerges from his stomach, Alien-style. The baby shark is also exhibited, in a jar. No doubt Damien Hirst would approve.
Cameraless photography is in vogue at the moment – the V&A in London has put on a major exhibition on its history, featuring work by Man Ray and Anna Atkins among others, and artists such as Susan Derges and Gary Fabian Miller, long-championed by the Ingleby Gallery in Edinburgh, have seen their profiles rise in recent years. Into this expanding arena steps Elizabeth Hurst, who has used a disused shop front as a camera to create a 12-minute exposure of the scene outside.
According to her artist's statement, Stephanie Mann is concerned with "reality, surreality and illusion" and her exhibit Golden Fountain is hard to miss. It consists of a large pink tube which runs down a wall and across the floor, where it finally empties a flow of golden liquid into a giant plughole. Mann will present her work as a performance piece, handing out drinks of this fluid to visitors. We're reliably assured that it's completely harmless.
In an impressive step-up from Martin Creed's Turner Prize winning The lights going on and off, product design student Victor Woronowicz has developed Sonus Lux, an ingenious directional lighting system straight out of science fiction. Simply click your fingers and the light will come to the sound.
Too lazy to see everything at this year's ECA degree show? Never fear: Stuart Fallon is here to help. Effectively a degree show within a degree show, his work THIS IS NOW is a temporary exhibition space in the ECA Sculpture Court, and over the next nine days it will host a series of daily exhibitions consisting of material sourced from, or influenced by works from other degree shows elsewhere in ECA. You can follow the "daily degree show" on the blog: thisisnow11.blogspot.com
• The Glasgow School of Art Degree Show 2011 runs from tomorrow until 18 June, see www.gsa.ac.uk/degreeshow2011. The Edinburgh College of Art Degree Show 2011 runs from tomorrow until 19 June, see www.eca.ac.uk/degreeshow2011