Seven must-see highlights of Glasgow International 2016

Part of Cosima von Bonins Whos Exploiting Who in the Deep SeaPart of Cosima von Bonins Whos Exploiting Who in the Deep Sea
Part of Cosima von Bonins Whos Exploiting Who in the Deep Sea
Ahead of the seventh Glasgow International, Roger Cox picks seven exotic highlights

There’s a huge array of Scottish-based talent on display at the seventh edition of Glasgow International, but as its name suggests, GI exists to create an ongoing conversation between Scotland’s leading art city and the rest of the world. This year there are artists from no fewer than 33 different countries taking part – here are just a few of the highlights from elsewhere.

1. Alexandra Bircken (Germany), Amie Siegel (USA/Germany), Lawrence Lek (England), Mika Rottenberg (USA) and Sheila Hicks (USA) at Tramway

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One of the key themes of this year’s GI, according to director Sarah McCrory, is “the legacy of industry and the relationship artists have to making, production and craft”; and there can be few more emotionally loaded explorations of Glasgow’s industrial legacy in the programme than Trolley by German artist Alexandra Bircken, part of this group show at Tramway. Directly addressing her venue’s former function, she has made work that interacts with the now-disused tram lines running across the floor. Lek, meanwhile, imagines the QE2 returning to the city where it was made.

2. Akram Zaatari (Lebanon) at Common Guild

Growing up in Lebanon, Akram Zaatari became fascinated by the power of the photographic image to reflect history, and to shape it. 
In 2013, he represented Lebanon at the Venice Biennale, and he is co-founder of the Arab Image Foundation, which seeks to preserve and study photographs from the Middle East. His show at the Common Guild – his first in Scotland – consists of photography, drawings and film.

3. Emily Mae Smith: Honest Espionage (US) at Mary Mary

Emily Mae Smith lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. At first glance, her polished, cartoonish, Pop Art-inspired paintings seem simplistic and two-dimensional. Tune in to the subtleties of her sophisticated iconography, however, and discover instead a witty commentary on 21st-century gender politics.

4. Cosima von Bonin: Who’s Exploiting Who in the Deep Sea (Germany) at GoMA

Also concerned with gender politics is German artist Cosima von Bonin, and her modus operandi – also referencing Pop Art – is not a million miles away from Smith’s. In Who’s Exploiting Who in the Deep Sea, she has created a cast of characters who, although “reminiscent of childhood companions” are not always what they seem. The show is apparently inspired by Roisin Murphy’s song Exploitation. When the singer found out on Twitter, and saw a picture of some of von Bonin’s sinister/cuddly creations, she responded with a solitary “?”

5. Monika Sosnowska (Poland) atThe Modern Institute

Monika Sosnowska lives and works in Warsaw, and the modernist architecture there and in other former Eastern Bloc states feeds into her powerful, angular sculptures.

6. Derrick Alexis Coard (USA) at Project Ability

Curated by Matthew Higgs, director of the White Columns gallery in New York, and installed in collaboration with Jim Lambie, US artist Derrick Alexis Coard’s show focuses on recent drawings from his ongoing series of imagined portraits of bearded black men – pictures he sees as “a form of testimonial where black men can be seen in a more positive and righteous light.”

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7. Andre Komatsu: Concrete That Makes Us (Brazil) at Civic Room at High Street

First exhibited in Sao Paulo in 2008, Andre Komatsu’s Disseminacao Concreta is a clothed, life-sized body of a man made from boulders. It will be displayed at the Civic Room alongside new installation work.

Glasgow International runs from 8-25 April. For full programme details, visit

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