Corin Sworn
Corin Sworn, 'Habits of Assembly', installation view Edinburgh College of Art, 2019

Lauriston Place

In the afternoon, my brother will be leaning casually on a bollard eavesdropping on us as we walk past him after the performance. I will clock him but he won’t quite work out why I know his name. He will want to hear what we really thought of the dancer’s movements and the performer’s recorded voice directing visitors around the skeletal wall structure. [1] I won’t say to him, but the artist’s voice, played over itself in a series of delays during the performance for Habits of Assembly, will make me think about how dislocated my experience of community is from time and place. I’m connected to what’s going on, closely—but almost always in an hour, a few days, a week’s time.

My brother has returned, but I have to explain, even to him, that we are brothers.

Last time we met we had: plain t-shirts, black trousers, short light hair, big grins, a mutual investment in post-conceptual art strategies and a desire to talk through our reticence to let language or categories define that practice. Slowly our loose tie to kinship will be recalled by recollections of black pudding the morning after his artwork started orbiting the idea that We Are All U.F.O.-nauts. [2]

Rhubaba
Július Koller, 'Mysterious Cultural Situation 1.,2. (U.F.O.)', 1988. As seen on Rhubaba's website 20/08/2019

‘Look at your shoes.’

Seven years later: white t-shirts, short hair (this time with grey caps), black trousers and now both with the same brand of trainers and working in art schools. Another photo. Two brothers, together again.

Photo Copy
Two brothers. Photo: Eileen Daily
Eaf Rn
Rosalind Nashashibi, 'Part One: Where there is a joyous mood, there a comrade will appear to share a glass of wine', 2018. Google search 20/08/2019

Belford Road

That evening in a black box gallery the preview audience sits opposite a group, who appear to be an extended family, sitting in a front room overlooking a kitchen. The group is preparing for travel in time and space. Some crouch on the floor, some are on sofas. [3] There is a mood of radical potential, for alternatives generated through community formed in ideas and affinities. This possibility appears not to require much beyond togetherness. Some unmoor a boat from a sandy beach. Some stare together, planning incidentally. My brother appears on screen wearing our clothes. He has jump cut from this afternoon and is now projected into this kinship, travelling with them all.

Parliament Hall

Earlier that day, a friend and artworker will be at the end of something and looking for the words to describe it. I chimed in unthinkingly, offering ‘flourishing?’. The friend is talking of growing up and lets me know that where I would be excelling she would be flourishing—pervasive feminisation in praise and criticism.We are standing among The Future is Inside Us, It’s not Somewhere Else [4], where portraits looming over our heads personify power and privilege. Portraits of those for whom the word flourishing would never be used to keep them in their place.

The artist exhibiting here has chosen to add to the surrounding history. A selection of the high hung portraits have been temporarily moved to storage and replaced by lightboxes covered with elaboratively produced wallpaper designed in France in 1834. The wallpaper’s troubling tableaux depict life in the ‘New World’ occupied by a white-washed European colonial imagination. The paper was originally designed and printed when that same colonial vision of the world was being violently superimposed onto the geography and people of its real-life counterpart. The paper’s continued reproduction simultaneously bears witness to wilful European ignorance and the intentional destructive erasure of what is separated as other.

The fantasy is pierced with illuminated phrases: ‘YOU DONT KNOW ABOUT ME’, ‘BORN’ and ‘WE ARE THE MONUMENT’. A day later, on a friend’s feed, a phrase—set in mirror writing—‘LOOKING FOR LUCK’ reads across the glass of one of many representations of historic power in the room.

Eleven days later, my network of peers will introduce me to the late Toni Morrison. In three more days, Toni Morrison will tell me to talk to her, not about her. [5]

Brooke Miliken
Nathan Coley, installation view The Future is Inside Us, Parliament Hall, 2019. Photo: Brooke Milliken
Janet Cardiff
Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, 'Night Walk for Edinburgh'. A walking photo: Peter Amoore

Market Street

We’re told the audience is invited on a route through Edinburgh’s Old Town on a walk designed by an artist duo.On the walk, constructed scenes devised by the artists will be shown on handheld screens overlaid onto the changing activity of present-day Festival Edinburgh. We can sign-up at the gallery for this pre-recorded view of the city, but for now we can’t, we are meeting friends.

Over drinks, our friends reflect on the urgency of the artwork’s premise—of seeking out a plurality of perspectives, of holding multiple experiences together at the same time. From across the table, they tell us about The danger of a single story [7] —a writer’s talk given on the importance of widening our view and perspective, of empathising with others more consciously. She relates how dislocating an experience it was as a child to read so much American and British literature that she internalised the notion that fiction had to be foreign, using, in her first stories, references with little relationship to her own experience as she had yet to know that ‘people like me could live in fiction’. In a couple of days, I will hear: ‘All my characters were white and blue-eyed, they played in the snow, they ate apples and they talked a lot about the weather, how lovely it was that the sun had come out. This, despite the fact that I lived in Nigeria. I had never been outside Nigeria.’ In a couple more days I will be directed to Adrienne Rich who asks us to understand who is included in our ‘us’ and our ‘we’.[8] To know the specifics of our position, to know who we might be excluding in our fights for alternatives and multiplicities.

We go back.

Samson Young
Samson Young, 'The world falls apart into facts', installation view Talbot Rice Gallery, 2019

Nethergate

In another city and one week on, we will be talking about a video essay we saw at EAF made by an artist and composer who talks about the folly of seeking cultural authenticity. How cultural experience is constantly being modified when exported across borders. [9] We will jump to what we’ve seen in the news about Hong Kong, where the artist is from—where white t-shirts and canes violently approximate the policing of protesters who are fighting to retain degrees of autonomy. [10] We will talk about the responsibility of those with a platform and when that’s brought up, we should remember to talk about ours.

Hunter Lecture Theatre

There will be a two-week window between seeing the performance and attending the artist’s talk. [11]

When it happens, the talk will offer a precise and articulate alt text to the work on show. A thorough and generous processing of research into the social constructs of character as embodied by physical performances from 17th century Commedia dell’ Arte characters and their equivalent in today’s class-crossing precarious worker.

The artist will link this research to an ongoing investigation into structures, architectures and systems of power that govern the imaginations, actions and social and economic options of contemporary subjects. As she talks about our habitual use of self-surveillance and the ubiquitous lack of articulated choice in daily routines, I will find myself nodding as she is mid-sentence. I will realise this subtle form of interrupting comes from feeling like I agree with what I think is being said before it’s finished. This will make me see how predictive text has seeped into my habits of listening. My internal algorithms aligning in agreement with keywords and phrases that I assume I know, understand and agree with. Later, when I go to the artist’s talk and will be sat listening, I will remind myself to attempt to be aware of these limiting habits.

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[1] Corin Sworn, Habits of Assembly, 2019. Edinburgh College of Art. Edinburgh Art Festival Commission Programme.

[2]We Are All U.F.O.-nauts, Rhubaba, Edinburgh, 2012 http://www.rhubaba.org/u-f-o-naughts/Accessed 21/08/2019

[3] Rosalind Nashashibi, Part One: Where there is a joyous mood, there a comrade will appear to share a glass of wine, 2018/ Part Two: The moon nearly at the full. The team horse goes astray, 2019. Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Modern One. Edinburgh Art Festival Commission Programme.

[4] Nathan Coley, The Future is Inside Us, It’s not Somewhere Else, 2019. Edinburgh Art Festival Commission Programme.

[5] Toni Morrison Remembers, 2015. BBC Imagine… Accessed 08/08/2019 https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/…

[6] Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, Night Walk for Edinburgh, 2019

[7] Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie,The danger of a single story, 2009 TEDGlobal. Accessed 27/07/2019.https://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story?language=en

[8] Adrienne Rich, Notes toward a politics of location, 1984. As pointed out by Sam Ainsley in Sophia Yadong Hao (Ed.), Of Other Spaces: Where Does Gesture Become Event? (Sternberg Press, 2019), P. 41

[9] Samson Young, The world falls apart into facts, 2019. In Samson Young: Real Music, Talbot Rice Gallery.

[10] Hong Kong: why thugs may be doing the government’s work, 23/07/2019. The Guardian. Accessed 01/08/2019 https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jul/22/why-hong-kong-thugs-may-be-doing-the-governments-work

[11] Corin Sworn, Artist Talk, Saturday 10 August 2019, Edinburgh College of Art. Part of ongoing events at EAF: https://edinburghartfestival.com/whats-on/events

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Peter Amoore is an artist and curatorial assistant at Cooper Gallery, Dundee. All photos Peter Amoore unless otherwise stated.