The dust has now settled since the closing of Edinburgh Art Festival 2023, the first under the care of new director Kim MacAleese. Reflection has ripened. In a new turn, learning and community engagement and an events based programme of Sunday Salons took centre stage alongside the traditional offerings—Platform, partner projects and permanent works. The festival centred interventions—both grand and modest—and happenings as powerful gestures of solidarity during struggles, gathering together the work of a diverse group of artists who are thinking about, and deeply connected to, feminist and queer practice.
Throughout my attendance I was struck by the quietude of many of the EAF showcases, in contrast to the drilling hubbub of Edinburgh in August this highlighted the pervasiveness of MacAleese’s underlining enquiries when faced with the duplicity and contradictory nature of the local context.
At the press introduction we spoke of access, welcoming spaces, responsive ethical ways to curate in a civic world under pressure, of who gets the right to speak and on what terms. The curatorial rationale foregrounded reasons to come together—exemplified by the events and educational programmes—as well as performances and meals. The programme prioritised the movement of the body and that which documents it, holding space for difficult, traumatic subject matter and balancing it with moments of joy, dancing and free tea and coffee at the Hub. This year’s presentation understood ambivert experience: the library, the exhibition, the dance party, full of feminist interventions within the architecture of both festival format and city, attempting to make sure, as Gemma Cairney, the festival’s chair person notes, ‘ …everyone in our area, networks, households has a space to come and take part and have access’. The 19th edition slips in before EAF double decade celebrations as a moment of innovation and a hope for activism by cultural exchange.
The four responses published in MAP were commissioned in symbiosis with such aims, attempting to match viewer, reader, watcher with an event or artwork that would create space for their own practice, on this occasion in the written form, to breathe and move. Caitlin Merrett King attends the Jupiter Artland X EAF party to intriguing avail, Dr Phil Crockett Thomas is captivated by Nat Raha’s poetry performance: epistolary (on carceral islands), Calvin Laing makes notes on Sean Burns’ Dorothy Towers and Saoirse Amira Anis writes a love letter to Christian Noelle Charles’ WHAT A FEELING! | ACT I at Edinburgh Printmakers. Finally, I was lucky enough to chat briefly with Markéta Luskačová about her practice and exhibition at Stills, 12 August-7 October.
Rosie Roberts is an artist, writer and editor in Glasgow generally working collaboratively through ideas of synchronicity, time, locality and affect. Trying Notations an exhibition of Roberts’ new work will open at Glasgow Project Rooms on 2 December.
Edinburgh Art Festival 2023, 11–27 August 2023. Several exhibitions/interventions continue until October and beyond.