Edinburgh Art Festival Announces 2017 Commissions Programme: The Making of the Future: Now

Edinburgh Art Festival (EAF) today announces details of the 2017 Commissions Programme, presenting new publicly-sited works across the city, opening up new spaces for the first time and offering a unique opportunity to experience hidden corners or often overlooked parts of the city.

In Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, the 2017 commissions programme invites artists to reflect on two important anniversaries for the city – the foundation of the first Edinburgh Festival in 1947, and the publication in 1917 of Patrick Geddes’ The Making of the Future: A Manifesto and a Project.  Separated by a generation, both were born directly out of the experience of global conflict, and a strong belief that artists could play a critical role in helping societies to imagine new and better ways of living.

A town planner, conservationist, social activist and polymath, Sir Patrick Geddes was a profoundly visionary thinker whose ideas continue to resonate with contemporary societies around the world. Writing during the First World War, Geddes was acutely aware that out of the destruction of war came an opportunity to build new and better ways of living, and his pamphlet, The Making of the Future, laid out his vision for a society driven not by ‘a machine and money economy’, but ‘a life economy’, advocating a central role for art and culture in helping to build this new society. Thirty years later, the Edinburgh Festival was founded (one of a network of arts festivals, including Venice Biennale and Documenta) with the ambition to ‘provide a platform for the flowering of the human spirit’, seeing art and artists as critical in fostering dialogue across nations in a Europe torn apart by war. 

Presenting eight new projects by Scottish and international artists at six sites in and around Edinburgh’s Old Town, The Making of the Future: Now pays homage to the physical and intellectual legacies of Geddes and the festival in the city, making a claim for the continued relevance of their core values and ideas today. For 2017, EAF will open in several new venues, many of which have not previously been open to the public before.

Highlights of EAF’s 2017 Commissions Programme include:

- A new site-specific garden studio by Edinburgh-based artist Bobby Niven for the urban wildlife reserve, Johnston Terrace Wildlife Garden (originally founded as a community garden by Geddes at the end of the 19th century). A social sculpture, this new structure will host artists in residence during EAF as well as act as a venue for environmentally focused-workshops, inspired by Geddes’ thinking.

- A giant dragon within the gothic kirk of Trinity Apse, by Walker & Bromwich, and accompanied by a series of lively performative rituals and a public pageant. Playful and utopian, the work invites audiences to consider alternatives to the dominant capitalist model.

- A major new multi-channel video work by the recent winner of New Zealand’s prestigious Walters Prize, Shannon Te Ao through his new video work, addressing the physical and emotional depths of love, grief and healing.

- A new sculptural work within Edinburgh’s Old Town, by Glasgow-based Toby Paterson, creating a landscape for reflection in Chessels Court, another site in the Old Town closely associated with Patrick Geddes.

- A weekend of events exploring the themes of this year’s programme, entitled A Summer Meeting (11-14 August), including a rare opportunity to visit to the original home of Geddes, Ramsay Gardens. Reflecting on Geddes' ideas of city development, housing, and the role of education and the arts, EAF will work with residential communities to co-produce events across the city.

- A dedicated showcase for emerging talent, Platform: 2017; selected by Graham Fagen and Jacqueline Donachie, features 4 artists, in the new venue for the festival, a former Victorian Fire Station on Lauriston Place, now part of the Edinburgh College of Art campus.

Paul Bush OBE, Director of Events, said:

“As the UK’s largest annual festival of visual art, EventScotland is delighted to be continuing its support of the Edinburgh Art Festival. The commissions programme is an integral part of the festival and is the perfect stage for celebrating Edinburgh’s two significant anniversaries during Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology. By using the city’s unused built heritage as its canvas, it will showcase the role artists have played in helping heal communities in the aftermath of global conflict.”

Sorcha Carey, Director of Edinburgh Art Festival, said: “In Edinburgh’s 70th anniversary as a festival city, our 2017 commissions look back to sites and ideas of an earlier champion of culture in our city: Sir Patrick Geddes. Geddes famously advised that ‘We need to give everyone the outlook of the artist’ - and in ‘The Making of the Future: a manifesto and a project’ published in 1917, he laid out his vision for a new form of society in which ‘Art and Industry… would henceforth advance in unison’. Profoundly international in his outlook and influence, Geddes’ ideas and thinking laid the foundations for the rich festival culture that has evolved in our city - and our programme of new work by Scottish and international artists, reminds us of his continued relevance in 2017.”

Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, said:

"The Edinburgh Art Festival is an important and anticipated part of the successful wider festival programme, encouraging everyone in the city to experience and celebrate a diverse range of visual art – especially in Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology.

“As Edinburgh and the Art Festival celebrate the 70th anniversary of the first Edinburgh Festival in 1947, the 2017 programme also marks the 100th anniversary of Patrick Geddes’ The Making of the Future: A Manifesto and a Project. The 2017 programme will inspire creativity, provoke thought and encourage debate, dialogue and discussion, supported by £140,000 from the Scottish Government’s Expo Fund.”

Edinburgh’s Lord Provost, Frank Ross, said: “In this milestone year for the Festival City, I am delighted the Council is supporting the EAF’s innovative and creative Commissions Programme. Celebrating the city and the people of Edinburgh, I look forward to welcoming artists from all over Scotland and the world to take part.

“As one of the nation’s pioneering town planners and botanists, Patrick Geddes shaped places in Edinburgh we still enjoy every day. From the Zoo to Camera Obscura, it is particularly fitting his work will be celebrated with a rare opening of another of his designs which was later to become his home - Ramsay Gardens.”

Amanda Catto, Head of Visual Arts, Creative Scotland, said: “This is an ambitious series of commissions that respond thoughtfully and generously to the legacies of the Edinburgh International Festival and Sir Patrick Geddes. Through the eyes of the artists the programme invites us to explore the city from a new perspective, bringing us to spaces and places that we might otherwise overlook.  Importantly, the commissions provide an opportunity for people to get engaged with - The Making of the Future: Now - and we are really excited by the possibilities that this presents for everybody that gets involved.”

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