Edinburgh Art Festival announces Commissions Programme and Platform: 2019 artists

IEdinburgh Art Festival today announced details of five new projects specially commissioned for this year’s Festival as part of the annual Commissions Programme as well as the four artists selected to participate in Platform: 2019, the Festival’s dedicated showcase for emerging talent.

These new projects join the previously unveiled exhibitions programme as part of the 16th edition of Edinburgh Art Festival. Bringing together the capital’s leading galleries, museums and artist run spaces and featuring internationally established names alongside emergent talent from Scotland, the rest of the UK and beyond, Edinburgh Art Festival is a hugely diverse and engaging city-wide celebration of the very best in visual art.

The Commissions Programme each year supports Scottish and international artists to create ambitious new work specifically for the Festival. With a focus on taking work out of formal gallery settings and into public spaces, as well as building collaborations with Festival partners, the programme invites artists into conversation with the city, often offering rare public access to important historic buildings, and always engaging local residents and international visitors alike in citywide debates around wider social issues. 

The 2019 Commissions Programme looks to storytelling as one of the fundamental ways in which we make sense of the world around us and imagine new futures. Reflecting on the mood of uncertainty predominating UK politics as well as the dramatic upheavals in longstanding geopolitical axes across the globe, Stories for an Uncertain World invites perspectives from five leading contemporary artists working across a wide range of media, from light installation through to performance and film.

Internationally acclaimed artists Nathan Coley, Alfredo Jaar, Rosalind Nashashibi, Sriwhana Spong and Corin Sworn present new projects at sites across the city, including Parliament Hall, home to the Scottish Parliament prior to the 1707 Act of Union; Edinburgh’s ‘Bridge of Sighs’, the structure linking Festival partner galleries National Museum of Scotland and Talbot Rice Gallery; St Bernard’s Well, an eighteenth century neo-classical temple designed by the painter Alexander Nasmyth; and Edinburgh College of Art’s newly re-opened sculpture court.

Platform: 2019 will support four artists based in Scotland and at the start of their careers to make and present new work. Housed in The Fire Station at Edinburgh College of Art, this year’s group exhibition, selected by award-winning artists Monster Chetwynd and Toby Paterson, brings together new work by Anna Danielewicz, Joanne Dawson, Harry Maberly and Suds McKenna.

Commissions Programme – Stories for an Uncertain World

In 2019, as we continue to witness major shifts and upheavals in longstanding geopolitical axes, the Commissions Programme brings together five artists with new projects which reflect the uncertain times we find ourselves in, poised between the disintegration of an old world order, and taking the initial faltering steps towards an unknown future.

The Future is Inside Us, It’s not Somewhere Else is a major new project by 2007 Turner Prize shortlisted, Glasgow-based artist Nathan Coley, devised for the uniquely historic space of Edinburgh’s Parliament Hall, and inspired by the idealised views of a new world - as imagined by the old world of Europe - which appear on French 19th century hand printed wallpaper.

Les Vues de L’Amérique du Nord (Views of North America) is a spectacular series of landscape wallpapers created in the early 19th century by French artisan printers Zuber & Cie.  Still produced today by the original manufacturers, the wallpaper can be found in grand interiors throughout the world, including the Diplomatic Room of the White House in Washington DC (installed there by then First Lady, Jackie Kennedy in 1961).

Coley’s new project consists of a series of large-scale custom-made lightboxes which combine original wallpaper from Zuber & Cie with short texts selected by the artist. Coley is known internationally for his lightworks which situate illuminated texts in the landscape. His newest project looks to a set of imaginary landscapes as the site for a series of evocative texts which invite the viewer to reflect on ideas of utopia.

By siting the work in Parliament Hall, within Scotland’s Supreme Courts and where the Scottish Parliament met before the 1707 Act of Union, Coley has deliberately chosen a site in which assumptions and accusations are argued, and interpretations tested.

Supported by the Scottish Government’s Festivals Expo Fund and investment managers Baillie Gifford. With kind permission from the Lord President of the Court of Session and the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service, and additional support from Zuber & Cie.

New York-based Chilean artist Alfredo Jaar will present a public intervention which takes its title I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On from the closing words of Samuel Beckett’s novel The Unnamable. A large-scale neon sign quoting Beckett’s text is to be installed on Edinburgh’s Bridge of Sighs, which spans West College Street, and will be accompanied by a series of live interventions which spread the text through the streets of Edinburgh over the course of the Festival.

Recently awarded the prestigious Hiroshima Prize (for contemporary artists making work addressing humanitarian issues), Alfredo Jaar is known for projects which challenge our readings of recent historical and political subjects. For Jaar, Beckett’s words offer a perfect message for the era we live in.

Supported by the Scottish Government’s Festivals Expo Fund, EventScotland, part of VisitScotland, and British Council Scotland. With additional support from David Narro Associates and kind permission of National Museums Scotland.

A new two-part film by Glasgow School of Art graduate and 2017 Turner Prize shortlisted Rosalind Nashashibi (titled Part One: Where there is a joyous mood, there a comrade will appear to share a glass of wine and Part Two: The moon nearly at the full. The team horse goes astray.) is inspired by a short story by the sci-fi writer Ursula K. Le Guin. The Shobies Story (1990) follows a group of individuals as they come together in preparation for a journey to a distant planet using a new faster-than-light mode of space travel.

Nashashibi consulted the I Ching, an ancient Chinese divination manual, at the start of shooting and has used its response to shape the making of the film, and to title both parts. 

A close and empathetic study of how we form and build communities with all their accompanying strengths and vulnerabilities, Nashashibi’s new work is filmed in Edinburgh, Lithuania and London, and features the artist, her children, and a group of close friends whom she considers extended family. The film will be shown at Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Modern One.

Supported by the PLACE Programme, following the close of the Festival, the work will tour to Cample Line in Dumfries, as part of a new initiative to share work commissioned by the Festival with audiences across Scotland.

Co-commissioned by Edinburgh Art Festival, Foksal Art Foundation, Vienna Secession, Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, and Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. Supported by the PLACE Programme, a partnership between Edinburgh Festivals, Scottish Government, City of Edinburgh Council and Creative Scotland.

Canadian, Glasgow-based artist Corin Sworn brings together sculpture, performance and film in a new installation specially devised for Edinburgh College of Art’s newly re-opened sculpture court. Habits of Assembly explores how technology is fundamentally affecting the way we as humans experience our interior domestic worlds, as much as the external world around us. The project is developed in collaboration with poet Colin Herd, musician Jer Reid, and dancers Kai-Wen Chuang and Stephanie McMann, and looks back to experimental intermedia performances such as Set and Reset (1983) by acclaimed choreographer Trisha Brown and artist/composer Laurie Anderson.

Weaving together sculptural elements with roaming devices and cameras, Sworn seeks to situate the viewer within the entanglement of space – allowing the experience of an artwork to necessitate exploring, and actively seeking out viewpoints. Combining movement with objects, Sworn considers how we as humans navigate and process problems and obstacles.

Supported by the Scottish Government’s Festivals Expo Fund, Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh, Canada Council for the Arts and the High Commission of Canada in the United Kingdom.

Sriwhana Spong is a New Zealand artist, currently living and working in London, whose work often explores the relationship between the body and language. Her new film castle-crystal centres on the writings of the 16th century mystic St Teresa of Avila (the subject of feminist Julia Kristeva’s novel Teresa: My Love), whose book The Interior Castle imagines a fictional space, a castle-crystal, that Teresa roams as she explores, through writing, her spiritual journey. Spong is interested in how Teresa’s imaginary castle creates a free space for the imagination and discourse and offers an architecture in which women have the authority to speak.

Teresa’s fictional interior castle and the idea of text as an architecture or architecture as a text, is further explored in relation to a 12th Century Javanese poem the Bhomāntaka alongside the personal tale of a family bathroom. The film traces these intimate dwellings to consider fictional spaces as important sites for sparking visions of possible futures and future bodies.

Presented in the Institut français d’Ecosse, Spong’s new work is accompanied by a special display of sculptures in the exquisite 18th century neo-classical temple known as St. Bernard’s Well. Sited on the banks of the Water of Leith, and playing host to a sculpture of the Greek Goddess, Hygeia, Spong is drawn to the intimate architecture of the structure, the symbolism of its decoration and its situation adjacent to the river.

Co-commissioned by Edinburgh Art Festival and Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. Supported by the PLACE Programme, a partnership between Edinburgh Festivals, Scottish Government, City of Edinburgh Council and Creative Scotland. With additional support from Creative New Zealand, Institut français d’Ecosse and Museums & Galleries Edinburgh.

Platform: 2019

Platform: 2019 provides a dedicated showcase at Edinburgh Art Festival for Scotland-based artists at the beginning of their careers. Each year participants are selected by a panel including artists who have been previously commissioned by the Festival, following a Scotland-wide open call.

Presented in The Fire Station at Edinburgh College of Art, the Platform: 2019 artists Anna DanielewiczJoanne DawsonHarry Maberly and Suds McKenna, were selected from an open call by renowned artists Monster ChetwyndToby Paterson and Edinburgh Art Festival Director, Sorcha Carey.

As well as being supported to make and present new work as part of the Festival, the selected artists will also be supported through a mentoring scheme.

Suds McKenna’s intensely detailed character driven crowd studies record busy high streets, food courts, train stations and parks. McKenna uses humour to address issues of identity, personal narrative and mental well-being, in a series of works that include drawings, prints and sculpture.

Documenting his efforts and motivations as a Kate Bush fan, Harry Maberly combines performance and film to recreate the music videos for Bush’s Wuthering Heights and Babooshka. Through this work he investigates the phenomenon of fandom and the role of re-enactment in society’s consumption and regurgitation of mass media.

Joanne Dawson’s sculptural works derive from traditional textile craft techniques. In her new work she researches the history of smocking and pleating, and references their uses as an aesthetic technique used within work clothes and utility wear. Historically smocks often had embroidered symbols or imagery relating to the occupation or trade of the wearer; the artist is interested in the symbolism and subtle imagery that can be communicated through the decoration of clothing and textiles, and the ways in which we collectively shape our identity through design embellishments.

Anna Danielewicz’s work combines fiction writing, sculpture and sound in an installation and is based on a speculative story written by the artist, Voun Town, about a species who exist between verbs and nouns. Driven by research into fantasy fiction and environmental responsibility, Danielewicz considers critical ecological questions by exploring the relationships between human and non-human subjects.

Platform: 2019 is made possible thanks to the PLACE Programme, a partnership between Edinburgh Festivals, Scottish Government, City of Edinburgh Council and Creative Scotland.

With additional support from Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh. Mentoring programming supported by the Saltire Inspiring Scotland Programme.

Edinburgh Art Festival brings together the capital’s leading galleries, museums and artist-run spaces in a city-wide celebration of the very best in visual art during Edinburgh’s world-famous August festival season, and highlights the strength of the city’s year-round visual arts offering.

The Commissions Programme and Platform: 2019 showcase will run alongside a vibrant, diverse range of exhibitions presented and commissioned by galleries throughout the city, and an extensive programme of events and talks.

Further programme details for Edinburgh Art Festival 2019 programme will be announced in June, ahead of the full programme launch on the 24th July.   

Edinburgh Art Festival runs from 25 July – 25 August 2019.

Sorcha Carey, Director of Edinburgh Art Festival, said: “We are delighted to announce further programme details today of our 2019 edition, including the artists in this year’s Commissions Programme. United by a shared interest in language and storytelling, the artists participating in Stories for an Uncertain World look to the past as well as to imagined futures, to uncover stories which speak to us in the precarious present. The thematic finds echoes too in Platform: 2019, bringing together a new generation of artists based in Scotland with works which use fiction and humour to explore issues ranging from embellishment and identity; to sustainability and fandom.”

Fiona Hyslop, Culture Secretary, said: “The Scottish Government is a long-time supporter of the Edinburgh Art Festival and its commissions, having provided over £1.6 million through the EXPO fund since 2008.

“By bringing together some of the world’s most celebrated artists with emerging talent based in Scotland, this innovative programme demonstrates why the Edinburgh Art Festival has become a highlight of the festival season.

“I look forward to visiting some of the exhibitions this summer and hope many others will enjoy this vibrant celebration of visual art.”

Amanda Catto, Head of Visual Arts, Creative Scotland, said: “The Edinburgh Art Festival makes a rich, distinctive and engaging contribution to the city’s summer festivals.  It is a highlight of the visual arts calendar in Scotland and reflects the inclusive, ambitious and internationally connected character of the country. This year the programme reminds us of the value and importance of artists, especially in how they create opportunities for us to understand and tell our own stories in this complex and ever changing world.   We are delighted to be a funder of  the Edinburgh Art Festival and would invite everybody to explore the programme, take part, share and enjoy.”

Cllr Amy McNeese-Mechan, Culture and Communities Vice Convener for the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “Each year, the Festival invites artists from all over Scotland and the world to showcase their work in the Capital’s galleries and unusual exhibition spaces. This year it is especially exciting to hear that both the Commissions Programme and Platform: 2019, dedicated to new artists based in Scotland who are just starting out in their careers, are funded by the PLACE programme. The fund was designed to enable festival programmes to be diverse and global, benefitting new participants and future generations and these projects are perfect examples of how we hope to see the festivals develop going forward.”

Paul Bush OBE, VisitScotland’s Director of Events, said: “The Edinburgh Art Festival, now in its 16th edition, is an integral part of the city’s world-famous August festival season, showcasing Edinburgh and Scotland as a leading destination for the very best in visual art. EventScotland is delighted to be continuing its support of the Commissions Programme, particularly Alfredo Jaar’s I Can’t Go on, I’ll Go OnAlongside the other commissions and the wider Festival programme, it provides an ideal opportunity for new audiences to engage with visual art.”

The Commissions Programme is made possible thanks to the generous support of the Scottish Government’s Festival Expo Fund, EventScotland and the PLACE Programme, a partnership between the Scottish Government, the City of Edinburgh Council and the Edinburgh Festivals, supported and administered by Creative Scotland.

Platform is made possible thanks to the PLACE Programme, a partnership between Edinburgh Festivals, Scottish Government, City of Edinburgh Council and Creative Scotland.

With additional support from Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh.
Mentoring programming supported by the Saltire Inspiring Scotland Programme.

For more information, please visit www.edinburghartfestival.com or follow the Festival on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @EdArtFest #EdArtFest

Image courtesy of the artist, Alfredo Jaar

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