Saturday, August 23, 2008

The House of Books has No Windows

This exhibition by Canadian Artists Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller is a must-see at the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh. Drawing us through portholes into imagined worlds, the installations intrigue, suggesting stories through movement, sound, silence. In 'Opera for a Small Room' a man's voice repeatedly comes back to a woman he saw walking down the road with her shoes in her hand, while his musical collection blasts out. There's a train, rain, a shaking chandelier, and a chaotic shack filled with his records and means of playing them. His story, his character, begins to coalesce from fragments, from our eavesdropping on his world, and isn't entirely comfortable.

'The Killing Machine', sinister and beautiful in equal parts has graceful machines sinuously set to perform some kind of torture as we watch.

In many of the installations both characters and stories remain unresolved. But strangely I didn't find this frustrating or unsatisfying. Rather like reading a short story, I was made to work, to fill the gaps and speculate about the meaning. These installations and the audio walks that Janet Cardiff is famous for and which I'll be working with in September, are permeated by fiction. And perhaps best of all, they stand on their own as an experience without the need of explanation - something I find a problem with much of the conceptual art that I see.

Read Laura Cumming's review in the Observer.

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