An opening night is both the best and worst time to try and see any exhibition. The volume of excited noisy people will make it difficult to get around, nigh-on impossible to try out any interactive pieces, and talking to the artist will require a good deal of awkward hovering at the edge of someone else’s conversation. Despite this, being part of the excited and noisy group is more of an engaging and fun way to see everything for the first time than moving through a quiet gallery. And so, as most DJCAD students will have done, I went to opening night, returning again in the following quieter days.
I first witnessed the work of Evelyn Law, a large sculptural instillation of curving wood and audio-emitting holes cut into the inner curve, which viewers could walk around and into. Although borrowing the title of Nietzsche’s “Eternal Return”, the work’s philosophical backing leans more towards ideas of contemplative experiences, and the relationship between internal and external realities. The light in the space is altered by cloth that covers the windows, creating a soft and calming effect. The muted colour palette of the room, with the blank wood of the sculpture as well as the traditional white cube gallery space, creates an atmosphere that draws the viewer into a meditative relationship with the work.
In a dark room far to the other side of the art school is Fiona Powell’s video performances and installation. The installation, which provides the set for the videos playing, is a mound of dark earth with a ceramic cauldron sitting in the centre, the cauldron being a powerful image from the Celtic myths that the artist draws from. Mixing the stories of her heritage with strands of platonic philosophy, the main performance video shows the artist nude, lying on her side next to the cauldron, her face mostly concealed. With tremendous focus and purpose, the video hones in on the subtle movements of the artist’s back and hands, making the piece surprisingly intense. The darkness contrasts starkly with the artist’s skin and hair tones giving the instillation a strong sense of place.
One of my favourite pieces from the show was Lotte Fisher’s strongly immersive installation. The viewer must duck to enter the room through a tunnel, the walls of which are inscribed with words in an alphabet invented by the artist. Upon emerging from this tunnel, the viewer turns around to find a green hillside populated with dozens of small sculptural pieces – of people, buildings, and strange alien animals. This is the world of Tenzig, which we encounter through the documentation of the artist’s alter-ego, an explorer named Freeman ManInesker.
Perhaps taking the most interesting approach to technology in art, Meadhbh Nic Nuadhait’s work plays on the differences between facial expression, through the use of photography, and the thoughts within, explored through a headset that reacts to thought to create light shows. This was achieved with a bit of interesting hardware and some clever Arduino programming. Although very impressive, the lasers should not overshadow the photographic element of her work, which is extremely sensitive and attentive to the models. Printed large and in high quality, the images are a pleasure to look at and engage with.
Receiving praise from local and national news, the standard across the whole of Duncan of Jordanstone’s degree show is outstanding. Students of every department have done their school proud, and I urge anyone who has not yet seen it to do so, and to follow the careers of as many of the graduates as they can keep track of.