Bad Entertainment

Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Until 8th May

The ground floor contemporary gallery of the Portrait Gallery houses the exhibition Bad Entertainment. It was created by young Scottish people, drawn from local Youth Services and schools, with no previous artistic training.  In a world where contemporary art can sometimes seem irrelevant and perplexingly obscure to young people, this project provides a means for the creators to freely express their feelings on topics that are important and relevant to them, focusing on their perception of the world in which they have, and are, growing up in, and what this could mean for their future.

On entry, the exhibition conveys a striking and dystopian feel, as the viewer is initially confronted by a barrier of flickering television screens. Contradicting words and phrases flash quickly one after the other on some, while others present garish block arrows continually whizzing in different directions. These images placed side by side convey a sense of disorientation, and are reminiscent of an imagined futuristic dystopia.

The main body of the exhibition is displayed inside the industrial themed cage area and consists of drawings, models, objects, flags and two videos made by the young artists. The cage walls are lined with paper masks, all decorated individually with slogans and symbols to convey each artist’s thoughts. Many focus on the pressures of conforming to modern day expectations and the bleakness of the future using bold and sometimes shocking statements. Viewed from the inside of the cage, these masks cast harrowing shadows onto the walls: rows of identical and expressionless face shapes which tie in well with the overall themes and atmosphere of the exhibition.

Not only do the young creators express their dissatisfaction and fears about the reality in which they live, they also tie in elements of fantasy. Childish plasticine models are labelled as “voodoo dolls” to protect the young people from the dangers of the outside world. A single brick with “Alloa” carved into it is labelled as the only thing left once the zombies have taken over. This takes the dystopian theme of the exhibition to the extreme, as a result making the ideas and statements about the real world seem less serious as a whole. However, the fantasy element also acts as a reminder that the creators are young people, and shows us the frightening fantasy world that the young mind can create.

The main pieces in the exhibition are the videos which continue the twisted image of the world around us. In one video, the young artists express their views, protest style, in front of an abandoned psychiatric hospital while wearing masks. Again, this conveys the theme of lost identity but also adds an unsettling and alien quality to the figures. This could be seen as making a bold statement as to how estranged and alienated they feel from society around them.

Overall this exhibition is well worth going to see. Its atmosphere and messages are bold, striking and thought-provoking. What is also impressive is the level to which these creators were able to articulate their thoughts so clearly and emotively. The viewer gets the feeling that these young artists are, without restraint, laying down their bare and truthful views about being a teenager in the modern world.

Image Credit: Scottish National Portrait Gallery

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