Edinburgh Student Arts Festival (ESAF) presents CHALLENGE// It is Possible to Challenge the Report’s Assumptions: an exhibition displaying a handful of works that are intended to encourage a playful and creative response from the viewer, which is not corrupted by the intentions of the artist. Through a combination of mixed media including sculpture, painting, performance and sound installation by a variety of different artists, objects and ideas are presented outside of their original context.
The first work made visible upon arriving is Anthi Kyriacou’s ‘Simulations with Beds’, which consists of a mattress placed on the floor on which the spectator is encouraged to lie and watch a live stream video on the artist’s Facebook account. Through this piece the artist explores the nature of technology, as well as its effect on the relationship between performer and audience.
Michael Kay Terence’s minimalist sculptures ‘In Plain Sight’ are next to attract attention, and stand out as a particular highlight of the exhibition. His works contain wit and satire whilst also embodying a deeper sense of unease and mystery. For example, his sculpture of a shovel pushing a brick under a rug is a humorous visual representation of the idiom ‘sweeping something under the carpet’, whilst also taking on a darker underlying ambiguity. Terence’s pantomime horse sculpture too displays playfulness tinged with an unnerving quality. As you walk past, there is a distinct feeling that the legs may be real and that the horse may move towards you at any moment. These works contribute well to the exhibition’s intention of encouraging the viewer to wander through the space in an interactive way, stimulating discussion and creating their own narratives around the installations.
Although there are relatively few works on display, Trinity Apse provides a worthy space for the pieces to be shown in a new light. Stefanie Blum’s ‘Altarpiece’, another stand-out, is placed towards the altar of the former church and provides a modern day apse covered in pink glitter. The lamp positioned to point at the installation creates a performance space, transforming the viewer into a performer. Elaine Cheng’s ‘Happy Accidents’ sound installation too blends well with the location by bringing a hymn-like quality and surreal atmosphere to the exhibition space. Niall Stevenson’s ‘Body As Machine’ paintings appear to take on a new meaning in their setting. They appear rather like stained glass windows on the walls of the church.
CHALLENGE is successful in creating a light-hearted and playful exhibition, one that is fun as well as thought-provoking. The setting adds real interest and gives a new edge to several of the works. However, the exhibition’s claim to create a surreal experience, leaving the visitor with an overwhelming sense of wonder, is arguably over-stating the lasting impression one gets from attending the show.
Photo credit: Michael Kay Terence
CHALLENGE// It is Possible to Challenge the Report’s Assumptions