Kevin Harman: Ltd Ink Corporation is a solo exhibition created by an ex-Edinburgh College of Art student by the name of, you guessed it, Kevin Harman. Produced by a man whose projects have caused controversy since his student days, this exhibition focuses on challenging institutional power and encourages visitors to reflect on their own situation.
The multimedia exhibition is held in a warehouse within a large industrial estate in Leith Docks. The space itself is vast and intimidating, and the size swallows up the pieces. Although they are well spaced throughout the setting, none are particularly large and they are seemingly unrelated with a lack of interconnection. This lack of cohesiveness stems from the variety of media used, ranging from a skip installation and a video of the creation of it, to a bed and a mirror.
In the run up to the exhibition opening, Harman’s team working alongside him described the artist as being “fascinated by criminal evidence left in the wake of civil disobedience, windows, particularly broken ones, carry huge significance for the artist.”
A previous gallery prosecuted him for a broken window, a medium which featured heavily in this exhibition. The glass itself was striking. However, the institutions represented through the choice of shop-fronts used such as Picasso Hairdressing and British Heart Foundation don’t seem to carry a message, further contributing to the mismatched nature of this exhibition.
Though not fitting with the themes present in the exhibition, some pieces are able to stand alone and are aesthetically pleasing enough to not need a concept behind them. ‘Glasswork’ and ‘Optician 4’ should not go without mention: in fact, the pieces would not look out of place in a Modern Art museum. Unfortunately, this cannot be said for every artwork, as other pieces are enhanced by – if not rely on – the descriptions provided.
Harman confronts house ownership and homelessness in ‘Being Homeless is Hard, Having a Hoose is Harder Parts I-III’. As a collection it could easily stand alone, without explanation. If nothing else, the benefits for the homeless population through use of the profits made from the pieces make this exhibition a positive thing.
The artist creates a commentary on the commercialisation of certain institutions, particularly art and religion, through pieces suggestive of corruption and nepotism. Although religion featured in multiple artworks in the exhibition, for example an interactive confessional booth made in collaboration with an unnamed research department within the university, it was heavily out of place.
Whilst some items seemed to be just superfluously filling in space, a suggested order of seemingly unrelated pieces culminates with ‘Forever’, a mirror on a mezzanine overlooking the rest of the exhibition. It encourages self-reflection and a realisation of privilege. This affronting piece raises contemplation whilst simultaneously building cohesion around the other pieces, enhanced by the size and openness of the space. Looking over the eclectic collection makes the visitor more aware of the overarching themes of power and social issues at play.
Kevin Harman: Ltd Ink Corporation
Photo credit: Chris Scott (‘Shop That Never Opens 2017’)