Trudging through the wind and rain on my way to Summerhall to see Odysseys I myself felt like I was embarking on a kind of epic journey. Of course, my tendency towards the dramatic aside, the Summerhall exhibition – part of the ongoing Syn Festival – takes a much more high minded approach to its title. Odysseys features the work of burgeoning artists living and working in Scotland, their work inspired by our unstable contemporary socio-political climate. The work, we are told, takes as its stimulus Brexit and international migration.
These stimuli pose one of the greatest problems for Odysseys; to tackle just one of these issues would be a daunting task, to attempt both seems unfortunately naive. Instead of having a coherent, comprehensible and politically engaged exhibition, Odysseys has ended up being rather vague and lacking some much needed oomph. The exhibition doesn’t even limit itself to these two complex, indeterminate inspirations. It also cites notions of journeys, homelands, heroes and enemies, and the fantastically amorphous concept of the “other”. Even with this wealth of influences, some works remain out of place, particularly a video piece exploring queer identity through the gay clubs on Fire Island, which felt like it belonged to an entirely different exhibition. Safe to say, when it comes to inspiration, Odysseys rather over extends itself.
Despite some issues with organisation and theme, there is some great work on show. The exhibition is small, but it manages, within its limited space, to display a huge variety of different practices, mediums, and styles. One of the standout pieces is a ceramic by Marissa Stoffer, the work, called ‘Hive Mind’, is organic in form, taking inspiration from bee hives, but painted in sombre dark grey and black tones. Stoffer’s work plays on the current crisis of bee populations, using the hive as a metaphor for cultural collectivity and the currently unsettled state of the world.
Unfortunately the over-ambition of Odysseys slightly lets down what is generally a very high quality of work. As mentioned previously one of the central themes of the exhibition is immigration, and while all artists shown live and work in Scotland many are themselves migrants. Therefore the works exhibited seemed to have a genuinely interesting, nuanced and distinctly personal stance on immigration – stances that weren’t quite given the right platform on which to display themselves. Overall, what I would say of Odysseys is that there is no fault to be found in the artists or the artworks, but the exhibition itself leaves much to be desired.
Until 22 March 2018
Image credit: Effie Sutcliffe