With the start of a new academic year the excitement of creative possibility buzzes around campus, and for those of us new to the city and so too for students already attuned to the frantic pace of Welcome Week the chance to gather together and share a focal point of creative community is one much sought after.
As if sensing the need for such an arty party, the evening of 19 September saw the Talbot Rice Gallery open its doors after hours for their student welcome event and all-round start of semester shindig, hosted in collaboration with local phenomenon Paradise Palms.
The public art gallery of the University of Edinburgh stands at the crossroads of cutting-edge research and contemporary art production, a mission statement exemplified by its current exhibition and the focal point of the student welcome event, Samson Young’s Real Music.
The series of predominantly sonic installations takes guests on a journey through Young’s exploration of “sound and its cultural politics.” Entering the exhibition, visitors sit around twelve speakers set into the floor and watch on a cinema-sized screen as the Flora Sinfonie Orchester plays Tchaikovsky’s 5th Symphony, but with the most audible and recognisable layer of sound suppressed in the recording process.
This ‘muted’ performance leaves us only the raw physicality of the music; the scratch of bow on violin, the sharp breath of the woodwinds, the rustle of the musicians’ clothes, and in playing with our perceptions of sound Young’s technology constructs a tangible technicality that is utterly mesmerising.
Next door in the Georgian Gallery room another installation maximises the contrasts of the 18th Century wood-panelled hall and the futuristic playscape of the interactive piece.
Students and visitors are walking on and around the recognisable form of a giant trumpet, appearing to emerge halfway out of the floor, as speakers around the room play discordant fragments of computer generated ‘hypothetical sound’ resembling the noise that would be produced by a trumpet of its vastly enlarged dimensions.
Throughout this engaging exhibition the questioning of culture through a scientific and technological lens remains central to Young’s practice, leaving him, or us, with always more questions.
And it all ends (or maybe gets going) with free drinks and a party in the grand opulence of the Playfair Library. Following an immersive exploration of Samson Young’s imagined worlds the party, with DJs and live music from Paradise Palms, is a vibrant coming together and a return to the present and the real for students and staff beginning a new year.
Emerging onto the cobbled streets it’s easy to feel the presence of Edinburgh’s creative community, and it’s assuring to know that the Talbot Rice Gallery will keep on making noise.
Illustration: Holly Hollis