Platform 2018: New sensations light up the Art Festival's showcase of early career artists

This article is from 2018

Platform 2018: New sensations light up the Art Festival's showcase of early career artists

credit: Annie Crabtree, Body of Water, 2018, film still. Courtesy of the artist.

The chosen creatives for Edinburgh Art Festival's fourth annual Platform showcase discuss language, bodies and gender

In 2015 the Edinburgh Art Festival introduced Platform, a group exhibition that gives festival audiences the opportunity to see work by early career artists based in Scotland. Artists apply through an open call and are considered by a changing judging panel – with Jonathan Owen and Hanna Tulikki making the selection this year.

The artists they have chosen – Renèe Helèna Browne, Isobel Lutz-Smith, Rae-Yen Song and Annie Crabtree – may have just made one of the most distinct editions of Platform yet. Staged at the City Art Centre, this is not simply a show about emerging talent, but a sensitively curated exploration of bodies, identity, politics and the 'slipperiness' of images.

'It's a very experiential show – you can't be a passive listener,' explains Browne, who has created a new, sound installation with five vocal compositions linked to five different types of chairs in the space. 'Together the works are centred on thinking about language, both how it exists as speech within the body and outside of it, and then how it's governed or structured by society afterwards.' Browne is interested in the notion of 'perfect' speech, an idea associated with Received Pronunciation. '[RP] is spoken by only 2% of the population but is regarded as the most valued,' explains Browne, who is originally from Donegal. 'I started this project thinking about my own accent – and the specificity of that difference living here in Scotland. The work kind of took off from that subjective position,' she continues.

Platform 2018: New sensations light up the Art Festival's showcase of early career artists

credit: Renèe Helèna Browne, Research still, 2018. Courtesy of the artist.

The idea of perfect speech is 'a disavowal of uniqueness' for Browne. 'There is a cultural condensing that happens – which I don't like.' What Browne presents instead is a celebration of difference. The audience are invited to sit on a range of chairs – from a portable massage chair to an exercise ball – and listen to diverse soundscapes, from ASMR elocution lessons (autonomous sensory meridian response is an experience characterised by a tingling sensation on the skin, commonly triggered by auditory or visual stimuli) to tongue twisters and gargles.

Lutz-Smith takes a similarly visceral approach in her new multi-channel film installation. 'I have quite a lot of mouths in my work,' she explains. 'There is a point at which the tongue breaks the surface of the screen. It took 20 attempts. It was like a mouth exercise and I had to train my tongue to do exactly as I wanted.' Lutz-Smith's film is about the preparation of a meal (meat and two veg specifically) but also the deconstruction of a film: 'The videos are all synched together and the actions are happening around you. I don't really use film work in a narrative sense. It's more like choreography,' she explains, 'I shoot something and reshoot it again and re-edit it. It's almost like a collage, stuff built up on top of each other. I like the editing part where you can take out things … sanding it back to find a surface within.'

Platform 2018: New sensations light up the Art Festival's showcase of early career artists

credit: Isobel Lutz-Smith, The Impetuous Engine, 2016, film still. Courtesy of the artist.

'There's something in that – the trickery of the image,' says Song, in response. 'You see that in the media – something expanded and then it's cropped and means something else.' The 'trickery of the image' is a major focus of Song's own practice: for Platform she presents a handmade costume and lenticular print, through which a single image takes on multiple perspectives. Both objects are taken from a family outing; the latest chapter in an ongoing series of family portraits by the artist entitled Song Dynasty II. The print is the single image Song presents from the day; 'it's something that holds further information that needs to be interrogated further, but it's impossible – it constantly changes. Nevertheless, opinions will still form around it … I guess this speaks quite politically about how we decipher what we read and see in the media, particularly the representation of cultures considered to be "other''.'

The costume in the show takes elements from the Chinese lion dance and the Lion Rampant of Scotland, but is very much its own animal. 'It became unclassified,' continues Song, 'it's something of it's own culture, mirroring my identity – Scottish and Chinese and not fitting into either. But I'm interested in using those cultures as a starting point to create my own cultural language that I find personal meaning in and my own space that I occupy positively, rather than an emptiness that I regard negatively.'

Platform 2018: New sensations light up the Art Festival's showcase of early career artists

credit: Rae-Yen Song, It's a Small World, 2017, film still. Courtesy of the artist.

Annie Crabtree's work takes a similarly personal starting point, taking her own experiences of pain and hospitalisation as a means to reflect on the broader political narrative around women's bodies. 'I had surgery to operate on one of my ovaries – there were so many presumptions around this, like that I wouldn't want to have my ovary removed. This was never even discussed. There was little communication about what I can do with my own body,' explains Crabtree. This experience has shaped a new film, which combines archived footage from her operation two years ago with more recent footage of Crabtree swimming; a pursuit she has picked up to reclaim autonomy over her body. Over the film she reads extracts from Rebecca Solnit and Virginia Woolf as well as various medical journals and Wikipedia entries on pain.

'Throughout the process of making the work, right through to its installation, so many women have shared their own stories,' says Crabtree, highlighting what an invisible but significant issue this is. 'I hope the exhibition of the work inspires other people to speak out and feel they have a voice.' That's what this year's edition of Platform does more broadly; it has created a space for four young voices among the cacophony of noise during the festival, and together they creatively and generously share ideas well worth listening to.

Platform: 2018, City Art Centre, until 26 Aug, free.

Platform: 2018

Platform is Edinburgh Art Festival’s dedicated showcase for artists at the beginning of their careers. The 2018 edition, selected from an open call by artists Jonathan Owen and Hanna Tuulikki, brings together four female artists: Renèe Helèna Browne, Annie Crabtree, Isobel Lutz-Smith, and Rae-Yen Song. The selected…

Platform 2018: Renèe Helèna Browne

Platform is a dedicated showcase for artists at the beginning of their careers. Our 2018 edition, selected from an open call by artists Jonathan Owen and Hanna Tuulikki, brings together 4 female artists: Renèe Helèna Browne, Annie Crabtree, Isobel Lutz-Smith, and Rae-Yen Song. The selected practitioners, drawn from…

Platform 2018: Isobel Lutz-Smith

Platform is a dedicated showcase for artists at the beginning of their careers. Our 2018 edition, selected from an open call by artists Jonathan Owen and Hanna Tuulikki, brings together 4 female artists: Renèe Helèna Browne, Annie Crabtree, Isobel Lutz-Smith, and Rae-Yen Song. The selected practitioners, drawn from…

Platform 2018: Rae-Yen Song 

Platform is a dedicated showcase for artists at the beginning of their careers. Our 2018 edition, selected from an open call by artists Jonathan Owen and Hanna Tuulikki, brings together 4 female artists: Renèe Helèna Browne, Annie Crabtree, Isobel Lutz-Smith, and Rae-Yen Song. The selected practitioners, drawn from…

Platform 2018: Annie Crabtree

Work from Glasgow-based artist interested in the complex relationship between people, places and society.

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