Adam Lewis Jacob: No Easy Answers (3 stars)

Adam Lewis Jacob: No Easy Answers

credit. Johnny Barrington - courtesy of Edinburgh Art Festival.

A dystopian exhibition from emerging Scottish artist

Shopping malls occupy a particular place in dystopian thinking; their soullessness seems to capture the emptiness of consumer culture. JG Ballard was drawn to them, as is Glasgow-based artist Adam Lewis Jacob, who references Ballard in his installation for Edinburgh Art Festival.

Jacob, a graduate of GSA's MFA course in 2015, throws a lot at this multi-layered work. The shelving units came from Maplins, the electronics store which went into receivership earlier this year citing the impact of the Brexit-weak pound as one of the reasons. The title of the show comes from a 1992 essay which is critical of Britain's membership of the EU.

Three screens show a film collage mashing together phone footage of shopping malls with family snaps, cartoon characters, advertising billboards and found footage from the Queen's Golden Jubilee in 1977. The boundaries between the personal, entertainment, corporate marketing and political identity become increasingly blurred. In the centre of the room, a group of desk lamps pulse out messages in Morse code.

It adds up to sensory overload, the same kind of over-stimulated alienation that is induced by too many malls. However, it feels like a body of work coalescing around a theme, rather than a directed response. Is Jacob gunning for capitalism, producing nuanced social commentary, or is this a personal response to his own memories? As with the Morse code, we're left wondering what it means.

Institut Français d'Écosse, until 26 Aug, free.

Adam Lewis Jacob: No Easy Answers 

  • 3 stars

‘The suburbs dream of violence.’ JG Ballard, Kingdom Come, 2006. For our 2018 Festival, Adam Lewis Jacob presents No Easy Answers, an experimental moving image installation combining manipulated animations, found material and interviews between the artist and his Nan, which are interrupted by short narrative excursions.

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