Summerhall plays host to a month-long residency by Extinction Rebellion, the headline-grabbing radical climate change protesters
Last year, one of the highlights of the Fringe at Summerhall was the gig-documentary Riot Days by Russian punk band Pussy Riot, telling the story of the 2012 protest action which led to two band members being tried and imprisoned in the gulag.
This year, the venue is keeping its finger on the radical pulse by inviting Extinction Rebellion Scotland (XR) to take part in a month-long residency in the basement galleries, hosting an art exhibition and a programme of live events which changes daily.
If the radical climate change protesters are better known for blocking roads, gluing themselves to trains or staging a 'die-in' at the Natural History Museum, the organisers of their Summerhall stint say it's time to think again.
Natalie Taylor, a Scottish artist who is one of the co-curators of the Summerhall project, says: 'In XR there are different working groups for different areas of expertise. As a practising artist, using culture to reach people in different ways really appealed to me. People think XR is about road blocks, but there are other aspects of the organisation, including using art to speak to people.
Earth Ensemble 'I think that art has a really great connectivity, an ability to reach people that can't be reached through other media. I think [it offers] more poetic, visceral ways of expressing one's reaction to the climate crisis, allowing thinking about our place in the natural world and trying to create a bridge between ourselves and people who might be afraid to acknowledge the enormity of the problem.'
The group issued an open call for artwork which speaks directly to XR's three demands: that the government tells the truth on the climate and ecological emergency, that the government acts now to reduce biodiversity loss and commits to net zero carbon emissions by 2025, and the creation of a Citizens' Assembly to oversee the changes.
The works selected take a range of approaches, some tackling the issues head on, others engaging more obliquely. Artists engage with diverse subjects from melting ice caps to the food industry, plastic waste to endangered species, and works range from creative archaeology to a painting created with mica dust, gum arabic and human tears.
Gabrielle Gillot's 'Safe Haven', a long lilac corridor leading into an empty bunker in a post-apocalyptic world, which was one of the highlights of this year's Edinburgh College of Art degree show, will be recreated for the show.
Taylor says: 'When I saw it, it blew me away. It invited you to put yourself in the position of the person who might be prepping for that moment. It makes you think: is prepping logical? How can you prepare for multiple food crops collapsing?'
The finale of the residency will be a project by Monster Chetwynd, the 2012 Turner Prize nominee who was recently the focus of a NOW exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. Chetwynd will run workshops on 18 August to create costumes and props then host a performance that evening dedicated to raising awareness of insects, which are particularly badly affected by biodiversity loss.
Daily live events will include performances and film screenings aiming to create conversations and grow the XR movement, with contributors such as Earth Ensemble, Glasgow's ecological festival UNFIX, experimental theatre company Oceanallover and Tom Bailey aka Mechanimal.
Taylor says: 'The fact that we're in the basement is really interesting. We've been very underground, a grassroots movement. Are we going to emerge from the basement of the public psyche into a more public space?'
Extinction Rebellion, Summerhall, until 25 Aug, free but ticketed.
Located in the heart of Edinburgh's Southside, Summerhall is a multi-arts venue with a varying programme of events that take place all year round, from exhibitions and workshops to gigs and club nights. With a range of spaces including the TechCube, a…