21 (3 stars)

This article is from 2019


credit: Jörg Baumann

Something completely different in the basement

Digital artist Mats Staub interviewed hundreds of people around the world, asking them to remember the year that they turned 21. This installation is a series of videos of these participants, listening and responding to their own memories: the amount of footage available, presented on multiple screens and running on loops ensures tht every audience member witll find their own way through the material, and have a different experience depending on their choices of speaker.

The speakers reflect on their past – the more ruefully the more distant the memories – and some have amusing anecdotes, others sad tales of love and hard choices. The honesty of many speakers is evident, and Staub's approach is unflinching. Less about theatricality than the performance of identity itself, with the participants exploring their own formative adult experiences, often confidently, sometimes hesitantly, sometimes second-guessing themselves, 21 does offer an immersive journey that acknowledges how every person has a complex back story.

Over the time, the experience of viewing becomes repetitive – partially emphasising the continuity of human concerns, but also thanks to Staub's studiedly neutral filming – and the material in itself is mostly unsurprising, if informative. It is the weight of content, and the patterns that come from even random selections, that lends 21 a certain grandeur.

Summerhall, until 25 Aug, various times, £8.


  • 3 stars

Mats Staub, Swiss Selection Edinburgh When did you turn 21? In this ambitious video installation, Mats Staub explores how world history is mirrored in personal memories. From Germany to South Africa, Australia to Scotland, he interviews more than 200 people from all age groups and backgrounds about their memories of the…