Provocative exhibition accompanying a live stone-carving project
This article is from 2009.
Entering the quad of the Edinburgh College of Art feels a bit like discovering yet another ill-placed tram construction site. The air is full of the drone of power tools, and dust clouds settle in your hair and mouth.
Milestone is an unconventional exhibition. In a row of tented booths in front of the main entrance to the ECA, ten sculptors are at work. Over the next 30 days each of these ten will carve a new sculpture out of a one to two-tonne block of stone.
It’s a project that will take shape through the month, and while I can vouch for the magnetism of these early days, when forms are only just beginning to emerge from the stone, there’s no telling, for the viewer at least, where anything’s going to end up by September.
But one of the things that makes Milestone truly challenging is the accompanying exhibition. The fruit of a three-year research project, this delves not only into the philosophies of sculpture – ‘the hand knows many things’ – but goes back to source with photos and films from the quarries where much of this stone comes from. Watching a white-haired woman in a sari bringing down an immense iron mallet, again and again, inches away from her flip-flopped feet; seeing the coconut-fibre vest worn by Chinese stone-carriers to protect the skin on their backs, and then going back outside to inhale the dust from the power tools, is one of the most unsettling experiences you’ll ever have at an art show.
Edinburgh College of Art, 221 6000, until 30 Aug (not Mon), free.