A large-scale assult on the senses
This article is from 2007.
London-based artist Alex Hartley has covered the stern exterior of the Fruitmarket with a photographic replication of itself, containing maps of the many routes he recently managed to trace across it. No, this is not what one would usually expect from an artist familiarising themselves with a new gallery space, but amusing and unconventional approaches to modern architecture are typical of Hartley’s practice; in 2001 he published a book called LA Climbs: Alternative Uses for Architecture, in which Los Angeles is approached from the topographical perspective of the rural climber, exploring geographical routes over the exteriors of buildings and offering a fresh approach to this vain city and drawing a close parallel between the urban and rural landscape.
A number of large-scale installations within the gallery further deride precious attitudes to modern buildings, including ‘Case Study’, 2001, a structure made from translucent glass, wood and plaster constructed specifically for the Fruitmarket. It is a typically austere, Modernist building. At first glance it appears as if one could walk directly into its slick and imposing interior, but in fact the space we see from the outside is simulated, constructed from large-scale photographs pasted to the glass, making the space idealised and perpetually inaccessible.
Hartley also exhibits a group of photographs which further explore the similarities between the natural and built environment by documenting himself climbing across a range of Scottish buildings. The photographs question how much the experiences of climbing, or watching others climbing in unexpected places can alter established everyday perceptions of ‘correct’ ways to respond to architectural constructions, bringing to mind how different the responses of animals and young children might be from those of grown-ups. Far more fascinating are the ongoing series of personal photographs, ‘Don’t Want to be Part of your World’, in which Hartley has inserted small models of Utopian, individual buildings into areas of extreme wilderness. The buildings appear fragile, ephemeral and ultimately doomed to destruction. Bizarre and thought provoking, the unfamiliar buildings look as though they have been gathered from sci-fi. (Rosie Lesso)
The Fruitmarket Gallery, 225 2383, until 21 Oct, 11.30am–6pm.