Dieter Roth: Diaries (3 stars)

This article is from 2012

Dieter Roth: Diaries

Moving and sensitive, if frustrating, insight into Roth’s final days

A wall full of flickering video screens dominates the downstairs space of the Fruitmarket Gallery, labelled and ordered like surveillance monitors. Roth filmed ‘Solo Scenes’ on cameras that he positioned in the most personal spaces of his home and studio, and, by allowing us to observe his seemingly insignificant everyday acts and unthinking actions, created an intimate and unedited self-portrait that is truthful, compelling and yet deeply uncomfortable to watch. There is a feeling of claustrophobia and intrusion as we watch Roth hunched over his desk, working by the light of his Anglepoise lamp, and a feeling of absence – and sadness – as we look upon his quiet, empty room. For this was the last year of Roth’s life, documented through the moments of his everyday acts and routines, and it is a moving and sensitive portrait.

Upstairs, ‘Flat Waste’ is an ordered documentation of a disorderly subject matter – all the rubbish from Roth’s studio less than 1cm thick, collected over 12 months and collated into meticulously labelled files, presented like a library archive. One or two binders are open to look through, but this feels like an unnecessary explanation, and makes it all the more frustrating that Roth’s diaries are presented with their contents hidden between closed covers. A shelving unit, too, bursting with folders full of scripts, drawings, diary pages and manuals from which Roth made his copybooks, remains disappointingly off limits. Roth’s drawings and installations are honest, personal and raw, but it’s hard not to feel that this exhibition could have allowed for even greater intimacy and insight.

Fruitmarket Gallery, 225 2383, until 14 Oct, free.

Dieter Roth: Diaries

  • 3 stars

The artist Dieter Roth (1930–98) began as a constructivist, but was galvanised by the social and artistic upheaval of the 1960s into reinventing himself as a multi-media, multi-art renaissance man, producing sculptures, books, pictures and writings. This exhibition focuses on his diaries, which he used to keep…

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