Marvin Gaye Chetwynd and Kemang Wa Lehulere
Edinburgh Art Festival commissions transform the interiors of the old Royal High School
This article is from 2015.
Security guards man the gateway of the old Royal High School and behind them the space is deathly quiet. It seems an unlikely and foreboding art venue, with a lack of finesse that might be associated with grassroots projects looking for a cheap venue. But don’t be fooled – behind the doors of the crumbling building lie witty, experimental projects by two leading international artists.
On the left side of the building is a 9-metre long freestanding blackboard, a fitting choice for an old school, onto which South African artist Kemang Wa Lehulere has created an intricate chalk drawing. Elements of local history such as Edinburgh Castle’s Mons Meg canon sit beside figurative fragments, creating a fragile narrative that will be erased at the end of the festival.
On the right, Scottish-born artist Marvin Gaye Chetwynd has created a multi-layered installation in and around the school’s former debating chamber, punctuated by a menacing soundtrack. Leading visitors into the space is an assemblage of makeshift papier mache objects that might belong in a science lab, a reminder of the building’s educational past. The debating chamber beyond has been transformed into a haunting space filled with red spotlights and draped paper. Papier mache petals hang from the ceiling, while large sculptures resembling animals hide within. The strange lighting makes it an uncomfortable space to navigate and the objects themselves resist easy reading – Chetwynd challenges visitors to enter and remain in her surreal kingdom long enough to conjure up their own interpretations.
Old Royal High School, until 30 Aug, free. Marvin Gaye Chetwynd on-site performances, 13 Aug, 6pm (part of Art Late); 22 Aug, 2pm; 29 Aug, 4pm.