The Making of “The Making Of It”
It’s raining heavily when Augustus Veinoglou lets me into the Old Ambulance Depot. Outside the Depot, an increasing layer of water floats the building like an artificial island. Indoors, curators Veinoglou, Scott McCracken and Allan J Robertson have coordinated a series of highly consonant installations into a sort of pan-European archipelago. It seems feasible that The Making of It might have floated here.
Two hours before opening, the exhibition is more-or-less ready to go. Everyone is busily squatting around something: Deniz Guvensoy and Irfan Donmez around the bundles of red Turkish flag balloons they are preparing; Veinoglou, McCracken and Clare Flatley around laptops, talking with Swiss artists Dominik Lipp and Bruno Schlatter over Skype. Lipp, currently shirtless, is gesturing excitedly to a massive felt-tip pen wall-chart behind him in Switzerland. He and Schlatter will be conducting a game of something-like-chess with the crowd here in Edinburgh. As a test run, I roll some dice and show them to the MacBook camera he’s viewing the exhibition through, for which he thanks me profusely.
This casual ease of international communication is a recurrent theme in the exhibition. The assembled works, based on notions of process, represent a fictional European utopia where national boundaries are fluid and pass through each other. For all the disparate cultures present, the works are surprisingly congruous, and communicate fluently. As you walk around the space, fragments of sculptures and paintings disassociate themselves from each other: budding off into independent organisms, or serendipitously coinciding with their neighbours. The whole exhibition is vividly fractal in nature – humorous, colourful, resembling itself at each level.
Talking to Veinoglou and McCracken, this visual affinity sounds more fortuitous than planned. The show has grown naturally from acquaintance and good networking. Each work was developed in the space in accordance with the central stimulus, “Process”. This organic development works in the exhibition’s favour, producing a great amount of visual rhyme and thematic consistency. Eilidh McPherson’s colourful painting Do the fish even know it’s raining?, for example, sits next to McCracken’s The Uncertainty like a close sibling. Flatley’s Process and Veinoglou’s Newcomer neatly benefit from their closeness to each other, each amplifying the other’s structural motifs.
Martin Campbell’s Interactive Workshop dominates the entrance to the exhibition. It’s intriguingly joyful and technical in equal measure – a functional wax-making workspace cast as installation. Later in the exhibition, Campbell will hold an actual workshop here. Joseph Calleja’s 126.96.36.199.16. – a row of glass panels held under its own weight by a clamp – is tense, eerie and fragile, and seems to defy physics. Roz McKenzie does something very different with glass: her Greed and Puff Piece are political and quite hilarious.
While The Making Of It posits an alternate version of Europe, Donmez’s Alternate Body reconfigures human anatomy in a similar fashion, to particularly squeamish effect. It may be enlightening to imagine the countries of Europe changing places with each other – the same thought experiment with organs is unsettling. Andrew Smith’s series of textured paintings are similarly disquieting – somewhat dark in tone, depicting corrosion of buildings and people.
Niko Mantzios’ The End of the Protagonists and Robertson’s Hinterland share a clean graphic style and urban subject matter. Where Hinterland is stark and bright, Protagonists is warm and quirky. Guvensoy’s Bosphorus considers the titular Strait at the edge of Europe. Pyramidal stacks of Turkish flag balloons surmount a series of map-based meditations on boundaries and coastlines. Taking up the wall at the end of the Ambulance Depot, Bosphorus is an appropriate demarcation of the exhibition’s border, marking the edge of this crypto-European archipelago. Outside the Old Ambulance Depot, a Bosphorus made of rainwater cuts us off from continental Edinburgh.
Union (or ununion) is currently a prominent element of public discourse. The Eurozone is newly introspective; Scotland is considering what being a “nation” should mean. The Making Of It proposes a method of union at the human, sociocultural level. It emphasises the value of cultural networks and fortuitous international acquaintance – celebrating altruistic interaction beyond the constraints of national boundaries.