‘They Do Things Differently There’
ECA Masters of Contemporary Art Theory, Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh
Preview Night – Friday 4 June | Open 5-19 June
The title is apt. They do do things differently there. ‘They’ being the Masters students of Contemporary Art Theory, ‘There’ being Edinburgh College of Art, the ‘Thing’, the main event, is the curation of a final year show in the Talbot Rice Gallery. A lot of those students are, or have been, artists themselves, but they aren’t making the work on show – it’s the making of the show that they’re being assessed on. 11 curators. 12 artists. 1 space.

The elephant in the corner? The tricky group dynamics. How do you achieve a coherent show with twelve voices? How do you ensure that your audience isn’t overwhelmed by the noise of a group curated group show? It’s difficult not to consider this, and imagine conversation and conflicting visions as you walk around some brilliant but at first seemingly disconnected pieces.

The ‘Mastercats’ say that the project “has evolved and developed from our shared interest in the archival process, influenced initially by the historical significance of the gallery itself. Exploring the practice of collecting and exhibiting has become the foundation for this exhibition.”

So perhaps all the pieces are there to be put back together again by the viewer – a sort of customisable collection. With all archives, there is a process of sifting and searching for value and meaning. Neil McGuire – After The News – has produced a catalogue which is considered part of the show, presented as a kit of parts that you assemble yourself in the gallery. (Worth getting your hands on one, it’s a conceptually sound and
beautiful bit of work in it’s own right.)

There is a rawness, and a vintage/other era slant to lots of the work. Sawn in half wardrobes housing nick-nacks and pottery all painted white, Dada-esque upturned pianos, screen-printed sheet metal, haphazard groupings of old televisions, fanzines. Omar Zingaro Bhatia’s family cassette selection provides some lighter interactive entertainment on a ’70’s stereo. I was personally pleased to see a reappearance of some recent Glasgow folklore – Raydale Dower’s ‘Drapeau Noir’ – or at least theblack-flag-with-hole that hung outside the Gi temporary venue until just last month.

An exception is The Otolith Group [now Turner nominated and as such considered a bit of a curatorial coup] who have a film projected here, and for practical reasons it sits outwith the main space in the refurbished Georgian gallery. It’s a documentary that portrays the intense details of working life for some of the lowest paid workers in India, and inevitably lends some perspective.

These creative decisions and ideas are a product of an open ended dialogue and process. There’s been an effort to push out research and development onto social networking platforms and blogs, and a series of panel discussions (one of which I was lucky enough to attend and speak at) with creative professionals in an aim to pool collective knowledge and resources. Go to the TDTDT site (also designed by Neil McGuire) to explore links and images, delivered via delicious tags and pdfs. Or attend the next discussion on Saturday, (2–4pm, with Nicolas Oddy, Anne-Marie Kramer, Daniel Watt). The MasterCats show is a collection of works well worth seeing, but perhaps what they all do really differently are all those collaborative project aspects – that’s really what sets them apart and sets future works and collaborations in motion.