Edinburgh during August becomes a different place. It’s not just the huge number of people who descend on the city or the festival vibe which makes everyday feel like a holiday, it’s something else too. I think that ‘something else’ is related to the way that Edinburgh during the Fringe becomes a space where performance and reality hit each other head on. Perhaps it’s the result of so many thespians being in one city at the same time or the transformation of hundreds of places into venues. Public space becomes performance space and you can’t tell who around you is acting and who is not… gradually a sense of the uncanny creeps in.

With this in mind I was curious to see Kim Coleman and Jenny Hogarth’s installation at the City Observatory on Calton Hill, produced by Collective as part of Edinburgh Art Festival. Staged explores precisely that sense of the uncanny, in a setting which is slightly removed from the city, raised up and looking down on it from afar. On entering the Observatory you pull back a heavy cloth curtain and step into a small square room. Projected on each wall are a series of videos which are intermittently removed and replaced with new images. It’s unclear who is controlling them and they come and go in an irregular pattern. Looking closely some appear to be taken from cameras just outside the building and some seems to be CCTV footage, but is it in real time or is it delayed? And are these ‘real’ people or actors?

There are so many fascinating discussions that come from this work (which I barely have space to touch on here): performance in the digital world; the fluid nature of identity especially with the arrival of social media; voyeurism; our desire for entertainment… the list goes on. Staged seems like the perfect piece to present in Edinburgh during the Festival madness and I found it an intellectually rich work to contemplate.

The one gripe I have is that I felt the execution of the exhibition didn’t quite rise to the level of the themes it was exploring. Perhaps it’s just my film background but I was lusting for a giant expansive space where such huge themes could be explored. I ended up chatting to a friend for a good half an hour in the exhibition space about completely unrelated matters, without the images catching my attention or drawing me away from my chatter. Then again, maybe this in itself says something about how we interact and relate to such footage – our immunity to images, our apathy at being watched and ultimately a lack of concern about the assimilation of performance and living.

Staged is on at the City Observatory until the 15 August 2010.