Edinburgh Art Festival 2015 Announces Commissions Programme

Edinburgh Art Festival (EAF) has announced details of its 2015 commissions programme, presenting new work by leading Scottish and international emerging and established contemporary artists, and revealing details of the newly launched open call for submissions programme. The UK’s largest annual festival of visual art, EAF will unite some of the most innovative artists from across the globe, including Charles Avery, Marvin Gaye Chetwynd and Ariel Guzik, to create work under the theme of The Improbable City – a response to the unique fairy-tale architecture and setting of Edinburgh, and unlocking many of the city’s forgotten and unusual spaces to be part of the festival.

This year’s commissions programme, titled The Improbable City, takes its name from Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities; a series of 55 short prose poems where the Italian writer conjures a multitude of imaginary cities, explored through the eyes of the 17th century explorer, Marco Polo. Speaking of his process for creating these imagined spaces, Polo talks of his struggle to balance the probable with the exceptional, so as not to achieve cities ‘too probable to be real’. This year’s commissions programme celebrates the work of visual artists who vividly conjure imaginary worlds in their work, creating highly fictional landscapes that invite reflection on real experience. Featuring new work by established and emerging Scottish and international artists, The Improbable City considers how it is the improbable that brings us closer to the real. Situated principally in public spaces across Edinburgh, the works find a resonant context in the city once described as a ‘mad god’s dream’.

Highlights include: New commissions across the city include a large-scale sculpture by acclaimed Scottish artist Charles Avery, exhibited in tandem with his solo exhibition at Ingleby Gallery. This site-specific work, to be exhibited at Edinburgh’s historic Waverley Station, is based on his ongoing project, The Islanders.

British artist Marvin Gaye Chetwynd (based in Glasgow and nominated for the Turner Prize in 2012) will present a performative installation, to be sited within the debating chamber of the Old Royal High School.

This year’s commissions programme has a particularly strong focus on international talent, bringing 3 artists to exhibit in the UK for the very first time.

Acclaimed Mexican artist Ariel Guzik exhibits the first prototype of an underwater ship designed to facilitate communication with dolphins and whales.

South African artist Kemang Wa Lehulere presents a new large-scale wall drawing in chalk, to be erased at the end of the festival.

Quebecois performance, installation and video artist, Julie Favreau will exhibit a new work at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, coming out of a Royal Over-Seas League residency at Hospitalfield in Arbroath.

Continuing to support emerging artists, EAF 2015 sees new commissions by young international artists, including Finnish-English artist, composer and vocalist Hanna Tuulikki and Irish video artist Emma Finn.

New for 2015, following an open call to early career artists, Ben Callaghan, Ross Frew, Jessica Ramm and Antonia Bañados have been selected by a panel including artists Christine Borland and Craig Coulthard, to present new work for the festival.

Sorcha Carey, Director of Edinburgh Art Festival, said: ‘The Improbable City’ explores the work of artists who conjure alternative worlds in their work. Even without the fairytale topography of Edinburgh, a festival offers a natural home for the improbable – a moment when we are instinctively more open to discovery and experimentation. We are delighted to continue to expand the ambitions of our commissioning programme, with seven new projects by leading and emerging artists, including some of the very best practitioners from Scotland and several international artists showing in the UK for the very first time.

Lloyd Anderson, Director of British Council Scotland, said: We are very pleased to support the international programme at this year’s Edinburgh Art Festival, encouraging a creative dialogue and flow of ideas that keeps the Scottish and UK arts scenes vibrant, progressive and outward looking. In supporting artists from Canada and South Africa, we see a tangible legacy of relationships developed with the Commonwealth last year, and with Mexico, the current year of cultural exchange is strengthened. The Edinburgh Art Festival grows ever stronger and more thought provoking, and we are delighted to be associated with it.

The Improbable City | EAF 2015 Commissions

EAF 2015 is delighted to announce a new commission for Edinburgh’s historic Waverley Station by renowned Scottish artist Charles Avery, commissioned in partnership with Parasol Unit London. For The Improbable City, Avery has developed a five-metre tall bronze tree, expanding on his evolving project The Islanders, where the artist continues to describe the inhabitants, flora and fauna of a fictional island, recording in precise detail the customs, myths, religions and rituals of these imaginary islanders. Ripe with strange fruit, the tree draws entirely on mathematical equations – including the square root of two as well as the Fibonacci sequence – for its design. Avery’s sculptures are viewed by the artist as souvenirs from the fictional island, brought back to our world by an unnamed visitor. Situated within Waverley Station, Edinburgh’s major railway station and the only station in the world to be named after a novel (Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley), the tree finds a suitably fictional home. It will offer a point for meeting and reflection during the festival.

Also for this year’s programme, Marvin Gaye Chetwynd has chosen the site of the debating chamber within the Old Royal High School on Calton Hill for her new commission, The King Must Die. This sumptuous and theatrical installation places the epic action from Mary Renault’s novel ‘The King Must Die’ within an operatic setting referencing the legendary Czech stage scenographer, Josef Svoboda. Immersive and sumptuous, Chetwynd’s installation invites us to lose ourselves in an exuberant celebration of pagan desire.

For the last 10 years, the artist, musician, illustrator and inventor Ariel Guzik has searched for a way to communicate with whales and dolphins. Guzik’s extraordinary vision is to build a manned underwater ship – ‘the Narcisa’ – with the intention of enabling communication with these creatures, whom the artists views as a independent civilisation on a par with humankind. Commissioned in partnership with The Arts Catalyst, Guzik, who represented Mexico at the 2013 Venice Biennale, will present Holoturian. Designed to temporarily send a living plant and a string instrument into the depths of the sea, this prototype for his underwater ship has instrumentation, which expresses life, space, harmony and brightness as primary messages, and is dedicated to sperm whales and other deep ocean creatures. The installation will be displayed at Edinburgh’s gothic kirk Trinity Apse, opened to the public once again by the festival, and will be accompanied by some of Guzik’s fantastical drawings from the past 10 years.

Showing in the UK for the first time, South African artist Kemang Wa Lehulere (born and based in Cape Town) will create a new large-scale wall drawing in chalk to be erased at the end of the festival. Winner of the prestigious 2015 Standard Bank Young Artist award, the artist’s ambiguous language invites the audience to construct their own meaning. Wa Lehulere’s works are explorative projects into moments in history – some still present, some yet to be recorded. Often working in the medium of chalk, Wa Lehulere presents a history which can be erased, re-written, or interpreted in multiple ways.

French-Canadian artist Julie Favreau will present a new work, entitled She Century, in partnership with the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art for the EAF 2015 commissions programme, coming out of her recent Royal Over-Seas League residency at Hospitalfield in Arbroath, north east Scotland. Favreau, winner of the prestigious Pierre Ayot prize, and nominated for the Sobey Art Award in 2012, incorporates sculpture, film and choreography in multi-layered installations. Often referring to her works as ‘opening a door’, Favreau plays with the tropes of architecture in She Century. Walls move mysteriously in the garden while the lone female figure, frequently seen in her work, traces an invisible architecture with her hands.

Continuing to support early-career artists, EAF 2015 sees new commissions by Scottish and international artists Hanna Tuulikki and Emma Finn. For The Improbable City, Hanna Tuulikki, an English-Finnish artist, composer and vocalist based in Edinburgh will present SING SIGN: A Close Duet, a series of site-specific performances during the festival period that explore the architecture and acoustics of Edinburgh’s historic ‘closes’ – the network of alleyways, lanes and courtyards that lie behind Edinburgh’s Royal Mile – playing with the physical and emotional closeness of these spaces. Performed live within these ‘closes’ at various times during the festival, Tuulikki’s new commission is rooted in ‘hocketing’, a 13th century musical form where a single melody is alternated between two or more voices. Tuulikki’s performances will be accompanied by a two screen film installation. Full details of performances as part of EAF will be announced in July.

Emma Finn, an Irish artist based in Edinburgh, will exhibit Double Mountain a new video installation. All of Finn’s work begins with ‘the Marks’ – drawings which she views as independent forms created with their own stories to tell. Transporting the viewer to uncomfortable places that sit somewhere between reality and invention, Finn’s new work is situated in the mountains where the ‘Marks’ struggle to escape from cable cars and fold paper airplanes. Finn’s work is exhibited in the suitably improbable context of a shopping centre. St. James Centre offers a pop up venue for the festival in 2015 prior to its imminent demolition as part of a major redevelopment project.

The Open Call Submissions Programme

For the first time in 2015, Edinburgh Art Festival introduces a new dedicated annual exhibition for early career artists, Platform: 2015. With the aim of providing support and opportunity to artists at the beginning of their career, artists Christine Borland and Craig Coulthard working with director Sorcha Carey, have chosen four artists from an open call to exhibit as part of the 2015 festival. The artists selected are Chilean ECA postgraduate Antonia Bañados; Edinburgh-based Irish artist Ben Callaghan, who explores the use of objects as props in philosophical debate; Isle of North Uist draftsman Ross Hamilton Frew; and sculpture, performance and installation artist Jessica Ramm, currently based in Aberdeen. This new opportunity launched for the 2015 festival is supported by the Saltire Society. 


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