31 August 2014
Scotland on Sunday

At the Talbot Rice Gallery, the lively, clever group show Counterpoint is also part of the GENERATION programme, an exhibition that is perhaps denser and less immediately shouty than some of its more colourful cohorts with a welcome emphasis on performance and events throughout its programme and a selection of artists at either end of the career trajectory. While one does instinctually long for some kind of argument or theme Counterpoint resists both thematic or chronological grouping featuring artists as estimable and as diverse as Ross Birrell, Keith Farquhar and a diamanté-clad Michelle Hannah, whose music video performance as perhaps a female Bowie or acid-blonde Grace Jones transforms the adjacent Playfair Library into a laser-lit playground. Hannah’s performance is a deadpan yet seductive recasting of our ambiguous love affair with the future, a gorgeous retro-tinged reimagining of the past.

In the Georgian Gallery Keith Farquhar revisits a work he first made some 21 years ago, two aluminium street lamps lying prone and vulnerable yet still lit on the gallery floor. Adjacent is the work by Ellie Harrison that has captured the headlines and the imagination of visitors to the Edinburgh Art Festival: a row of confetti cannons that will be activated in the gallery if there is a Yes vote, spreading cheer and disorder amongst the art works nearby.

Whether it’s straightforward as a celebratory gesture is not quite clear. The work’s title After the Revolution, Who Will Clean Up the Mess? is drawn from a feminist slogan that refers to the difference between rhetoric and the real, hard work of politics. Ironically if it’s a yes vote then Harrison’s work will have been spent; it is in the event of a no that the irony of potential and potentially explosive possibility would make it a truly poignant museum piece. The artist is inviting people to apply for tickets to a referendum party and to await the fate of both the nation and her artwork. It’s up to all of us now to decide whether we wish the guns to remain stilled.

Moira Jeffrey