Luke Fowler (with Toshiya Tsunoda and John Haynes)
Film installation references RD Laing
‘We are actors in a play … whose plot we don’t know … and whose end I dare not imagine.’ These words, delivered by iconoclastic Glasgow-born ‘anti-psychiatrist’ RD Laing, not only form the opening gambit of ‘All Divided Selves’, Luke Fowler’s latest feature-length video that cuts up rarely seen archive film of Laing with new footage. As soundtracked by Alasdair Roberts, such grandiose epithets also go some way to summing up the entirety of this, at times demandingly overwhelming, but most deeply personal of Fowler’s collections to date.
The 93-minute film is the (un)holy grail at the end of a show which begins with ‘Ridges on a Horizontal Plane’, an installation made in collaboration with sound artist Toshiya Tsunoda, who also fills a room with his own sonic sculpture, ‘Composition for Maguchi Bay’. At all points in between, the walls are lined with a series of split-screen colour photographs that juxtapose elements of Fowler’s world’s eye view at work, rest and play. It’s a world of bookshelves, parties, performances and protest, a place where the old counter-culture is picked up, absorbed and, to use a Laingian word, rebirthed, for modern times.
If Fowler seems to be mapping out facets of his own life via such dualities, it’s Laing who dominates, be it splitting focus and personalities on film in a manner both infuriating and compelling, or in the accompanying basement display of portraits by theatre photographer John Haynes. In both, Laing is by turns self-consciously beatific, demonic, shamanic, flower-shirted, polo-necked, bare-footed, cross-legged, bombastic or else a little fragile. On film, in his fabulously grainy study of Glasgow for the ‘Cities’ series of psycho-geographic documentaries, Laing stands in a bombed-out slum, fires burning behind him as he posits expectations of his own past he should never have lived up to. ‘Culture?’ he says scornfully, crazy talking to the end.
Inverleith House, Edinburgh, until Sun 29 Apr