Alberta Whittle & Hardeep Pandhal: Transparency
- Neil Cooper
- 29 October 2019
Two-person exhibition from Glasgow-based artists responding to the architectural heritage of the Castle Mills site
Hangovers of Empire hang heavy over Alberta Whittle and Hardeep Pandhal's work, seen here in tandem responding in part to the new home of Edinburgh Printmakers in its former life as the base of the North British Rubber Company. They're there in Alberta Whittle's two short films, 'What Sound Does The Black Atlantic Make?' and 'Sorry Not Sorry', that form the centrepiece of her contribution to this exhibition curated by the Mother Tongue organisation. They're there too in Pandhal's short animation, 'BAME of Thrones (trailer)' and his Happy Punjabi Gothic series of eight etchings.
Both of Whittle's films are collages that join the dots of the black experience, from colonial cannon fodder serving queen and country, to the Windrush generation patronisingly welcomed off the ships with requests to sing calypso. Fast forward a few years, and marches by the National Front and inner city riots look like troubling precursors to where we are now. Today's institutionalised racism is exposed by impassioned MPs Diane Abbott and David Lammy, and is as easy to see through as the three wall pieces of totems produced in Whittle's home country of Barbados. Three sculptural installations, 'Exodus – Behind's God's Back', 'Grave Liners for the Dispossessed' and 'Hindsight is a Luxury I Can't Afford', are similarly personal evocations of a largely hidden history.
Pandhal's punningly named 'BAME of Thrones (trailer)', originally commissioned by Channel Four, is a tellingly silent comic-book style, rap-based depiction of a migrant culture under watch. His Happy Punjab Gothic series takes inspiration from a drawing by 19th and early-20th century Indian satirical cartoonist Gaganendranath Tagore. It looks at the commodification of education in colonial-era India, with Pandhal's updates showing how education has been monetised in an explicitly political fashion. Such oppressive ideological constructs are laid bare throughout an exhibition that reclaims assorted hidden histories as a glaring reminder of the roots of the state we're in right now.
Edinburgh Printmakers, until Sun 5 Jan.