Urban Reflections (2 stars)

Urban Reflections

Stills, Edinburgh, until Sun 22 Mar


Five artists attempt to answer novelist Jonathan Raban’s call (from his wonderful 1974 book of ‘interdisciplinary’ urban reflections, Soft City) to create a ‘vocabulary of art, of style, to describe the continual creative play of urban living’. Brutish and barely evolved their language touches not on what Richard Hughes saw as central to the urban experience – ‘the carapace of political fantasy, the exoskeleton of one’s economic dreams’ of architecture but on that dreary fallback position of Ballardian wonder at man’s bleak progressions.

Sabine Hornig’s large perspex C-prints open the exhibition. ‘Window With No Floor’ (2006) presents the view into a Berlin vacant shop window (with reflections). This dreary slab of gnomic perception is supposed to blur ‘the boundaries between photography, sculpture and architecture’ according to the supporting literature with the kind of ‘cutting cloth’ exaggeration that curators Kirsten Lloyd and Christine Nippe seem to specialise in.

Two more of Hornig’s perplexing prints give way to film artist Dan Graham’s exiguous slide show ‘New Jersey’. In the back gallery Graham gets to explain himself in the badly shot film ‘Two Way Mirror …’ which is equal parts Open University documentary on utopian urban preserves and the diary of a stay at home dad.

Only Scottish artist Rhona Warwick finds any comedy in the situation with her intriguing installation, ‘They Looked For the City’, which posits urban foxes and Arcadian literature to likeable effect. Next, South African photo artist Santu Mofokeng’s ‘Dove Lady’ black and white landscapes turns a doleful gaze to the advertising dominated Soweto freeways. Finally, Nina Fischer and Maroan el Sani’s ‘Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway’ double projection film invests automotive paraphilia with all the excitement of a rush hour tailback.

Urban Reflections

  • 2 stars

Five different artists respond to the contemporary city, and the human imprint on the urban landscape.

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