Two Voices III – Horticulture Behind the Scenes
- Mark Fisher
- 22 January 2009
Inverleith House, Edinburgh, until Sun 8 Feb
You can’t quibble with the aim of this small exhibition, the third in a series of collaborations between photographer Rosita McKenzie and illustrator Camilla Adams. It’s laudable to want to widen ‘accessibility for all visitors’ to the Royal Botanic Garden and I don’t doubt those with impaired vision will appreciate the show’s efforts to describe the collection through touch and sound.
But if, as the gallery claims, there is anything extraordinary about McKenzie’s photographs, it is not in the images themselves, but in the fact of her own blindness. As with her recent exhibition of pictures taken backstage at the Traverse Theatre, the dozen shots here have no particular artistic merit. Neither do they say much about the way a blind person makes sense of the visual world.
McKenzie’s desire to record the ‘hard work that gardeners do’ by including watering cans, tractors and hydroponic lights alongside the ferns, poppies and glasshouses hardly amounts to a profound philosophy. What’s interesting is merely that they exist at all.
The exhibition does take on an extra dimension, however, in the accompanying three-dimensional drawings by Camilla Adams. The artist has rendered McKenzie’s photographs in raised black-and-white lines, giving partially sighted gallery-goers a literal outline of each work (‘Please touch the exhibits,’ says the sign) and the rest of us an abstract interpretation with an elemental appeal as a plastic mesh becomes a hail of dots, leaves take on a felt-like density and a corridor turns into a simple set of lines heading towards a vanishing point.