La Femme de Nulle Part - Group Show (3 stars)

Doggerfisher, Edinburgh, until Sat 28 Apr


In the past, any woman who wandered from the respectable path, or whose intelligence dared question the male forces that be, was usually then classified as an unholy hysteric, and was either excommunicated or ‘treated’ accordingly. Walking into the show at Doggerfisher, you meet with Anita di Bianco’s film, ‘Disaffection and Disaffectation’, based on Jean Genet’s The Maids, which portrays the devious skulduggery of ‘fin de siecle’ women. With two actors (one being the show’s curator Lucy Skaer) playing three parts, things get a little schizophrenic. Flattened delivery of lines and overwrought glances make it an uneasy piece to watch.

As you come into the light of the main gallery space, Sophie MacPherson’s work creates a different theatrical atmosphere. Seemingly abandoned props surround what could be a magician’s rotating stage. At the front, ‘Interlocking Coins’ consists of two spinning discs covered in the copper coins pulled from behind the ears of children suspended in young, naïve disbelief. A series of four works entitled ‘Hand Silhouette (I & II), and Animal Silhouette (I & II)’, also point to this playful appropriation of illusion - although being black on black, the game becomes a little more macabre. What MacPherson does well through these works, along with the emptiness of her ‘set,’ is to sinisterly point to magic laid bare as what it really is - pure trickery.

At first the upturned black and white images of vaulted abbeys by Rosalind Nashashibi (taking part in this year’s Venice Biennale along with Lucy Skaer) seem a little incongruous, although enchanting - as flipped architecture transforms into a toothy Romanesque smile. However, through Anita di Bianco’s second video piece, ‘Studies for J’ - uneasy passages concerning the trial of Joan of Arc are read against the prettily diffused light of a Manhattan apartment - a gentle, historical connection is made. The links throughout the show are effective, though at times a little wrapped up in literary references.

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