Jordan Baseman & Henna-Riikka Halonen: Commonwealth Suite
Collective Gallery, Edinburgh, until Sun 19 Jul
On the high diving board at the Commonwealth Pool weeks before the civic amenity built for the 1970 Commonwealth Games closes for refurbishment, junior members of Edinburgh Diving Club are showing off their air-to-water gymnastic skills. As a tea-time show-and-tell pre-cursor to the unveiling of these two new commissions, it falls somewhere between Busby Berkeley and Russian constructivism.
A perfect site-specific curtain-raiser, then, for the cast co-opted into Henna-Riika Halonen’s filmed 12-minute re-imagining of Vladimir Mayakovsky’s six-act play, The Bath House (first staged in 1930 by Meyerhold) which satirised Russian state bureaucracy on a set of steel platforms and staircases. Watching the film at the opening, its stars add a certain levity to this beautifully shot miniature, in which Halonen reimagines instructions from the original such as ‘The Director Choreographs A Ballet Depicting Labor’s Triumph Over Capital’ and the appearance of a time-travelling Phosphorescent Woman in a sparkly swimming costume adds an opaquely charming but gracefully angled use of space.
Jordan Baseman’s ‘A Hypnotic Effect’ places a recorded interview with a veteran gym-user against rippling blurs of water in motion. As the man’s troubled past unfolds in a quietly matter-of-fact manner, off-set against the seductive ebb and flow of the visuals, a languid melancholy pervades the piece’s nine minutes.
While the sound bleed between the two galleries is distracting, Commonwealth Suite perhaps catches the clamour of the pool at its busiest, with all the deep end fun involved.