Dalziel + Scullion (2 stars)

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow, until Sun 25 Feb 2007


The new exhibition The Earth Turned to Bring Us Closer by Dalziel + Scullion at Kelvingrove continues their use of a minimal, ‘hands off’ approach to whichever medium they employ. This attitude is one of the most successful aspects of their work. That aside, it is difficult to understand their success.

Their new HDV (high definition video) piece is, well, thin. It’s hard to find a more fitting term - ‘superficial’ is too extreme. The piece also manages to seem nostalgic, even though it was filmed very recently. This ‘good old days’ atmosphere sees grey days through rose-coloured specs, relying on oppressive social structures rather than questioning or tearing them down. The music that accompanies the piece by Craig Armstrong, Memory Takes My Hand, indulges in the same sloppy effect - the titles of the movements give you a flavour of what to expect: ‘One Day’, ‘Risen’, ‘Glasgow’ and ‘As We Loved’. Armstrong celebrates sentimentality - minor keys and a phony sense of worried urgency dominate.

The catacomb-like space the exhibition takes place in contributes further to the funereal, overly emotive atmosphere. Panning images that fade to black of ‘Folk Like You and Me’ in Glaswegian settings are projected at three screens, but these are portraits only by formal coincidence; they are about the artists and their project, not about the subjects. Everyday Weedgies have re-claimed Kelvingrove, it seems. It’s an easy, schmaltzy solution to that most difficult of problems: ‘Is high art for the people; do the places that house it belong to us?’ Ideas of accessibility should not be confused with being patronised.

Dalziel + Scullion’s work is almost always epic in scope, budget and intention, tackling large issues in a big way. It attempts to cover so many of the important political issues that it is difficult for one to get a glimpse of an underlying aesthetic sensibility. This is proposal art - the bastard offshoot of installation and environmental art. It satisfies the cultural civic administrators, the Philistines with their hands on the purse strings. Either one or both of the artists must be very good at filling in forms.

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