Summerhall Art & Music exhibitions (4 stars)

Summerhall Art & Music exhibitions

Neil Cooper enjoys six shows exploring the relationships between sound and vision in very different ways

The pathway from Johnny Cash to Bob Dylan is a tellingly symbolic one in the two most straightforward of six big shows exploring the relationships between sound and vision in very different ways. The images of these two icons of popular music may be a short stroll from a dark room to the basement, but, captured at their creative peak, these two pop cultural giants mark out the co-dependent leap from blue-collar street-songs to the avant-garde. In A Hero of the True West, Jim Marshall's images captures the Man in Black in transit via 30 black and white shots of Cash in concert and with his family in the late 1960s. When Cash peers through the grille of a van en route to Folsom Prison, so stony-faced is he that it's as if he's in as cell of his own making.

If Cash appears on the run from his own demons, the image of him with Dylan is a kind of baton-passing. Because, as captured by celebrity snapper Barry Feinstein in Don't Follow Leaders – Bob Dylan in the 'Judas' Years, Dylan revelled in his people's poet status. Looking impossibly hip against a bombed-out back-drop of crumbling houses and snot-nosed street urchins in mid 1960s Liverpool, it clearly wasn't just Dylan's guitar that was electric.

The urban decay Dylan so embraced is actually more in keeping with Punk Politics Posters – 35 years of fighting racism through music, a crucial collection of 1970s Rock Against Racism posters and ephemera that captured the messy, cut'n'paste energy of the time, as well as the complementary flow between punk and reggae during a combative era when the police were considered enemies of the people.

Kommissar Hjuler is a policeman in Germany, who, along with his partner Mama Baer and porn star Violet Storm, might also be considered as renegades. The walls of corrupted detritus, scarifying paintings and explicit collages that make up their Flux + (st/p) or (m/n) show seems to mirror their live noize performances (one of which can be seen at Summerhall on Saturday 10 November), as the trio play with pornography in the way pre-punk provocateurs COUM Transmissions did before morphing into Throbbing Gristle.

All of whom owe much to sound poet Henri Chopin's Revue OU publication, which featured recordings of key avant-garde figures alongside extravagant and elaborate artworks. Collected here in OU OU OU, Revue OU makes for a bumper collection of artworks wrapped around each other in tantalisingly tactile fashion.

Lauren Sarah Hayes' Skin Music is equally tantalising, engaging physically with the listener as music pours from the furniture you're sitting on in a way that recalls Kaffe Matthews' 'Sonic Bed' project. Harry Whalley's split-screen video installation, 'A Little Harmonic Labyrinth', meanwhile, jump-cuts a sole violinist playing two different musical notations. Reconfigured at random by computer, as with all of the shows here, the possibilities are endless.

All six exhibitions runs at Summerhall, Edinburgh, until Sat 24 Nov.

A Hero of the True West: Jim Marshall's Photographs of Johnny Cash

Jim Marshall was the late Johnny Cash's favourite photographer, although you could be forgiven for not guessing as much, seeing as Marshall was responsible for the famous image of a scowling Cash flipping the bird at the camera. Marshall took many iconic photos of musicians but he became an especially close friend of Cash…

Bob Dylan in the 'Judas' Years: Photographs by Barry Feinstein

Bob Dylan in 1966 was riding the whirlwind, as documented on the recording of his blistering performance at the Manchester Free Trade Hall, electric in more ways than one: a disgruntled heckler's roar of 'Judas!' is one of the great moments in live recording. Barry Feinstein's photographs capture Dylan at his shadiest and…

Punk, Politics and Posters

Exhibition of Rock Against Racism and Anti-Nazi League posters from the last few decades, including one from the infamous 1978 concert at Craigmillar Park at which the Clash failed to show up, provoking a certain degree of audiential displeasure.

Mama Baer, Kommissar Hjuler & Violet Storm

Kommissar Hjuler and his self-described hausfrau Mama Baer are noise musicians as well as gloriously deranged visual artists, although it's Hjuler's day job as a border policeman that gives him his pseudonym. Here they present work made in collaboration with sometime adult film actress Violet Storm.

Ou Ou Ou: Henri Chopin & Revue Ou

The late Henri Chopin (1922-2008) was a fearless experimenter, known as a musician and visual artist but chiefly as one of the pioneers of sound poetry. He also edited and published the influential arts review Ou, a complete collection of which is on display in this exhibition, along with some of Chopin's legendary…

Harry Whalley: A Little Harmonic Labyrinth

Video installation based on the work formerly attributed to JS Bach, featured in Douglas Hofstadter's mind-twisting book Gödel, Escher, Bach: An eternal golden braid.

Lauren Sarah Hayes: Skin Music

Lauren Hayes creates music designed to be played partly through the listener's body, not just the ears. In this installation, the listener sits on a chaise longue which then vibrates as the music plays.

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