From Death to Death and Other Small Tales
Astonishing archive of body-themed work including Sarah Lucas, Otto Dix and Matthew Barney
From the moment you step into the first corridor and meet an opening tease of Magritte, it’s hard not to be overwhelmed physically and mentally by this major mix-and-match collection of 20th and 21st century work. And that’s really how it should be for a show that’s about the body but which in its epic parade through both floors of Modern One says just as much about mind and spirit.
The first room sets the tone by off-setting Sarah Lucas’ spindly and be-stockinged 'Bunny Gets Snookered #10' with Otto Dix’s more bulbous 'Madchen auf Fell' (Nude Girl on Fur), and things seem to swell up into something spectacular with each wonderland entered. Genitalia are, of course, in abundance, but this is no prick-tease, despite the rise and fall of Matthew Barney’s stunningly glossy five-screen 'Cremaster' cycle of phallic fantasias (the cremaster being the muscle that lifts and separates the testicles) which at times resembles the ups and downs inside Monty Python filmmaker Terry Gilliam’s head.
‘Pirate Party’, Paul McCarthy’s equally monumental multi-screen film installation transforms Pirates of the Caribbean into a grotesque limb-hacking blood'n’guts extravaganza à la Marat/Sade. Marina Abramović’s film works, too, give food for thought, as a naked man and woman are gatekeepers of an entrance which cool dudes are forced to squeeze past.
It’s a truly astonishing archive that, seen together at such close quarters, becomes a living, breathing organism in itself. Seemingly apposite in execution, it actually finds every artefact joined at the hip with gloriously throbbing umbilical abandon.
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art One, Edinburgh, until Sun 8 Sep