Julie Brook's made, unmade
Fascinating multimedia installation which calls upon all senses to enter into the wilderness of Lybian and Namibian landscapes
For this large-scale multimedia collaboration with Dovecot Studios, Julie Brook has attempted to bring the wilderness with her and site it within a darkened gallery space. Although she lives on Skye, it’s the hot desert tones and ambience of her working trips to Libya and Namibia which inspire this particular transportable landscape.
The exhibition explores various forms and media, but undoubtedly the centrepiece is the aggregate selection of video works which fill the walls of the main gallery. Presented in near total darkness, they surround the viewer on multiple screens, causing a sense of disorientation – or perhaps gradual reorientation – as the eyes and mind adjust to the overwhelming sensory input. One might find oneself travelling in a circle around the room, trudging as if adrift in the desert. On the screen, men gouge away at a crescent of red earth and sandstone under a hot African sun and another digs a pit to get to the clay-red sand beneath. All of this is watched dolefully through the camera’s subtly-shifting mass of different perspectives and soundtracked by the distant echo of labour and a cool breeze against the microphone.
Elsewhere a decorative red-skin pigment from Namibia named otjize has been used to uniformly stain a large-scale multi-canvas painting which sits alongside a hand-tufted rug in the same tone by the Dovecot weavers. Meanwhile, sand-coloured pigment has created geometric painted shapes that complement photographs of Brook’s precisely-manipulated shadow and tone ‘drawings’ in the desert sand. The combined effect is to establish the cumulative feeling of the landscape and the sensation that Brook was there and left her mark upon it into the gallery. It might remind you of Rothko and his assistant in the play Red, searching for not just the colour but ‘the emotion of red.’
Dovecot Studios, Edinburgh, until Sat 1 Jun.