Keith Farquhar - Drunken Maria (5 stars)

  • The List
  • 27 October 2006

Keith Farquhar - Drunken Maria (14 Units)

Talbot Rice Gallery, the Round Room, University of Edinburgh, until Sat 9 Dec


Pat Fisher, the curator at the Talbot Rice Gallery, has managed to squeeze even more space for the best of contemporary art out of the two galleries and ornate passageway that are at her disposal. This month Edinburgh-based artist Keith Farquhar expertly charges the Round Room with a monument to wine, women and song. Or rather, symbolic evidence of debauchery and a humorous cautionary tale about how these should not be mixed.

As the viewing subject enters the space from the Lucy McKenzie exhibition, a shoulder-height shelf juts into your line of vision, with seven large glasses towering above you, filled with faux chardonnay. These goblets appeared first at the Dada’s Boys exhibition at the Fruitmarket, but there were either too many or too few of them - the scale of the installation and the idea did not meet. Here, all obvious puns about Duchamp’s ‘Large Glass’ are also kept in check, becoming just one of the many connotations that the work invokes. They have also lost their awkward ‘transitional’ feel (earlier work was less obviously constructed, contrived).

The central glass copula is anchored to the floor with a phallic tube of cotton clothing, constructed out of girls’ Calvin Klein vest-tops and sewn together by the artist’s mum. This is more familiar Farquhar territory. One imagines eternal scenes of quick disrobement, where arms reach up as the tops are pulled off, with the whole scene being repeated every wine-soaked weekend. Around the base of the glass-domed ceiling the words, ‘Drunken Maria - Don’t Sleep - Sleeping Maria - Don’t Drink’ lean drunkenly to the right, italicised lyrics from 60s garage band The Monks. As you look up and try to read the lyric, the warning, you start to spin and smile.

The title of the installation refers to the units of alcohol that an ‘average female should drink’. Or should that be ‘is allowed to drink’ or ‘can drink’? The law, the guideline and the rule is crossed and confused, and the superego that internalises the command drunkenly shouts ‘Drink!’ (Alexander Kennedy).

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