Ross Birrell and David Harding: where language ends (5 stars)

Artists transform the Talbot Rice Gallery with brilliant, prismatic installation

Ross Birrell and David Harding: where language ends

Ross Birrell and David Harding, Winter Line, installation view / Courtesy of Serge Hasenbohler

Ross Birrell and David Harding’s synaesthetic display transforms the Talbot Rice Gallery into a haunting and melancholic stage set with the most minimal of means.

Music is the defining force that flows from one room to another and informs many of the visual and narrative elements peppered throughout the space. Coloured panels on the gallery’s windows and skylights fill the rooms with ambient light and make reference to certain composers – the blue windows on the ground floor are influenced by American-born Mexican composer Conlon Nancarrow – whilst pianola music flows through the space.

In the Georgian Gallery, the red panels covering the glazed cupolas infuse the space with a warm glow and make a nod towards the French composer Olivier Messiaen, a synaesthetic who compared his music to a ‘stained glass window’, accompanied by a video work and composition written by Birrell himself.

In the upper gallery is a small but potent sculpture, ‘The Hand of Paulo Virno’ (2011); Virno was a philosopher who celebrated the immaterial worlds of poets, writers and musicians in the 1960s and 1970s. The reference to Virno’s writing invites us to consider the exhibition title again, the point ‘where language ends’ and the imagination takes over, leaving viewers to think about the hidden possibilities within Birrell and Harding’s prismatic installation.

Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh, until Sat 2 May.

Ross Birrell and David Harding: where language ends

Installation examining the limits of language and the role of music, from Glasgow-based artists.


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