Whitney McVeigh: Language of Memory (5 stars)

Poignant and powerful exhibition that unpretentiously contemplates the meaning of life through stories and objects

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Whitney McVeigh: Language of Memory

Language of Memory will affect you long after seeing it. A simple and stripped back exhibition, it comprises an extraordinary 11-minute short film ‘Birth’, a sound work and several sculptural compositions spread across a number of intimate adjoining spaces.

The film, which was shot in St Christopher’s Hospice, London, features a diverse group of women who each reflect on birth, life and existence. The interviews occasionally cut to a clip of a grand old tree swaying gently in the wind, its frayed branches at once beautifully elegant and fragile. It is humbling to hear the women speak with humility about their lives in the face of death: each does so with wisdom, and it is life-affirming to hear their accounts of bringing new life into the world as well as facing the prospect of leaving it themselves.

The other works in the exhibition are elevated by first experiencing ‘Birth’. McVeigh’s ‘markers of time’ are ready-mades that she has accumulated throughout her life. Objects that were once significant to someone – children’s shoes, photographs, books – are stripped of their sentimental value and we are urged instead to contemplate them philosophically. When viewed in conjunction with ‘Birth’, Language of Memory amounts to a powerful and unpretentious deliberation of the meaning of life.

Summerhall, Edinburgh, until Wed 9 Mar 2016.

Whitney McVeigh: Language of Memory

Work by American artist ruminating on memory and childhood.

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