Duncan Marquiss: Copying Errors
Solo show by Marquiss celebrates imperfection and uncertainty, and includes Margaret Tait Award film
Science is ever ruining our romantic notions of free will, love and happiness, reminding us constantly that we are nothing more than DNA and hormones. Copying Errors, Duncan Marquiss’ largest exhibition to date, considers whether culture itself – irreducible and supposedly immune to rational interrogation – can be quantified by examining it through the prism of scientific enquiry.
The main draw of the show is Marquiss’ Margaret Tait award commission, the film Evolutionary Jerks and Gradualist Creeps, which recently debuted at the Glasgow Film Festival. At 38 minutes long, it’s a proper documentary about evolutionary biology complete with talking heads offering insight into the world of paleontology. One of the scientists is also fascinated by the evolution of musical instruments providing the perfect case study for Marquiss: we see a vast collection of trumpets, each slightly different from the next, arranged in such a way Charles Darwin might have illustrated the evolution of a species of a bird.
The documentary weaves plenty of other analogies into the mix, including references to the use of algorithms to measure the predictability and success of pop music. With streaming services such as Spotify preempting our preferences and tastes, it’s a relevant area of enquiry. There’s a lot to absorb, but the film makes for pleasurable viewing nonetheless due to its clever editing and poetic use of imagery.
Next door in Gallery 1 are works mostly on paper that embody some of the artist’s concerns so eloquently explored in the documentary film. In Marquiss’s curious drawings and prints, we can trace to the evolution of his own practice since 2008. The abstract roughly-hewn works seem to celebrate happy accidents and anomalies. Like with scientific discovery, art depends on mistakes to bring about progress. Copying Errors seeks to elevate uncertainty and imperfection.
Dundee Contemporary Arts, until Sun 3 July 2016