NOW is an exhibition celebrating the unique roles artists play in society (4 stars)

NOW: Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

'The Lamp of Sacrifice; 286 places of worship' (1967), Nathan Coley

The exhibition features Nathan Coley, Mon Hatoum, Rivane Neuenschwander and Pete Horobin

Gathered around Nathan Coley's iconic work 'The Lamp of Sacrifice; 286 places of worship' constructed in cardboard, NOW brings together a collection of works by Scottish and international artists that question the artists role in society.

Mona Hatoum's performance documents show her working through issues of estrangement and vulnerability using repetitive material processes that seem closely linked to her identity as a displaced person. A compilation of personal shopping lists gathered by Rivane Neuenschwander questions the habitual mass behaviour that underpins society, while her film, The Tenant, follows a bubble round an ambiguously institutional building.

If the artist's role is to reflect society while participating in it, then their work requires them to inhabit a position of contradiction or paradox. This produces interesting questions, such as those raised by Dundee artist Pete Horobin's 'Data Sheets', which present a prodigious array of personal information about the artist's daily life. Made in the 80s, this work seems to predict mass surveillance culture and data harvesting familiar to us now.

This exhibition subtly inverts the perceived association with states of madness that artists have traditionally enjoyed. If we suspect an entire culture may be embedded in collusive madness, where is the baseline that defines sanity?

NOW is at Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art One, Edinburgh, until Sun 24 Sep.


The first in a series of exhibitions celebrating the diversity of modern Scottish art, with a three-room presentation by Nathan Coley.