Nicky Bird: Beneath the Surface/Hidden Place
Stills Gallery, Edinburgh, until Sun 20 Jul
For a project which corrals so many amateur photographers and their family photos to share co-creative billing with the artist, its unifying theme is acutely realised. This show is about representations of nostalgia, and asks whether memory is an absolute, or merely a subjective image we carry in our minds.
For this ongoing series of work which began in 2007, Bird seeks to document the change in Scottish housing developments between a point in the recent past and the present day. By speaking to residents in various areas that have experienced urban regeneration and incorporating their personal photographs into her work, Bird builds up a ‘then and now’ series which places these found images within a photograph taken by the artist on the precise spot the original was shot. Thus we can view an anachronistic reversal – in the case of older photographs taken around the former mining communities of Dalmellington, Ayshire – such as a field of farm crops blowing where a row of mining cottages used to stand.
Elsehere – as in Ardler, Dundee (pictured), where the last of six tower blocks came down in 2007 to make way for a new estate – it’s the yellowed surface of the previous photos and the fashions of the youngsters playing in them that define the images’ ages, even as Bird’s landscapes are cold and precise. Yet, to say the show offers a dialogue between past and present is a pat explanation. Rather, we should use it to question what we find in our own memories.