Our website uses cookies. See our cookies page for information about them and how you can remove or block them. Click here to opt in to our cookies

Edinburgh Art Festival announces 2018 Commissions Programme

Published: 21 May 2018

Rae-Yen Song - still from It's A Small World

Edinburgh Art Festival (26 July – 26 August 2018) today announces details of the 2018 Commissions Programme, which each year supports Scottish and international artists to develop ambitious new projects as part of the Festival.

Aiming to bring artists into conversation with the city, the Commissions Programme takes work out of formal gallery settings and into public spaces, often offering rare public access to key buildings or sites, and always engaging local residents and international visitors alike in citywide debates around wider social issues.

The 2018 Edinburgh Art Festival programme will feature new commissions by Shilpa Gupta, Ross Birrell & David Harding, Ruth Ewan and Adam Lewis Jacob. Collectively through music, poetry, conversation and magic these artists will invite visitors to reflect on urgent current political issues. Strategies of collaboration, orchestration and the act of close listening inform a number of the works, while freedom of expression and a questioning of our consumer culture feature prominently as themes within the programme.

The Festival will also present Platform: 2018, the fourth iteration of the Festival’s showcase of new work by early career artists based in Scotland, which this year will highlight the work of four female artists.

The 2018 commissions represent a rich and diverse collection of works. It is exciting to see the range of artists included, from established international figures to those at an early stage in their career.- Amanda Catto, Head of Visual Art

Internationally renowned Indian artist Shilpa Gupta will present For, in your tongue I cannot hide: 100 Jailed Poets, a multi-channel sound installation, in the ECA Engine House. Bringing together fragments from the work of 100 poets from around the world, the work will offer a powerful reflection on freedom of expression.

In collaboration with Marxist magician Ian Saville, Glasgow-based artist Ruth Ewan’s Sympathetic Magick will infiltrate the streets of Edinburgh with ‘political magic tricks’.

Reflecting through music on themes of flight and dispossession through music, Ross Birrell & David Harding’s Triptych presents a new three channel film work and installation in the 16th century church of Trinity Apse. As a highlight of the Festival’s closing weekend, the artists will collaborate with Syrian composer/violinist Ali Moraly on a live performance in Trinity Apse.

Adam Lewis Jacob will present No Easy Answers at the Institut Français d'Écosse, an experimental moving image installation inspired by J G Ballard’s Kingdom Come, which draws on the language of advertising and retail space to reflect on Britain’s shift from an industrial producer to service provider.

Platform: 2018: Selected from an open call by artists Jonathan Owen and Hanna Tuulikki, this year the Festival’s dedicated showcase for emerging talent will feature work by four early career female artists at the City Art Centre, continuing the emphasis on work by women at all stages of their artistic career at the Festival this year.

Sorcha Carey, Director of Edinburgh Art Festival, said: “We are delighted to share details today of our 2018 Commissions programme. Over the past ten years, the Scottish Government’s Festivals Expo Fund has supported our Festival to work with leading and emerging Scottish and international artists to open up new places and conversations in our city. This year’s programme is no exception, bringing together five artists, each with highly distinctive practices, but united by a common interest in some of the urgent social questions of our day. Our 2018 edition of Platform continues to support artists at the beginning of their careers, with four female artists from across Scotland selected to take part.”

Paul Bush, OBE, VisitScotland Director of Events: “The Commissions Programme has become an integral part of Edinburgh Art Festival and EventScotland is delighted to be supporting the commissioning of internationally renowned Indian artist Shilpa Gupta for this year’s programme. The inclusion of her installation will ensure the Festival and Scotland continues to build its international reputation as the perfect stage for visual arts.”

Amanda Catto, Head of Visual Arts, Creative Scotland, said: “The Edinburgh Art Festival is a highlight of the visual arts calendar, bringing together a world class programme that offers significant opportunities for public engagement and participation. We welcome today’s announcement of the 2018 commissions which represent a rich and diverse collection of works. It is exciting to see the range of artists included, from established international figures to those at an early stage in their career, and we look forward to the new perspectives and ideas that their works will bring to the many thousands of people who will visit the Festival during August this year.”

Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, said: “The Edinburgh Art Festival showcases the best of Scottish visual artists and their international collaborations to locals and overseas visitors alike. It is an exciting opportunity to enhance public engagement with contemporary art, while reflecting on wider social issues through music, poetry and magic. I’m pleased that the Scottish Government continues to support the 2018 festival’s programme by providing £140,000 from the 2018 Expo Fund, enabling established and emerging artists to develop ambitious new projects to reach a wide international audience.”

Councillor Donald Wilson, Culture and Communities Convener for the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “Every year, the Festival invites artists from all over Scotland and the world to showcase their work in Edinburgh’s labyrinth of art galleries and unusual exhibition spaces. It celebrates contemporary art right across our ancient city, which of course has a long history of promoting the value of culture. I’m delighted the Council is yet again able to support this year’s innovative and creative event. It is great to see such a strong programme of female and emerging artists for 2018 and a special look back over 40 years of Edinburgh’s Travelling Gallery at the City Art Centre. The city will be excited and surprised once again by incredible art this summer.”

Edinburgh Art Festival Commissions

Shilpa Gupta - For, in your tongue I cannot hide: 100 Jailed Poets

Venue: Edinburgh College of Art Engine House, Fire Museum, Lauriston Campus, 76-78 Lauriston Place, EH3 9DE

This multi-channel sound installation by internationally renowned Indian artist, Shilpa Gupta, gives voice to poets who have been jailed through the centuries. Bringing together fragments from the work of 100 poets from around the world, Gupta will offer a powerful reflection on freedom of expression.

Shilpa Gupta

The installation will comprise of 100 microphones suspended above 100 metal rods, each piercing a page inscribed with a verse of poetry. In turn, a single microphone plays these verses, echoed by a chorus of the other 99. Lasting over an hour, the sound piece alternates between English, Spanish, Arabic, Russian, Azeri and Hindi, amongst other global languages. A chorus of voices shift across the space, forming an ongoing sequence of haunting recitals.

Working across a wide range of media, Gupta demonstrates a deep engagement with the power of language, the written word, and the role of the individual vis à vis those structures that seek to define and control mobility, whether of the body or the imagination, through the use of mechanisms such as censorship or borderlines. This newest work will draw directly on the work of poets who over centuries have found themselves in conflict with political powers as a direct result of their written ideas, highlighting the fragility and vulnerability of our right to freedom of expression today.

Details of an associated performance taking place at the Burns Monument, as well as the broader Edinburgh Art Festival events programme will be announced in July 2018.

Co-commissioned with YARAT Contemporary Art Space, Baku. Supported by the Scottish Government’s Festivals Expo Fund and EventScotland, part of VisitScotland’s Events Directorate. With additional support from Scottish Poetry Library, PEN International and Edinburgh College of Art, The University of Edinburgh.

Ruth Ewan - Sympathetic Magick

Venue: Performances across the city

Sympathetic Magick is a new project devised by artist Ruth Ewan which will use the ancient art of street performance to bring magic onto the streets of Edinburgh.

Based in Glasgow, Ewan has created artworks as a direct response to particular public spaces, and her projects involve a process of focused research and close collaboration. This newest work responds to the extraordinary explosion of street theatre in Edinburgh at festival time, and is developed in collaboration with magician Ian Saville, who has worked with Marxist magic and ventriloquism for over 30 years.

Ian Saville

Ewan and Saville will work with professional and amateur magician collaborators to bring a series of socially engaged magic tricks to infiltrate the streets of Edinburgh. Visitors can expect to encounter magical experiences such as ‘The Class Struggle Rope Trick’ popping up as part of the street performances around West Parliament Square, or in programmed performances in spaces including Edinburgh’s gardens, museums and pubs.

Details of times and locations for Ewan’s planned performances, as well as the broader Edinburgh Art Festival events programme will be announced in July 2018.

Ross Birrell & David Harding - Triptych

Venue: Trinity Apse, Chalmers Close, High St, Edinburgh EH1 1SS

During their 12-year collaboration, artists Ross Birrell and David Harding have continually explored the thresholds between music and politics, poetry and place, composition and colour.

Their new project for Edinburgh Art Festival will reflect on themes of flight and dispossession, through an installation in the historic setting of Trinity Apse. Framed by the high vaulted arches of the former kirk will be a film documenting the powerful recital of Henryk Gorecki’s 1976 Symphony No. 3: Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, initiated by the artists for documenta 14 and performed in the Megaron Concert Hall, Athens by the Athens State Orchestra, with the Syrian Expat Philharmonic Orchestra, and featuring Syrian soprano Rasha Rizk. Newly edited across three channels, the film will sit at the heart of a wider architectural installation which directly transposes musical notation into a design of colour and light resembling a shattered mosaic.

The installation will include a transcript of the score of Fugue – a composition jointly evolved between Ross Birrell and Syrian composer/violinist Ali Moraly, which provided a starting point for the larger project reflecting on the shared etymology of the words ‘Fugue’ and ‘refugee’. Details of planned accompanying performances by Ali Moraly and other musicians, as well as the broader Edinburgh Art Festival events programme will be announced in July 2018. With additional support from British Council Scotland and Museums Galleries Edinburgh.

Adam Lewis Jacob - No Easy Answers

Venue: Institut Français d'Écosse, West Parliament Square, Edinburgh EH1 1RF

For the 2018 Festival, Adam Lewis Jacob will present No Easy Answers, an experimental moving image installation combining manipulated animations, found material and interviews between the artist and his Nan, which are interrupted by short narrative excursions. Using the language of video advertising, No Easy Answers takes as its focus the contradictory nature of the shopping centre as both a ‘nurturing space’ and ‘decaying womb’, a contested political arena representative of Britain’s shift from industrial producer to service provider.

The work takes J G Ballard’s novel Kingdom Come, Brexit and the increasing abstraction of economics as starting points that force a questioning of the role these spaces play in the construction of identity and political opinion within late capitalism.

With additional support from Institut Français d'Écosse.

Platform: 2018

Venue: City Art Centre, 2 Market Street, EH1 1DE

Edinburgh Art Festival is pleased to announce details of Platform: 2018, the Festival’s dedicated initiative to support artists at the beginning of their careers. The 2018 edition will show new work by Annie Crabtree, Isobel Lutz-Smith, Rae-Yen Song and Renèe Helèna Browne, selected from an open call by artists Jonathan Owen and Hanna Tuulikki. All four artists are based in Glasgow, with Crabtree also based between Skye and Arbroath, highlighting the strength and vivacity of Glasgow’s young creative scene.

Working with performance and documentation, Rae-Yen Song will extract elements from her Scottish and Chinese cultural identities, processing them visually to abstract and expand on their meaning to create a unique form of family portrait – the latest chapter in an ongoing series entitled Song Dynasty.

Annie Crabtree’s new video work explores the loss of bodily autonomy through illness, examining cultural (mis)representations and social (mis)understandings of female pain – pairing this with the act of swimming as a means of recovery, resistance and regaining of autonomy.

Annie Crabtree

Inspired by research in the School of Scottish Studies Sound Archive, Renèe Helèna Browne’s new sound-based work is concerned with creating and appropriating narratives relating to the female voice, in particular the accented voice and regional colloquialisms.

Isobel Lutz-Smith experiments with the ways in which a narrative can be grown from inverting the linear stages of filmmaking. Using multiple screens, her new installation is based on a short article on the cut-up method written by William Burroughs and published by the radical Scottish literary journal ‘Sidewalk’ in 1960.

This group exhibition, on show for the duration of the Festival, will be held at the City Art Centre, where In Focus: Scottish Photography, Edwin G. Lucas: An Individual Eye and Travelling Gallery at 40 will also be on display as part of this year’s Festival programme.

Impetuous Engine

Media Contact

Alice Evans, Rees & Co alice@reesandco.com +44 (0)20 3137 8776 + 44 (0)75 1547 5411