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Meet Me at the Threshold

By Greg Thomas, 12.04.2022
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Rae-Yen Song, ✵may-may songuu✵, 2020-22. 'Meet me at the threshold', 26 March - 21 May 2022. Courtesy Talbot Rice Gallery.

The Talbot Rice’s recently launched residency scheme is designed to give early-career or “re-emerging” artists based in Scotland the time, space, materials and funding needed to nurture ambitious, long-term projects. The first two rounds of overlapping two-year residencies culminate in the current show, featuring the 2018-20 and 2019-21 cohorts. A group show like this inevitably presents a challenge to the curator, who must bring a semblance of dialogue to a set of disparate practices, but the binding motif of the “Threshold” proves surprisingly productive.

At the boundary of the human and animal we find Sarah Rose’s coiled constructions in wood, resin, and glass, recalling both the shed skins of serpents and the deep-sea telecommunications cables used to connect the UK to its overseas territories. Through subtle formal conceits the artist entwines notions of imperial bondage and post-human survival, visualising a world metabolising colonial and ecological trauma. Behind Rose’s constructions, Rae-Yen Song’s exquisite hanging tapestries and whimsical wooden fungi convey the artist’s sui generis vision of a not-quite-allegorical world of marvellous beasts.

Stephanie Mann. 'Meet me at the threshold', 26 March - 21 May 2022. Courtesy Talbot Rice Gallery.

Turning from the animate to the geological, Stephanie Mann’s Withdrawn Objects consists of a set of fragmentary objects from Edinburgh University’s fine art and geology departments, each “cored” and set on the wall. Extracted cylinders of material have been ground down into a fine dust which, on an accompanying 16mm film, is hand-massaged into cubes of sandstone. This curiously sensual gesture is redolent of the instability that seems to pervade all aspects of our natural world in the Anthropocene. Nearby, Rosie O’Grady’s photograms reveal in blurry hues the Ploumanac’h Rocks made famous by Surrealist Eileen Agar’s 1926 photoshoot. Created by placing a camera-phone screen-down on photo-sensitive paper, O’Grady’s pieces visualise the distance between technologically mediated memory and un-reclaimable reality. 

Audio-visual work by Monica Yoo and Tako Taal places us at the cusp of divided identities forged through migration and the dislocation of past and present. Yoo’s I am the space where I am, an installation in a large window bay, consists of a barely-perceptible flickering light, accompanied by the sound of the artist struggling to switch between English and Korean phonetics as she recites strings of Morse code. The gentle sonic abstraction also illustrates a struggle to negotiate a bifurcated sense of self. Taal’s film Departure, meanwhile, shows in close-up the folds of a blue-and-white patterned blanket given to the artist on her birth, with an audio-track consisting of a poem written by her deceased father read by her two uncles, one based in Florida, the other in Taal’s paternal home of The Gambia. Again, formal abstraction becomes a metaphor for cultural dislocation, the waves of the cloth suddenly striking the viewer as the waves of the Atlantic Ocean separating the artist’s family.

Aideen Doran and Eothen Stern offer research-led installations probing the splits between mainstream middle-class culture and subcultural identity in political volatile contexts. Doran’s Depositions of the Despoiled Subject uses snippets of video footage, interviews with family members, and audio re-enactment to unfold a constellatory history of the Northern Ireland troubles. Stern’s Feel My Love, uses a catalogue of video, audio, and graphic material to recreate the atmosphere of Edinburgh’s 1980s club scene amidst the catastrophe of the AIDS/HIV crisis. 

Jenny Hogarth, 'Flow Co Motion', 2022 (with Bo Mulholland). 'Meet me at the threshold', 26 March - 21 May 2022. Courtesy Talbot Rice Gallery.

In the rotunda-like space upstairs, Sulaïman Majali offers the most gnomic set of materials found in the show. A wealth of unrelated-seeming objects is deposited and secreted across the space, including a wall-mounted shard of rock with an X sandblasted into it and a nineteenth-century imitation of an illuminated manuscript showing Solomon conversing with animals. Many of these objects allude to historic Arabic achievements in science and mathematics, as if they were props for an unrealised performance of global history, abandoned in some cosmic antechamber or backroom. 

The practices on display at Talbot Rice until 21st May are each worthy of sustained attention. Final word, however, goes to Jenny Hogarth’s Flow Co Motion, an affecting multi-screen video-portrait of her relationship with her eldest child Bo, whose autism and use of stimming to engage with the world are suggested by a child’s-eye video cast downwards onto foam blocks. This unstable surface fractures the image, suggesting both comfort and potential damage—the threshold between parent and child traced here is one of the most engaging of the boundaries crossed throughout this show.

Meet me at the threshold is exhibited at Talbot Rice until Sat 21st May. Discover more about Sulaïman Majali's work in this artist profile. Meet me at the threshold is generously supported by Edinburgh College of Art and Freelands Foundation. The Talbot Rice Residents programme is part of the Freelands Artist Programme.