Seventy years on from the Edinburgh Festival’s foundation with the explicit intention of helping heal the wounds of the Second World War, art is still required to help us make sense of the chaos and danger which exists today. Once again Summerhall’s packed 2017 visual art programme brings together a varied range of exceptional international work, all of which is free to view and united by its willingness to face up to the realities of the world in which it was made.
We’re honoured to welcome the Scots-born, Belfast-based Alastair MacLennan for a retrospective which encompasses photography, video art and performance. A founder member of Belfast’s Art and Research Exchange and Emeritus Professor in Fine Art at the University of Ulster who has represented Ireland at the Venice Biennale, his work deals in politics, society, cultural malfunction and Zen philosophy, often focussing on the Northern Irish Troubles.
Alongside MacLennan’s retrospective work he will perform two of his lengthy durational performances, one solo and one with regular collaborator Sandra Johnston. In a performance of a very different sort, meanwhile, Jane Frere returns to Summerhall with ‘CAT (Creative, Aesthetic, Transgression) Pink Pussy Project’, a viral protest meme in which her CAT masks have been used in protesting the bombing of Gaza, the jailing of human rights activists in Bahrain, Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump.
‘This Time in History, What Escapes’ by Rose Frain is a sculptural installation piece about the effects of the war in Afghanistan, taking in the rise of ISIL and the crisis in masculinity through reference to Chelsea/Bradley Manning, while a historic study of grassroots activism is offered by Richard Lees’ Rock Against Racism posters. Protestimony: Art in the Jungle is a display of work created within Calais’ notorious refugee camp, and Sura Medura, Sri Lanka is a group show of work created by 21 British artists who travelled to the country to respond to it through their work. Together, these and our other shows offer a rich and unique cultural window upon the world.