August 20th, 2005

operesque

Edinburgh / World



It's impressive that a small country like Scotland can sustain two art magazines. There's a new one called Map which looked pretty good to me when I flipped through it at the Collective Gallery on Cockburn Street. And I'm quite surprised to see Product still going after five years or so. Product began as a sort of Scottish Face, but, long after The Face went out of business, Product is still here, and by the look of the latest issue it's rather more politically radical than The Face ever was.

I like the idea of a Scottish cultural renaissance, and these magazines (subsidised heavily by the Scottish Arts Council, and therefore, indirectly, by the UK lottery) do make healthy noises. That said, I didn't actually buy either of them. I still buy London-based magazines like Frieze and Wire for my cultural fix. They just seem to have a more serious tone, to be bigger.



The Edinburgh / London distinction is somewhat invisible in these Scottish art magazines, which are more likely to set up binaries like "Edinburgh / World" or "Edinburgh / Glasgow". Here, for instance, is an extract from an article in the current Product:

"Since the end of 2003, Edinburgh's Collective Gallery has responded well to developments in Edinburgh art, curating Medium is Tedium and No-How, two group shows that represent an East Coast passion for baroque installations, Templar and heraldic imagery, and pattern-based practices that rework the Feminist 'subversive stitch'. Where many Glasgow artists are slaves to a global revival of the city's Functional and Brutalist architectural heritage, Edinburgh artists feast on an opulent diet of Victorian neo-gothic, Italiante cast-iron, coffered ceilings and scagliola pilasters, and the stylistic confusion of Roslyn Chapel."



Edinburgh and Glasgow are two Scottish cities only 44 miles apart, but here they become two principles, two rival stylistic schools. I'm not quite sure I'm ready to shrink my world down to such tight binaries, but I do like the idea of a small city like Edinburgh plugging directly into a chosen global culture without having to pass through London. And that's very much how Scotland feels now. My nephew Robbie nurtures a Japanophilia which puts mine in the shade. He woke us up this morning to drag Hisae through to watch a Japanese cartoon on TV. He's also coerced her into giving him Japanese lessons. Not only can Edinburgh directly access "Italiante cast iron", it can see all the way to Japan.