Time Capsules: Restless Worlds

03 10 2021

 Restless Worlds/MANIPULATE

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh


In our beleagured times, art can act as both panacea and mirror to icontemporary anxieties and concerns. The sheer scope of work on offer with Restless Worlds is incredible, little time capsules that show immense imagination and skill. Eight Scottish artists, working independently in the time of COVID19, present different pieces which set out visions of nature, dream states and storytelling.These miniature kinetic sculptures and moving images, tableaux encased in glass, are worlds within worlds, daring the spectator to stare back, and confront the viewer with complex, multi-layered ruminations on how things could be, or perhaps will be for a while, until the world returns to any kind of routine again- whatever that might entail.


The fragmentary nature of the current situation can be found in Shona Reppe and Tamlin Wiltshire's Still Life With Willow Pattern. It takes its cue from kintsugi, the Japanese art of restoring porcelain with gold. Broken crockery, biscuits and tea spilling over in the installation is a metaphor for escaping from domestic expectations.Eva Reppe-Roverselli's eerie whispered poetry accompanies the artwork, while Ben Seal's soundscape cheekily mixes T'Pau's China In Your Hand with drones and dissonance, creating a warped composition.


Trials Of Bliss by visual artist Chell Young fuses a beautiful visual representation of Italian Renaissance architecture- a burnished red and gold archway, leading to a mysterious building- with poetry about the dissemination of information and how algorithms are tailored to the individual. Effectively,it asks questions about how much free will we really have in society, and the cost of getting what we need.


Film maker and director Lucas Chih-Peng Kao's Creaturium: The Lost Ones created in collaboration with puppet maker Katanari has an organic soundscape, alongside beautifully detailed cabinets designed by Emily Martinelli. Through the use of both the sound of lapping waves and birdsong, and the artwork using birds and animal skulls, it's a poignant reminder of the temporal state of all living things.


There's a fuzziness and distortion to Samuel Watterworth's Here. We're Not,  Samples of radio static and disembodied voices, alongside an interactive installation, create a disquieting effect, somewhat akin to a modern day hall of mirrors.


Meanwhile, the environment takes on a playful malevolence thanks to puppeteer Gavin Glover and composer John Kielty's collaboration, A Rock And A Hard Place. An exploration of scientific trials with a cabinet of curiosities, it's a brilliantly detailed and rich dystopian installation with humour and shivers.


Mr Holdcroft by Jessica Innes features a cosy living space augmented by stunning animation. It tells a surreal tale of what happens which nature (literally) arrives on your doorstep, and is a wry and gentle meditation on beauty coming from unexpected sources, connectivity, and the need to embrace change, in all its myriad forms.


Sharmanka's famous kinetic sculptures are something of a Scottish institution. Apple Eaters, created by Heather Parry with music by Brian Irvine and narration by Kirsty Logan, has their trademark witty/sinister moving sculpture, and storytelling dismantling the machinery of love and fleshly fallibilty.The disarming lyricism explores fruit, knives and tender bodies.


Lockdown frustration and political promises underpin The Diktat Synthesizer  by sculptor puppet-maker and designer Guy Bishop. Speeches from Trump, Sturgeon and Johnson regarding the pandemic are cut up and mashed up, as a lone mechanical figure repeatedly bangs his head against the wall.

Sloganeering, point scoring and soundbites in lieu of succint, sensible advice? Surely that couldn't happen here...

Taken together, these eight works present discreet insights into concepts both existential and political, showcasing the artistry of Scottish puppetry and visual performance, finding an alternative to liveness and considering the inanimate's power to express the visceral and cerebral.

Lorna Irvine