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Art, Society

Edinburgh’s Architecture, from the new to the neglected

I’m just back from a trip to the Edinburgh Fringe – a cultural feast of comedy, theatre, music, art and literature, and a yearly pilgrimage that I’ve managed to make for three summers so far (I’m aiming for a consecutive ten). What struck me about 2011’s trip was how diverse the architecture is up here, and I don’t just mean the standard relics such as the Monument or indeed the extremely over-budget Scottish Assembly. I’m talking about the ones you might not have spotted or read about, that have sat fairly incongruously among the streets of Auld Reekie, but that deserve a second look. From the new Hotel Missoni’s shameless nametagging on its fascia, to the crumbling Udderbelly structure with its dungeon-like chambers, there is so much to take in. Please click on the relevant thumbnail above to enlarge an image.

My most memorable visit was to the Canongate Venture, which hosted a very unsettling but socially important art exhibition called 400 Women, which featured portraits of abducted or murdered women from Juarez, in Mexico. These females have been disappearing (and often re-appearing in brutally damaged and often sexually violated corpse form) since 1993, yet the combination of a fiercely patriarchal society and a pathetically shambolic federal investigation have meant that no justice has been served. It makes me incredibly angry to know that these victims are continuing to mount up because nobody in power is taking their cause seriously, despite the fact that many of them are teens or children and the youngest was just three years old.

The setting for this show was in a vast former school building which is slowly falling into disrepair and, for me, this seemed to mirror the neglect of the women’s rights and cause in Juarez. It also mirrored the antiquity of the system by which Juarez can be controlled: just as the school layout remained long after it was required here, so too does the misogynistic control continue in this tragic Mexican city.  The Canongate Venture was a haunting location that harboured peeling paint, old chairs and the strangely specific smell of abandoned academic institutions.

I would urge people in the Edinburgh area to see not only this hugely important exhibition, but also the walls that contain it.


About Polly

I'm a journalist, based near Brighton. This blog, which is separate from my professional life, will document my reaction to current affairs, as well as some personal projects.


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