In a contemporary political climate in which debates over nationalism and nationalities are constantly called into question, Another Country is a relevant and engaging exhibition that aims to encourage the discussion surrounding these debates whilst presenting minority perspectives. The collection, comprised of the works of five different artists, explores themes of integration, nationality, and identity – particularly in the context of immigration in contemporary Scotland. The exhibition consists of works by artists including: Graham Fagen, Owen Logan, Toby Paterson, and Julie Roberts and has been organised in partnership with independent curators Euan Gray, Elaine Rutherford, and Alberta Whittle.
The exhibition begins in the hallway adjacent to the main room with the work of Elaine Rutherford, featuring four pieces depicting a series of knots in which the artist explores themes of instability and migration. The situation of these pieces provides an intriguing introduction to the collection, outlining the discussion that will be encouraged in the main room. However, upon entering the rest of the collection, the series of pieces give an impression of being slightly sparse and unconnected, most noticably Toby Paterson’s ‘Palisade (Safety Orange),’ a steel fencing that cuts the room in two. Nonetheless, this installation, like many others in the collection, gains momentum through its explanation – Paterson’s palisade is a representation of those across nations which assert spatial control over people and places. Similarly, the megaphone installation by artist Katherine Ya Liu fails to make a meaningful impression, although the poetry of Lo Mei Wa, which it is paired with, does to a much greater extent, engaging directly with its aim to challenge Western stereotypes of East Asian women as exotic objects. This collaborative piece, although relevant thematically, fails to portray this through the part of the megaphone itself.
Nevertheless, there are a few pieces in the exhibition which stand out as particularly thought provoking in their own right, such as Euan Gray’s ‘Immigration Game,’ a re-fabricated pinball machine and poster which uses satire in order to raise questions about the way people interact with contemporary news-flash media depicting refugees and immigrants. The pinball machine is actually supposed to be in use, although it is currently out of order at the gallery. Both a pinball machine and a broadcasted news item averages at three minutes – Gray’s highly pertinent point being that “people consume news articles in the media almost as entertainment”. The interactive nature of the piece, which uses images taken directly from media sources, alongside its chilling point system, including levels such as ‘rescue all immigrants’ and ‘spot migrant boat,’ strikes a respondent nerve about the way we, as a society, engage or rather fail to engage not only modern issues but the lives of actual individuals.
The debate encouraged by Another Country is essential to contemporary discussion, and is an exhibition worth seeing if not only for the thought it provokes – it is, after all, critical in our modern climate to engage with thoughts of identity, nationality, and those from whom these have been taken.
Image: Sophie Smith