The University of Edinburghs Talbot Rice Gallery
presents a series of commissions realised in collaboration with Artlink as part of Ever / Present / Past, a yearlong programme commemorating the bicentenary of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital (REH) funded by Creative Scotland and the Heritage Lottery Fund.
When Artlink was set the task of capturing the Hospitals history it decided to approach the whole project in the same way it approaches the workshops it runs. Firstly, start with the individual; learn from their experience; then see where it takes you. Each of the artists involved devised their own approach to involving the individuals they met with. Patients, staff, managers, archivists and local communities all began to contribute to the dialogue. Some became researchers, some characters in stories, some consultants offering advice and direction and some became co-creators making work that has direct representation in the exhibition at the Universitys Talbot Rice Gallery. The result is an in-depth exploration of not only the REH buildings, but also the experiences of people living and working in the Hospital over the last 200 years.
For his first solo-exhibition in Scotland, Mark Dions 200 Years, 200 Objects has seen a thorough research process including staff, patient and local community involvement and activity. It entailed an in-depth programme of collecting, collating and sifting of stories connected to the REH. Each year from 1813 to 2013 has been assigned an object. Each object has a story. All 200 objects are displayed in a custom built 14-metre long cabinet. The objects have been gathered from a variety of sources such as the Morningside community, the Hospital community and the Lothian Health Services Archive. In addition, Mark has made specific interventions especially for the exhibition; researched information and speculation are intertwined. Archive, historical, contemporary, loaned, donated, found and newly commissioned objects rub shoulders with each other.
Claire Barclays approach involved using the Lothian Health Services Archive to research the history of the therapeutic environment, from the importance of hospital architecture to the individuals need to get lost in a worthwhile activity. Close working relationships formed between Claire and 3 people who had at some point received care within the Hospital, each working relationship taking cognisance of the skills of everyone involved. While Claire as the artist has been central to ensuring the result is a cohesive final exhibition, the joint collaborators have shaped the final outcomes. The result is an installation in the Georgian Gallery, where a common sensory language has been discovered, explored and exploited: from the feel of the coldness of medical equipment, the touch of the wooden panelling to the need to feel safe.
The projects by Mark and Claire are accompanied, in the upper White Gallery of Talbot Rice, by material created through the work of other artists working on the Ever / Present / Past programme. Anne Elliot, Laura Aldridge, Laura Spring, Alex Wilde and writer Nicola White, have created an unfolding series of talks, tours, stories and artworks resulting from their work collaboration with patients and staff in the Hospital, further adding to the collective understanding of the history of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital.