The Old Ambulance Depot, Edinburgh
4 stars It’s the cosiness that draws you into theatre designer Kai Fischer’s moodily lit installation and performance piece. The casual listener might never guess where the words being uttered in such soothing female tones through speakers attached to a series of wooden platforms are taken from. Once you realise they are drawn verbatim from the catalogue for the Nazi-organised Degenerate Art Exhibition that took place in Munich in 1937, the piece takes on a new measure of seriousness. The exhibition, organised by Adolf Hitler and his cronies, aimed to deride and discredit anything the state could not control or understand.
As the sensors that operate each speaker are triggered whenever a viewer draws close, the gentlest of cacophonies comes gradually and shockingly into focus. When performers Pauline Goldsmith and Pauline Lockhart draw the audience into what initially resembles a children’s story-telling session, the content of their sing-song conspiracy is even more chilling.
Goldsmith, Lockhart and the disembodied voices talk of work being made by ‘lunatics’ and ‘cretins’ with the casual contempt which these days are usually the preserve of those who treat the Turner Prize as if it’s a joke. The fact that the women here are denigrating works by Picasso, Paul Klee and others who recognised an abstract world beyond the Nazis Aryan vision says much about the 1937 exhibition’s anti-intellectual stance.
With sound design by Matt Padden, Fischer has made a major statement on the dangers of how an oppressive state reduces things to a lowest common denominator at their peril. This hauntingly mesmeric treatment of the subject is both a meditation and a warning that all should take heed of. The Herald, November 12th 2012 ends