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Summerhall Art & Music Exhibitions

Summerhall, Edinburgh, until November 24th 2012
4 stars
The path-way from Johnny Cash to Bob Dylan is a tellingly symbolic one in the two most straightforward of seven big shows exploring the relationships between sound and vision in very different ways. The images of these two icons of popular music may be a short stroll from a dark room to the basement, but, captured at their creative peak, these two pop cultural giants mark out the co-dependent leap from blue-collar street-songs to the avant-garde. In 'A Hero of the True West, Jim Marshall's images captures the Man in Black in transit via thirty black and white shots of Cash in concert and with his family in the late 1960s. When Cash peers through the grille of a van en route to Folsom Prison, so stony-faced is he that it's as if he's in as cell of his own making.

If Cash appears on the run from his own demons, the image of him with Dylan is a kind of baton-passing. Because, as captured by celebrity snapper Barry Feinstein in 'Don't Follow Leaders – Bob Dylan in the 'Judas' Years, Dylan revelled in his people's poet status. Looking impossibly hip against a bombed-out back-drop of crumbling houses and snot-nosed street urchins in mid 1960s Liverpool, it clearly wasn't just Dylan's guitar that was electric.

The urban decay is more in keeping with 'Punk Politics Posters – 35 years of fighting racism through music', a crucial collection of 1970s Rock Against Racism posters and ephemera that captured the messy, cut n' paste energy of the time, as well as the complimentary flow between punk and reggae during a combative era when the police were considered enemies of the people.

Kommissar Hjuler is a police-man in Germany, who, along with his partner Mama Baer and porn star Violet Storm, might also be considered such. The walls of corrupted detritus, scarifying paintings and explicit collages that make up their 'Flux + (st/p) or (m/n)' show seems to mirror their live noize performances (one of which can be seen at Summerhall on November 10th), as the trio play with pornography in the way pre-punk provocateurs COUM Transmissions did before morphing into Throbbing Gristle.

All of whom owe much to sound poet Henri Chopin's Revue OU publication, which featured recordings of key avant-garde figures alongside extravagant and elaborate artworks. Collected here in OU OU OU, Revue OU makes for a bumper collection of artworks wrapped around each other in tantalisingly tactile fashion.

Lauren Sarah Hayes' 'Skin Music' is equally tantalising, engaging physically with the listener as music pours from the furniture you're sitting on in a way that recalls Kaffe Matthews' Sonic Bed project. Harry Whalley's split-screen video installation, 'A Little Harmonic Labyrinth', meanwhile, jump-cuts a sole violinist playing two different musical notations. Reconfigured at random by computer, as with all of the shows here, the possibilities are endless.

The List, November 2012

ends


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