June 2015

Art and comedy

After the ALT CAB archive exhibition about the 1980s alternative comedy scene back in February at the gallery, I was contacted by a couple of comedy acts who wanted to preview their fringe shows at the gallery before the Edinburgh festival in August.

It seemed like a good opportunity to ask why hundreds of comics and performers, most of them unknowns, make their way to the festival each year, certain in the knowledge that their chances of losing all their money are high, and their chances of being 'noticed' are slim.

THE PREVIEW (19-28 June) showcases a mix of comedians and performance artists who collectively reflect some of the eclecticism of the Edinburgh fringe itself.

I asked them a number of questions about why they put themselves through it, as well as the highs and lows of the gruelling marathon that is an Edinburgh festival show.

Their answers seemed surprisingly relevant to how an artist might approach a solo exhibition.

Q.'Why do you want to take a show up to Edinburgh?'
A. 'To hone and develop a show in front of a discerning and demanding audience. Edinburgh raises my game in every way. I always come back a better performer, with new material and fresh ideas'

Q.'What's the best thing about doing a show at Edinburgh?'
A. 'Building the show. It goes to Edinburgh as one thing and ends up as quite another: the real work starts once it gets in front of an audience'

Art galleries play a vital role in creating the physical and psychic environment in which an artist can start the intellectually rigorous and sophisticated process that is the preparation and execution of a solo show.

The anticipation of a solo exhibition gives a crucial immediacy to imagining outsiders' eyes on the work, and to imagining how different works interact with each other, as well as with their audience, to create something that is much more than a collection of artworks in the studio.

I would suggest that, like the live show at the Edinburgh fringe festival, it is the solo exhibition - before, during and after - which is the critical stimulus that leads to really good and exciting work.

Monika Bobinska

With thanks to Charmian Hughes for her observations about the Edinburgh experience

Simon Munnery 'La Concepta' performance at Canal