Parc du Souvenir
Parc du Souvenir, originally commissioned by and exhibited at the Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh, was inspired by the lives and legacies of two very different individuals; Patrick Geddes, an eccentric Scottish polymath who transformed the Old Town of Edinburgh and subsequently went on to be a radical influence on city planning in the early 20th century, and Gűnter Grass, author of The Tin Drum, who as a youth witnessed the utter destruction of his home city, Danzig, during the Second World War.
The exhibition combines a large drawing on floor vinyl, video and a selection of drawings and collages. The video combines two works, Sitzfleisch Recalls and Sitzfleisch Reflects. Brandes invented the fictional Albert Sitzfleisch five years ago and continues to explore and satirise the events of this hapless character through a stream-of-consciousness style memoir. In this work, Sitzfleisch makes a journey across Europe and fantasises about crossing paths with Geddes and Grass whilst facing various misfortunes along the way.
Through his typical multi-disciplinary approach, Brandes has developed these points of interest into a broader meditation, not only on the interrelationships between Scotland and mainland Europe, but on historical periods of ‘enlightenment’ and their subsequent periods of ‘suspension’. Architecture, monuments and artifacts recur throughout the work as displaced signs, remaining after the ideologies that produced them have collapsed, out of context and often out of shape.
The exhibition title means “memorial garden”, a title shared with the monumental drawing. The latest in a series of large drawings made on flooring vinyl, this work is created through a process Brandes describes as ‘cerebral attic clearance’; a conceptual, organic unfolding of all the ideas preoccupying him to generate an epic multilayered vista. Inscribed with the year “2068” it imagines a future just beyond the artist’s lifetime. Inspired by an unrealised design by Geddes for a garden devoted to the Nine Greek Muses, the central plateau towers over a cityscape made from familiar dwellings. In Brandes memorial garden, Geddes’s celebration of creative inspiration is replaced by a discarded bric-à-brac of broken dreams. This includes a pile of unwanted TVs, a temporary encampment symbolising protest or displacement and the head of the Johann Wolfgang Goethe, suspended above a shut-down sausage kiosk.
For the historic Old College Quad, Brandes created a bespoke billboard depicting the surrounding site at a point in the future. He has added the headless statue of Vasily Karazin, founder of Kharkiv University on the hallowed grass, whilst, in an audacious act of digital vandalism erasing the building’s iconic dome and beloved ‘Golden Boy’. The scene is augmented by a statue’s unfeasible long outstretched arm and the inverted Dodo bird hanging from it. The Dodo dangles in an ungainly fashion; of the billions of species lost in the process of evolution it has become an icon of a lost past, as absurd and divisive as the monuments Brandes manipulates.
Parc du Souvenir was shown at Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh 29 October - 17 December 2016,
Oonagh Young Gallery, Dublin, 26 January - 24 February 2017 and will travel to Sirius Arts Cente, Cobh in April 2017.
The video works "Sitzfleisch Recalls" and "Sitzfleisch Reflects" can be seen here in full:
15 - 15
© Stephen Brandes 2016