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Review - Exhibition - Edinburgh International Festival

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By Neil Cameron

Edinburgh International Festival.
Until 2 September.

Alex Hartley.
At the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh,
until 21 October.

Nathan Coley.
At doggerfisher,
11 Gayfield Square, Edinburgh, until 15 September

It’s that time of year again in Edinburgh. The Festival is once more waking the city from its cultural somnambulance, but architecture doesn’t figure in the programme – hardly surprising in a city obsessed with its past glories and with so little drive to match them now. But among the art shows being staged alongside the festival are two interesting commentaries on architecture.

In a wry take on those scaffolding wraps which replicate the hidden facade of a building at 1:1 scale, artist and climber Alex Hartley has draped the front of the Fruitmarket Gallery with a representation of itself. The extra dimension is the addition of texts describing various climbs he has made of the frontage, Richard Murphy’s architecture being translated into a series of arêtes and overhangs of which Hartley has made the first recorded ascents.

In his LA Climbs: Alternative Uses for Architecture (2003), Hartley explored Los Angeles as if it were an undiscovered mountain range, its classic buildings of the post-war era reinterpreted as so many new climbing routes. In the process, he produced a book which took a refreshingly irreverent approach to iconic architecture. Buildings such as the Case Study houses, usually presented as totems of American Modernism, were represented elliptically in a spirited act of cultural reductionism.

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