Dissecting the arts

19th August 2011 at 01:00
Raymond Ross enjoys some odd happenings at the Edinburgh Fringe

I never thought I'd be sitting in the dissection room having a pint," says a former veterinary student. We are sitting in the Dissection Room Bar at Summerhall, the former Royal Dick Veterinary School, at the east end of the Meadows.

This is Edinburgh's latest - and largest - Fringe venue. We are surrounded by paintings and diagrams of animals, as well as a display case of hybrid animal exhibits that seem to have been shipped in from HG Wells' The Island of Doctor Moreau.

Downstairs, in the marble-floored, wood-panelled foyer, a jazz trio is playing to people queuing to see Traumatikon, a stunning piece of ensemble theatre inspired by the work of the Polish artist and director Tadeusz Kantor.

Along one corridor is an educational exhibition showing the history of the Edinburgh Festival. Drawn from The Demarco Archive, it features Kantor along with the German artist and former Luftwaffe pilot Joseph Beuys. Along another corridor is a room dedicated to the Parisian conceptual artist Christian Boltanski.

If you nip down to the basement, there's an intriguing installation called Parallel Lines. Someone has written in the comment book "Brilliantico". Someone else has penned "Schizophrenic".

All of the many exhibitions and installations here are about contemplative art; art that is clearly intended to engage the mind.

The same could probably be said of the literary and music events on offer, as well as the theatre programme that includes the six-hour epic Hotel Medea running from 11.30pm and ending with breakfast.

For anyone interested in the visual arts, science, history or architecture - the building is quite fascinating - the Summerhall experience is unlikely to disappoint.

I bump into another former student and ask her what she thinks of what they've done to her old vet school.

"Frankenstein," she says, grinning. "Pure bloody Frankenstein. I love it!"


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