Now that Interview Room 11 is no longer in its gloriously brutal concrete former location at Argyle House in Edinburgh’s West Port, it’s nice to look back and see documentation of what was achieved during its stay.
One of the exhibitions I was invited to be part of, in this case by Nicky Melville, was the 2014 Another Athens exhibition. This film on Vimeo from Suzanne van der Lingen interviews its curators: Nicky Melville, Mirja Koponen and Gerry Smith, and shows visual material from the exhibition.
The ambitious project was pretty global in its reach and included a one day symposium. There was an official pairing with the SNEHTA art space in Athens.
My involvement was to provide text pieces, two in collaboration with Colin Herd, two on my own, for display in the space. We were asked to provide an original piece and to respond to a text from one of the Athens writers who were paired with us on the project. The texts were displayed beautifully with pins on two opposite gallery walls. They were unidentified by author, so it was left to the view to play with attributions to Athens or to Edinburgh authors, and they were a variety of sizes, so looked great.
The request for our original pieces was framed in the set of instructions below:
Edinburgh is The Athens of the North. This project will show Another Athens, a composite city constructed from depictions of both Athens and Edinburgh. The composite city will be based upon the memories and personal experiences of its inhabitants.
You should write about an event or situation which says something about your own “Athens”.
The text should fit on one side of A4 paper.
The city should be referred to as Another Athens.
Aside from that, the style and content is up to the writer.
I loved thinking about composite cities, cities of possibility. And in my piece I was also thinking about cities in their different historical moments, with memory and trace as important cues for how we navigate and negotiate them. The project was happening at the time of the Scottish Independence Referendum, so had resonance with large scale imaginings of that sort. I was very engaged with Emily Dickinson’s work at the time, so my piece of writing quotes her only poem to explicitly name Athens. I also went to Greek poet Cavafy for material to work with. I loved his homoerotic poems when I was younger, and I enjoyed mapping personal past erotic experience into this flickering virtual city the project was allowing me to conjure while mapping Cavafy’s geographical concerns about his identity as an Alexandrian Greek onto Edinburgh’s very present politics.
Here’s the piece I compiled in its entirety.