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Art in Edinburgh

Artists examine the commons.

Scotland may have been dominating headlines as of late for its political referendum, but its art scene is well worth some ink as well, particularly in its capital city. As cultures become increasingly global, art that examines them assumes a new, multi-layered relevance, exploring the problems, ideas, myths, and history inherent in connections (and separations) between cultures and countries. Case in point: Where do I end and you begin, a contemporary art exhibition now taking place at Edinburgh’s City Art Centre through October 19. Organized by the Edinburgh Art Festival (which took place this summer) as part of the Glasgow 2014 Cultural Programme, this major group exhibition is a collaboration between 20 artists and five curators, each hailing from a different Commonwealth country: New Zealand, South Africa, India, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

Named after a piece by Indian artist Shilpa Gupta, whose work is part of the show, the exhibition posits some interesting questions inspired by the Commonwealth theme, including community—a timely topic. Namely, what does the fusion of “common” with “wealth” entail? What are its historical and contemporary implications? How do these relate to the philosophical concept of a common good, and what does it mean to be “common” in our new global reality? Representing Canada in this significant show is curator Kathleen Ritter, who enlisted the participation of Rebecca Belmore, Pascal Grandmaison, and artist duo Brian Jungen and Duane Linklater.

Where do I end and you begin is the very first exhibition organized by the Edinburgh Art Festival, which has grown to become the biggest visual arts festival in the UK since its debut in 2004. Not only does it introduce many international artists to a U.K. audience, the festival also unites many facets of Scotland’s diverse art scene as well as special public art commissions.

With more than 100 artists featured in venues all over the city this past summer, selecting just a few highlights becomes mission impossible. There was John Byrne’s collection of portraits, which includes Scottish celebrities like Tilda Swinton and Billy Connolly; Torsten Lauschmann’s installation at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, which fused film, machines, and soundscapes into a haunting creative alchemy that commented on our largely digital existence; and, of course, the aforementioned Gupta’s Where do I end and you begin. The neon work takes inspiration from fellow Indian artist Amar Kanwar’s film installation The Sovereign Forest, also exhibited at the festival.

Summer may be over, but Where do I end and you begin remains a prime example of why Edinburgh is swiftly becoming an international art destination.