Edinburgh Art Festival installation uses Auld Lang Syne to encourage friendship post-Brexit
A choir of recorded voices, which represent the different member states of the European Union, feature in the constantly changing Sound Of The Union arrangement – which is described as being an “artwork about friendship”
The sound installation is the work of Nigerian-born artist Emeka Ogboh, and it is being set up at the foot of Calton Hill as part of the Edinburgh Art Festival, which opens on Thursday.
Ogboh recorded Auld Lang Syne, written by Robert Burns, being sung in the poet’s original Ayrshire dialect, as well as in the languages of the 27 EU nations.
These have been edited, programmed and sequenced to produce what is described as “a complex and constantly shifting soundscape”.
The installation will see the individual renditions of the song played, in concert, from seven speakers at the Burns Monument, while a recording in Scottish Gaelic will also be played.
The Song Of The Union artwork was inspired by MEPs singing Auld Lang Syne in farewell to the UK as it departed the EU in January 2020. The idea of singing the song in Brussels came from German MEP Terry Reintke, who was part of an EU-UK Friendship Group in the European Parliament.
None of those recorded singing for the artwork were eligible to vote in the 2016 Brexit referendum and Ogboh – who lives and works in Lagos and Berlin – said they can now have their voices heard through the piece.
Song Of The Union is curated by the University of Edinburgh’s Talbot Rice Gallery and has been co-commissioned with Edinburgh Art Festival, which runs until August 29.
Curator Tessa Giblin says: “Song Of The Union is an artwork about friendship – just as Auld Lang Syne is a song about friendship – and it looks forward, not back, to a time when friends might see each other again.”
The work is supported by the Place Programme – a partnership between Edinburgh Festivals, the Scottish Government, City of Edinburgh Council and Creative Scotland.
It also received additional support from Goethe-Institut Glasgow, the Institut fur Auslandsbeziehungen, Reid School of Music at Edinburgh College of Art and Museums and Galleries Edinburgh.
Meanwhile, a new exhibition of photographs by Zimbabwean-Scottish Sekai Machache is set to open at Stills on Cockburn Street as part of the festival.
Running until September 18, The Divine Sky is described as the artist’s most ambitious multi-media installation to date. Machache is the recipient of the 2020 RSA Morton Award and a member of the 2021-2023 Talbot Rice Residency Programme. The exhibition is part of Stills Project 20 series, which supports early-career artists and allows artists to test new ideas and ways of working.
Ben Harman, Director Stills, said: “The exhibitions at Stills this year will provide a platform for artists and photographers at early stages of their careers. In presenting the work of Sekai Machache, as part of our Projects 20 series postponed from last year, we look forward to showcasing.”