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Moyna Flannigan’s Space Shuffle at Collective (EXHIBITION REVIEW)

Making your way up Calton Hill can offer a larger reward than just a great view of the city. This summer, Collective holds a multi-media exhibition by the internationally acclaimed Edinburgh-based artist, Moyna Flannigan. Made up of three pieces; Space Shuffle, Looking for Pluto, and Cosmic Traces, the exhibition draws on Flannigan’s previous work, refigured in ways never seen before. 

Collage in sculpture

Situated in and commissioned for the former City Observatory and City Dome site, the space lends itself most appropriately to Space Shuffle, a mobile-like conglomeration of wire and paper hangings. The piece includes symbols such as fists, blood spots, fragmented bodies, and a uterus, just to name a few. Throughout Flannigan’s artistic career, she has portrayed figures of women in dream-like landscapes, mingled with pop culture references and constituting pieces from old drawings or paintings. This show is the first time we get to see her methodology when applied to a three-dimensional structure – collage in sculpture. 

Flannigan’s process of disassembling and reassembling speaks to her fascination with Hermann Minowski’s theory of spacetime which, in simple terms, states that everything in the universe is connected by a single wire. The use of already-existing art seems to connect all of Flannigan’s work in this way, not only employing sustainable art practices, but acknowledging another fundamental law of physics; energy can not be created nor destroyed, only transferred. Certainly, as the small images in the City Dome sway when we walk past them, it’s easy to feel connected to the structure, and for each part to seem connected to the next. 

Apocalyptic scene

Also featured in the City Dome is Looking for Pluto, Flannigan’s first large-scale frieze that depicts a line of women making their way across an alien landscape, clutching mobile phones and wearing little black dresses. On one side of the canvas, blank cutouts of horses gather under failing aircraft – typically masculine symbols of war standing stark against an otherwise feminine landscape. Flannigan’s apocalyptic scene takes inspiration from Edwin Muir’s The Horses, a poem which associates the sound of horses’ hooves with a feeling of hope. Perhaps this is here conceptualised in the dereliction of structures previously holding up patriarchal ideals, and the foregrounding of the women who unapologetically take up space on the stage.

Scenes of deep space

The exhibition continues into the Library with Cosmic Traces, a series of collages again using the same fragmented female forms we have seen throughout this show. Flannigan aims to portray starlets, shrouded in Hollywood culture, yet again featuring paper-white horses and nose-diving planes. The women pose, as if for an editorial, amidst scenes of deep space, fallen chariots, and piles of skulls. Punctuating these four pieces are two cross-stitched works, utilising the centuries-old craft in a way that supplements it with power – indicative of the small, domestic rebellions women would undertake in the nineteenth century.

Space Shuffle is a testament to Flannigan’s process – an example of artwork which truly belongs to, and is borne from the artist, as she taught herself needlework to produce the samplers we see in the Library. The show continually repeats motifs and extracts from Flannigan’s collage archive, and whilst this sort of cyclical regeneration itself is distinct, it perhaps leaves little space for new ideas and concepts to flourish. Nevertheless, the exhibition prompts us to ponder our own place in spacetime, our own rippling effect on the world, and warns us to watch out for history repeating itself.

Moyna Flannigan’s Space Shuffle is on from 28th June till 15th September at Collective, City Observatory, 38 Calton Hill, Edinburgh EH7 5AA.

Photo Credits: John McKenzie, Courtesy of Ingleby Gallery

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