We travel to escape. But how far can you get when you’re caught inside the bubble of the Edinburgh Fringe? Poet Ryan van Winkle and sound artist Dan Gorman are seeking to find out with this meditative collaboration.
After you have filled in a multiple choice survey with questions like, ‘What is your favourite smell?’ Van Winkle ushers you up some stairs and into a top floor room in Summerhall. You then enter a small tent filled with cushions – and Gorman.
What follows recalls elements of Winkle’s last piece at the Fringe, the hauntingly nostalgic Red Like Our Room Used to Feel. There’s the same evocation of childhood when he gives you a red plastic viewfinder and quietly asks you to point it at a ramshackle cardboard tower, covered in slides.
Once you’re looking through the viewfinder, Gorman switches on music that sounds like a call to prayer and you cycle through differing images of Mecca as van Winkle reads out poetry that weaves in your earlier choice of answers to the questionnaire.
The effect is transporting. Like the objects lining the walls in Red Like Our Room, the blurred, brightly coloured images of crowds and aerial views seem old-fashioned –photography from another age. Quite aside from where they were taken, this pulls you out of the now and drops you somewhere else.
Van Winkle’s poems have the effect of de-specifying the religious scenes before you; his words move around crowded shopping centres and evenings as the sun sets, when streets again become places to visit rather than endured.
It takes several minutes to get over the self-conscious awareness that there are two other people in the small, enclosed space. And some of the more New Age-y lines of verse jar. But there’s a swelling melancholy, a yearning for something just out of reach, that that creeps in.
The concentrated focus of looking through a tiny viewfinder forces you to shut out the peripheral world in more ways than one. I found myself lingering over certain images more than others – wandering into the frame. It’s a strangely calming experience.
The effect isn’t as all-encompassing as Red Like Our Room; ironically, you never feel as though you’ve left the Fringe as far behind. But like the composite of slides on the makeshift tower, you leave reminded that who you are is often where you’ve been. And the Polaroid van Winkle takes of you before you go is another memory to add to that album.