14 April – 6 May 2017
Talbot Rice Gallery
Based on a story that a live female puma once roamed Talbot Rice’s Georgian Gallery in 1827, Glasgow-based artist Michael Barr recently undertook his own ‘residency’ in the university’s Old College Quad. Mirroring the duration of the puma’s stay, Barr made approximately thirty performative interventions over a six month period, each lasting several hours. His costume, leaving only the eyes uncovered, was loosely informed by physical descriptions of the puma, but developed more fully from Barr’s interest in the uncanny. Unexplained and silent, these performative actions presented an unyielding, ambiguous ‘otherness’ to a public audience, allowing Barr to variously – even simultaneously – occupy positions of authority and vulnerability.
Barr’s exhibition creatively documents this ‘residency’ and the story of the puma, evading direct representations in order to preserve the resonance of the performative encounter. The costume will be displayed alongside a new etching of Barr in the Quad, historic images of the puma and a sculptural monument. A new video installation develops a critical strand of Barr’s practice, centred on the notion of ‘hospitality’. Deriving from an interest in Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Derrida’s writings on ‘otherness’, the video will blur the lines dividing the figure of the ‘host’ from that of the ‘hostage’, and situate Barr’s performative work somewhere in these muddy waters. Questioning different power structures and those moments where generosity and threat become difficult to distinguish, the exhibition rubs up against colonial histories and scratches at the surface of our contemporary political landscape.