Saying that the world has gone mad feels like a cliche right now, as crisis after crisis fills our newsfeeds every day. The myriad of contemporary issues facing our world all seem to be coming to a head at the same time. Hot on everyone’s lips is the fresh controversy of the week. The Edinburgh Student Arts Festival taps into this tumultuous climate in their new exhibition Platform, which gives a space for underrepresented voices to explore the many questions facing our world.
The exhibition is crammed full of different media exploring a great wealth of topics, ranging from identity politics to ecology, illness, and migration. There is a lot to take in. The sheer range of subjects and textures feels slightly overwhelming, and it is almost tempting to say that too much has been packed in. But then the mass of images also feels appropriate. It resembles the barrage of information fed to us on social media about a chaotic social landscape, and reminds us of the connections between different activist groups.
Nowhere is this more evident than in Charlotte Maxwell’s collection of photographs, The Invisible Jungle. Photographed during Maxwell’s time spent volunteering at the Calais refugee camp, the project gives a new striking take on a crisis that we have all become so familiar with. Images of urban decay sit next to portraits of refugees, reminding us of how tied together our environment is with our political lives. The portraits also restore a human element to the crisis – it is easy to get lost in statistics so large they become difficult to relate to. Maxwell’s photographs of a child’s white dress, or a group of men standing together, brings the crisis back home through close encounters with the people affected.
Another poignant part of the exhibition is Zsofi Forras’s performance piece, A Stand for Self Love, in which she invites attendees to draw on her body. Forras makes herself vulnerable by displaying her body in front of a sign describing her struggles with self-esteem. When we draw hearts on her, we project our own insecurities onto her body and then scribble them out. It is a simple but effective look at practicing self-love.