James Bell

James Bell


♦ Institution ♦


This is an inherited place. Ideology, entombed in bricks and mortar, nods to an inconceivable past, defined by a disengaged present and unable to articulate or even imagine a future. The body, subjugated and mobilised in the creation of space, complicit in the perpetuation of this fiction, this place.


A brown sign demarcates a historically significant site, crisp and white, 1.4 miles away – time and place are established whilst rushing by at 70 mph. To experience this time and place, or more specifically, to go there, would be to imply a relationship, an identification with these edifices. Hairline cracks begin to appear; the foundations are weak; the body assumes a stabilising stance. The body enters the institution and adorns a common identity of time and place. The pillars are injected with a carbon-fibre-reinforced polymer, repointed and repainted, crisp and white. Steel beams support corrugated steel sheets, insulated with asbestos and clad in coloured aluminium panels of crimson and teal. Floor to ceiling glass brings into plain view a pulpit that promulgates the legitimacy of this place. I stand in the pulpit, encased in glass and aluminium, and pay homage to this space whilst rushing by at 70 mph. The language is unequivocally aspirational and claims a co-ownership, but your author is not to be trusted.


This place seems familiar. A common language is shared, one of disaggregation from the ruins of reality. These ruins have no historical present; instead they are constitutionally bound to stagnate in a present inhabited by bodies piled six deep under artificial lighting. Each body takes it in turn to change the halogen bulbs in darkness as an act of solidarity. The metaphor begins to lose meaning and I am back, standing in the pulpit, reassuring the space of our full comprehension of this place. The process repeats and continues ad infinitum.


Structural damage has overcome the institution and collapse is imminent. Luckily, forward planning has laid the groundwork for this new place, 1.4 miles away – we just need to get there. Somewhere between here and there, an atemporal schism opens. To cast light on this place I change the halogen bulb, but the act is not reciprocated. Relations have fractured and without clearly defined institution, individual identity begins to reassert itself. Through time, or more specifically, a lack of time, common identity is found amongst the traveller – we congregate under the artificial lighting and discuss our funding application. Eventually, the ruins, crisp and white, come back into sight as I rush by at 70 mph.


♦ ♦ ♦



James Bell is an artist based in Edinburgh. After graduating from the MFA at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, Dundee, in 2011, James served on the committee of Generator until 2013. Previous exhibitions include 24 Spaces, Malmö Konsthall, Malmö, 2013 and Inertia, The Lombard Method, Birmingham and Generator Projects, Dundee, 2011.


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