Hans Schabus: Remains of the Day
Collective Edinburgh 5 August to 2 October
This show is demanding: Hans Schabus has collected all his family's household waste for an entire year and displayed it in a gallery. It is such a brilliantly simple idea that, well, lots of people have thought of it before (or something very like it). Most of them thought better of it and moved on. Schabus has done the dedicated/obsessive thing, diligently retaining the disposable evidence of his existence. From fag ends to butter wrappers, printer cartridges to toilet roll tubes, it has all been withheld from the recyclers or rescued from landfill, carefully sorted, neatly folded and laid out like a block chart across the full length of the floor in Collective's four adjoining spaces.
At first the work yields surprisingly little, except maybe that there is less of it than one might expect, given how bad we are all supposed to feel about western consumption (I have been in student flats with more rubbish than this). Schabus does not appear to consume anything to excess--perhaps frugality and obsessive behaviour go hand-in-hand. To make the quantity obscene we have to do the mental arithmetic and multiply this one household by a whole city. And even then the thought is nothing new.
Read in the context of the artist's previous work, 'Remains of the Day' lacks the obvious mining or undermining of institutions and places, but is a more personal exposition of a similar process. In simple terms it is elementary object-based work: the artist brings something to the gallery and arranges it according to his aesthetic method. In this case it is not something he made or acquired for this purpose but something he had anyway and was otherwise going to throw away. In the context of Edinburgh this sets up a small dialogue about value.
The show is included in the Edinburgh Art Festival, now in its eighth year but still finding its feet in the city's overlapping schedule of world-renowned festivals. Under the direction of Sorcha Carey it has no stated curatorial theme: visitors are left to weave their own narrative through high and low, old and new, in over 30 venues of all stripes. The only clue we are given is a division of exhibitions in the visitors' guide into Partner Programme and Additional Programme--the latter events getting only a half instead of a full page each. This is not helpful.
Schabus's exhibition is Additional. The Partner Programme includes the show at Ingleby Gallery (p26), on a relatively quiet road behind Waverley Station. This includes work that also looks like it belongs in a skip, but Susan Collis's facsimiles of bits of old wood and metal are made of tropical hardwoods, precious metals, jewels and rare pigments. Ingleby is a beautifully appointed commercial gallery, all clean lines and polished wooden floors, not a hair out of place. Despite the initial slight disruption Collis's work presents, her pricey materials quickly reinstate the appropriate tone of high-value. …