The now familiar bellow of former House Speaker John Bercow echoes round a dark and dreary room at the heart of Edinburgh’s historic Summerhall venue.
It is the very antithesis of order that is explored however, in Jane Frere’s 100 Days of Khaos. The fears shared by many in a divided nation have been collected and externalised by Frere in her Brexit centred exhibition, a scathing indictment of the path her country has chosen to take as the clock winds down on Britain’s European status.
Taking up the entirety of the back wall, Pity the Nation 2018-19 is clearly the exhibit’s centrepiece. It is not just the sheer size of the piece that is noteworthy, but also the message it conveys.
The carefully painted skulls of animals represent death in the artwork. It shows them piled up recklessly, as if discarded without care. Some of the skulls resemble those of unicorns, a fictious animal used to highlight the fabricated promises surrounding Brexit, in the eyes of Frere.
Arrows point off in different directions, persistent in spite of the decay around them. This addition may signify how those who have supported Brexit are ignoring the destruction it is causing, while also expressing the sense that the process has left the country divided, pulling off in different directions.
The exhibit’s titular piece is undoubtedly its most engaging. Frere collates quotes from the century of days leading up to the first Brexit deadline and has meticulously arranged them into a transfixing spiral of falsehoods and deceit.
At first glance, the piece seems clean and free flowing, much like the utopia of a liberated Britain that was promised by Nigel Farage, among others. Frere is in fact criticising this notion, portrayed through the piece’s ability to daze its audience with its endless lines and absorbing loops.
Once one’s eye has been drawn to the centre of this fresh, yet disorientating, piece, it is met by the word “regret”, one of many examples of Frere subtlety condemning Brexit and its backers.
Pity the Nation, a separate painting from the centrepiece,is far more blatantly damning in nature. The piece is a dark and eerie artwork depicting figures harbouring extremely anxious expressions being sucked into a black hole. Tabloid style newspaper headlines weigh down this worried mob, perhaps a jab at how the media have influenced our political discourse in recent times.
Although it is an exhibit ripe with bias and pessimism, 100 Days of Khaos is beautifully bleak and soberingly shocking. Frere tackles the nation’s biggest talking point with an admirable amount of guile and honesty.