James Clegg Talks About The Art Exhibition ‘Trading Zone’

Title of talk:

Trading Zone


Trading Zone, 2018, exhibition view courtesy of Talbot Rice Gallery
Trading Zone, 2018, exhibition view courtesy of Talbot Rice Gallery

Bullet points of what you would like to talk about:

  • Talbot Rice Gallery’s current student exhibition Trading Zone.
  • The importance of contemporary artists using every technology and material available to them in order to engage with the diversity of our world.
  • The importance of interdisciplinary learning and discovery.
  • The themes of some of the works in the exhibition including: The intelligence of organic cultures, the history of the Gallery’s architectural space, post-apocalyptic LIDAR images and the embodied evolution of design ideas.


A few paragraphs on your subject:

Trading Zone is a group exhibition that stems from a desire to explore the diversity of student practice taking place across the University of Edinburgh. Led by a process of discovery, it evolved through an engagement with the work of over 300 students, including those from disciplines as seemingly far apart as Archaeology, Business, Design and Music.
The resulting exhibition includes a fabulous array of different artworks, including virtual data-landscapes retrieved from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, mushroom built Gothic spires and explorations of the earth-born cracks and tangles of our language systems. Featuring students of Architecture, Art, Contemporary Art Practice, Fine Art, History of Art, Creative Writing, Digital Composition and Performance, Music, Creative Music Practice, Design, Design Informatics and Intermedia.

Trading Zone, 2018, exhibition view courtesy of Talbot Rice Gallery
Trading Zone, 2018, exhibition view courtesy of Talbot Rice Gallery

Trading Zone takes its title from the work of the Historian of Science Peter L. Galison who argues that science contains cultures and subcultures that don’t necessarily agree on what constitutes reliable knowledge. There is a substantial process of translation happening at the intersections of different practices, theories and types of equipment characterised by ‘pidgin’ or ‘creole’ type languages. Formed by the necessity of exchange, he calls this liminal space the trading zone.
Celebrating the knowledge that is produced when diverse things are brought together, this exhibition forges conversations across disciplines to create a testing ground for the exploration of ideas. Acknowledging that disciplines are already complex things made up of distinct processes, languages and technologies, it sets these ideas against the speculative horizon of contemporary art. The result is a far reaching visual conversation that reflects our ever-changing understanding of the world around us and our place within it.

A few paragraphs about you:

James is an Assistant Curator for Talbot Rice Gallery. Passionate about contemporary art he has curated and helped to curate lots of exhibitions for the Gallery since 2010. He is specifically interested in artists that work across disciplinary boundaries and he works hard to create meeting points for different types of practitioner and different types of audience.

Trading Zone, 2018, exhibition view courtesy of Talbot Rice Gallery
Trading Zone, 2018, exhibition view courtesy of Talbot Rice Gallery

This includes public events that see academics, performers and poets coming together to create new dialogues around specific ideas. It also includes talks and tours with a range of different groups, including ones connected to the Scottish Refugee Council, Crisis Scotland and various colleges and adult education groups.
Seeing a close connection between education and creativity he has organised events with The Ragged University since 2016. In particular, he is interested in approaches to learning that do not assume that the world will ever yield easy or permanent answers. ‘acts of dis play’, an exhibition he made in 2016 with the artist Rob Kennedy foregrounded this principle by emphasising the relative ‘jeopardy’ of live experience over and above the reductive explanations that are usually offered in this context. In this way, act of dis play – which featured a nine- metre tree apparently held in place by debris and a leaning scaffold tower – placed emphasis on audiences’ self-learning and discovery.
Other exhibitions James has curated include John Akomfrah’s Vertigo Sea (21 October 2017 – 27 January 2018) and Stephen Sutcliffe’s Sex Symbols in Sandwich Signs (28 July – 30 September 2017). He also writes occasionally as an art critic for Art Review and Art Monthly.

What free internet knowledge resources would you recommend to others if they wish to explore your chosen theme further?

If you would like to watch videos of some of the artists talking at Talbot Rice Gallery and some of the events that James has made, please visit: https://www.ed.ac.uk/talbot-rice/education/videos
If you would like to know more about James’ thinking about experience and art you can read the Rob Kennedy catalogue here: https://www.ed.ac.uk/files/atoms/files/small_singles_rob_kennedy_visuals_200_x_235mm_.pdf

Acts of Experience The Politics of Rob Kennedys Practice by James Clegg
Click to download ‘Acts of Experience The Politics of Rob Kennedys Practice by James Clegg’


What are your weblinks?

Website – https://www.ed.ac.uk/talbot-rice
Blog –
Twitter – @JCwritercurator @talbotrice75 #tradingzone
Facebook – Talbot Rice Gallery
Public Email – [email protected] and [email protected]

On 14th June 2018 James Clegg organised lunch in the Talbot Rice Gallery (The University of Edinburgh, South Bridge, Edinburgh EH8 9YL)