Halifax-based artist Barbara Lounder installed her new work Setts. This installation examines pop culture uses of tartan patterns.
This series of digital prints employ scanned tartan garments along with text fragments derived from two sources: coarse language from the popular Rebus detective novels of contemporary writer Ian Rankin, and hyperbolic “bloodlust” words and phrases from poetic works by Sir Walter Scott. The resulting texts are composed as mesostics, each one containing a column of letters spelling out my surname. (The mesostic form is borrowed from the work of John Cage, who used it as a way to “write through” literary works by other authors.) The association of tartan (and perhaps of Scottishness itself) with banal or at least benign cultural forces is subverted through its juxtaposition with rather brutish vernacular language. The work of Scott raises the issue of the romanticizing of Scottish, and especially Highland culture, as it was Scott who engineered the 1822 Royal Visit of King George IV. The Royal Visit was a frenzy of Highland revivalism which did much to popularize “wearing of the tartan”. -B. Lounder