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In Review: Stereoscope's 'Thrill'

The student-run photography magazine Stereoscope held their “sublime” and “thought-provoking” exhibition last Wednesday in honour of their latest issue ‘Thrill’. The contents of the issue were displayed “teasingly” in a curational setting at 181 South Street. The house in question was transformed from a living space into an active arts exhibition, welcoming participants.

The magazine dates back to 2012 and comprises both a collaboration between photographic and poetic cultures within St Andrews, with the main focus of raising awareness of the University’s special collection photographs. Sir David Brewster, founder of the magazine, started the longstanding tradition of photography in St Andrews, and the magazine continues to play an active part in developing the role of photography in the University. But, even more so, it teaches us students its rich history within the field. Interestingly for some, the University holds one of the largest and most prominent collections of historic Scottish photography, something which the magazine eagerly promotes.

But let us return to our main event: ‘Thrill’. On their first entrance into the space, the viewer was immediately plunged into a thrillingly provocative experience. The words of Ruby Dunn were displayed up and along the stairs. As the viewer ascended the staircase, their mind was confronted and provoked: “when you stepped out// tripped straight into the flowerpot I’d stuck back together”. Her words are now left imprinted in a rhythm of spiral staircases; “one step too far and you tripped over my heart// I’d just stuck it back together…like all those times I mistook goodbye for goodbye…you’d learnt a lesson from the plant pot// things shatter”. Here, the mind multi-tasks, the text pushing the climb and vice versa. The viewer’s feet and mind travel in unison upwards to the main room, where the group displayed photographs printed in the magazine’s most recent issue. Within the publication’s exhibit, poetry adopted an array of materials and media; a dirty rag was suspended between two windows and read “a bird reaches back in search of its tail/ what lies ahead it cannot know/ yet what is gone is lost/ all that remains is tainted”. The final line of the poem bleeds out onto the sheet, ink pouring delicately onto fabric proclaiming, “what is our bird to do?”.

The exhibition space demanded participation. A bathroom was adopted as a vehicle for relaying the poetry and music; enveloped in a dark candle-lit space, the viewer was forced to focus on their auditory senses. The staircases, which directed the flow of the exhibition, continued to lead the participants to the top story. A ladder was left for the viewer to take a thrilling risk and enter a worn attic. A single light illuminated the work entitled ‘Her’, by Lucy Buchana. It read as follows:

In the twilight hours,

lilac and grey,

she calls to me,

like the chimes of sailboats

caressed by the breeze.

Her pale beauty sings,

in soft dulcet tones,

like the sea lapping

up against the shore.

A quiet incarceration

of the water into the sand;

That’s what it was like with you.

Caught in your netted arms,

your fingers interwoven

with my long, dark hair.

When you pressed

your forehead into mine,

your skin felt like a warm, young prayer.

The curational space, in its engaging and provocative manner, left a “thrillingly” deep and memorable impression on its viewers, participants, and on me. The exhibition leaves viewers curious Stereoscope’s next issue ‘Scran’.

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