The Golden City

"...London based, Scottish artist Lynn MacRitchie's video installation The Golden City considers the fundamental themes of historical, political and financial power in the context of the eternal rhythms of nature.

...To the mesmeric sounds of the tolling of a church bell, the swish and swirl of moving water and light-hearted whistling we see seven differing sized, looped video sequences screened simultaneously. MacRitchie explains that these deal with ' ... the essence of [that] city day so focused on the getting of wealth...  '.

In one sequence, a young man dressed in the ubiquitous winter outfit of the city financial dealer, whistles as he saunters away from us down an ancient city alleyway. In another hands steeped in river water move patiently to and fro panning for gold. In a third, through a brightly lit Dickensian shop window we glimpse shop assistants' hands moving trays of precious objects and jewels. Most are crafted from gold.

Two sequences show nearby buildings catching the golden light of the dying sun. One is the spire of St Peter's Cornhill founded in 179 AD; said to be the most ancient church in England it was rebuilt by Wren in the 17th century. The other shows Britannia, the personification of Britain, carved in the classical pediment of the Bank of England. She sits not on a throne, but on a pile of coins.

...Two remaining screens show eternal elements: air and water. The river Thames, a short walk from Cornhill, is turned golden by the setting sun while the jet stream of an aeroplane soaring in the sky is stained pink by the same light.

One by one each sequence is gradually engulfed by the river's water: city trader, sky and church, panhandler, shop and even the Bank of England are swallowed. Nature triumphs over all: human exploitation, high finance, craftsmanship, architecture, religion, history. But wait, look again, the sequence is reversed, the water recedes, people and buildings gradually re-emerge and so continues the endless ebb and flow of tide and sun and human endeavour.

With its multilayered associations MacRitchie's installation invites us to consider the links between apparently unconnected aspects of history, politics and economics.  Gold is the key, from extracting the raw material, to its crafting into precious objects, to its symbolic value in world finance. The city trader has been busy in the frantic global markets making money from things neither he nor the shop assistants nor the panhandler possess. A click of his computer and entire communities half way across the world may be damaged or destroyed.

MacRitchie's installation is full of ideas, acutely thought through and thoroughly researched. Transmuted into an aesthetic entity these ideas touch us through our senses and emotions to provoke thoughts which remain long after we have ceased watching."

Christine Lindey
Extracted from her essay for the exhibition catalogue

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