Resuscitation

/ Nicola Walls / Arts & Culture

The idea of 'breathing new life' into something is a recurring inspiration found throughout history. Looking beyond its purely life saving role, the metaphor has found a reworking in a range of fields from philosophies to techniques, from rediscoveries of lost thinking and ways of working, to revivals of musical genres captured in the words, '60s and 70s.' It reminds us that the future builds on the past.

As with ideas so to with cities, such as Venice, Berlin or Edinburgh where art and performance festivals take found historical fabric, temporarily transforming it into new modes of use and communication. Industrial landscapes, backcourt spaces and underused, under exploited and empty building shells are often the medium through which this experimentation takes place.

Often these redundant and decaying structures are substantial and grand expressions - they celebrate the power of their contemporary investment. Finding new uses, temporary and permanent is one aspect of the act of breathing new life into the old, often admired, and valued form. Call it getting the body into the right position.

Fitting the uses cleverly is the next step. A doctrinaire protectionist route to preserve the historical building can be extremely limiting. Imagine it as overcoming the embarrassing question of modesty and decorum when applying mouth to mouth.

For the most part protectionist authorities realise the limitations of this restrictive stance, the result is the potential to marry current imaginative scenarios with that existing setting - a perfect resuscitative blend. Getting close is a nice way of describing that approach, history representing the original body, piggybacking on the help of the new.

Two of our projects explore this idea of getting close, our feasibility study for the Kings Theatre in Edinburgh, and our transformation of the former GPO building for the High School of Dundee. Whilst at an early stage what the studies have shown is that breathing new life into the fabric needs to extend across the body as a whole. That requires us not to be frightened but grasp the situation with gusto and enthusiasm. Life has its special moments, birth is of course wonderful, resuscitation just so.

'The Question of Beings' by Yahon Chang at Venice Art Biennale 2015