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toile edinburgh festival

toile humour

Embra’s annual culture fest was renamed the “Nedinburgh Festival” last week, thanks to the work of Glasgow graphic designers, Timorous Beasties. Their low life toile, used for the EIF bags and brochures, depicted drunks and ne’erdooweels instead of tartan and pipers. The shock!

‘Toile’ as i’m sure you know is the smudgy 18th Century French style of interior design, “toile du Jouy”. Only the Glasgow boys replaced the charming rustic scenes with episodes from everyday Edinburgh life, like gadgies urinating over Greyfriars Bobby’s fountain and dossers lying beneath a statue of David Hume wearing a traffic cone on his head. Also featured were tower blocks and road works.

Actually they missed out on quite a few images from contemporary Edinburgh , such as scumbag bankers being stoned by angry citizens as they make off with their bonuses. Or estate agents beaten-up by bankrupt homeowners who can’t sell. Or knickerless matrons in Range Rovers running over pedestrians as they pick up offspring from their expensive schools. Maybe next time.

The toile was of course a publicity-seeking exercise by the promoters of the Edinburgh Festvial, and it worked a treat. Not since they wheeled a nude across the organ gallery of the McEwan Hall in 1963 have we heard such moral outrage from the city fathers and mothers. The Tory MSP David McLetchie suggested it was all a Glasgow plot to do down Edinburgh. Presumably no one told him that the Beastie boys had already soiled the Second City’s image with a Glasgow toile depicting drug addicts shooting up and prostitutes plying their trade.

The wallpaper is currently selling for £250 a roll and reportedly walking out the shop, which just goes to show what people will put on their walls these days. The toile style is most associated with the transvestite potter, Grayson Perry who used it on ceramics to depict rape, child abuse and homosexual congress. His work now sells for phenomenal sums and Perry is regarded as a significant artistic figure.

So how about a little recognition for the subjects of the Timorous Beastie toile? Pishing over monuments is clearly a new and exciting performance art and the vagrants and drunks should apply for an arts council grant. The traffic cone on David Hume’s head is probably worth a couple of million already and should be guarded by a special detachment from the National Gallery. The notorious roadworks in Princes Street should be renamed “Stasis Tramwerk” and billed Europe’s biggest modern art installation. People would flock to see it. Well, I’ve seen a lot worse in the Turbine hall of the Tate Modern

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About iain2macwhirter

Writer and journalist.

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