Open Frequency 2009: Merlyn Riggs selected by Claudia Zeiske

Open Frequency 2009: Merlyn Riggs selected by Claudia Zeiske Merlyn Riggs, Feeding the Five, 2008. Performance

Claudia Zeiske selects the work of Merlyn Riggs

Maidens, Meal and Menopause

Merlyn Riggs is something between a Dame, a suffragette and a Mrs Beaton, where art, personality and socio-cultural messages merge. As such her works tend to combine notions of feminine glamour, of cooking and of feminist activist revival. A kind of real life reflection on the French Anthropologist Claude Meillassoux's classic work Maidens, Meal and Money.1 Here the powers of home cooking and female wardrobes are addressing class and women's concerns through idiosyncratic and quirky events like a so-called 'Museum of Me' (2007) (where she asks people to contribute items that matter to themselves), recipe exchanges, mass menopause actions or get-to-gathers of people who would normally not want to talk to each other.

In her back yard you find a mobile tea room, which she drives to wherever it is needed- at a friend's art opening, a farmers' market or a women's conference. Fully equipped with old-time tablecloths and china she unfolds the atmosphere, added to by her home baking which in turn is spiced by a number of her long-term strictly Scottish cooking projects: a Scones collection for example, or samples from a collective cake book in the making.

Most of Riggs' projects are ephemeral, but all of them are collaborative and based on and around the notion of hospitality. The main focus of attention in all these events is on the ensuing conversation. Participants are mixed-and-matched, and asked to serve their neighbour rather than themselves at the buffet. Even and especially when they would normally not want to talk to each other… they become collaborators as the antagonism disappears.

Recently she made herself a name in Aberdeen for her 'VOP (Very Ordinary Person) tent' (2008), a response to the VIP tent that traditionally was set up at the art school campus during the degree show celebrations by a sponsoring oil company. While the VIP tent of course was exclusive, the VOP tent allowed everybody to enter. In the course of the evening everybody became a VOP and the VIP tent became obsolete!

1. Written by Francois Maspero and originally published in French as Femmes, greniers et capitaux by Librarie, (1975). First published in English as Maidens, Meal and Money by Cambridge University Press (1981).

Claudia Zeiske, March 2009

Artist's biography

Merlyn Riggs is an emrging artist based in Aberdeenshire, where she recently completed her BA in Fine Art at Gray's School of Art in 2008. She has been very active both during and since her studies with residencies and exhibitions in Scotland. In 2008 she made work for the Aberdeen Artists Society Exhibition (Aberdeen Art Gallery) andInternational Women's Day at the Scottish Houses of Parliament (Holyrood). She also participated in Figmensa at Limousine Bull Gallery and at Georgina Scott Sutherlands Library (both in Aberdeen in 2007). Her work continues to provoke great interest for its social and political commentary, through its use of partipatory techniques to engage and often collaborate with her audience.

About Claudia Zeiske

Claudia Zeiske is a freelance curator and cultural administrator who has advised organisations on all levels through her company FineFunds since moving to Scotland in 1995. She has gained experience in arts management over many years through working both in the UK and internationally, developing contemporary visual arts related projects, including public art projects, residencies, touring projects and installations. She has an in depth knowledge of contemporary art practice in Scotland with wide international contacts and visions for bringing local issues on a global level.

Open Frequency keeps you in touch with new developments in contemporary art practice from across the UK. The artists are selected and profiled by leading curators, artists and writers, presenting the work of artists to watch out for over the coming year. Open Frequency represents a forward-looking glance today of the artists who will be setting the agenda tomorrow.