For the first hundred or so times that I walked past the massive castle that sits on a hill in the middle of the beautiful city of Edinburgh, my first thought was always, If, hypothetically, I did hear a beautiful shrieking damsel right now, how would I scale the first layer of rocks? Was there a side of the castle that was less steep to traverse? If so, does that mean that there would be more guards on that side? I would probably have to surprise them by starting on the steepest part of the fortress, but this would mean that I would need an ice pick, or at least something that could claw at the granite foundation. Should I start carrying an ice pick just in case? I wasted a lot of time mulling over how I’d dodge and fend off flaming arrows with a battered American flag shield, while still ice picking my way up to the stereotypical royal princess vixen’s chamber. I should watch Lord of the Rings less often.
Swept between the 5 century old stone walls of this oversized shire, much like a collector’s edition Beastie Boys record that you are trying to hide from your conservative Midwestern grandparents is Analogue Books; easily one of the most progressive and modern art books store that I’ve ever seen. Though the store itself is as pristinely kept as a model IKEA reading den, the books of art themselves are wonderfully filthy, profiling the work of the best street artists, graphic designers, candid photographers, and urban thinkers from around the world.
Upon entering the store, you are bombarded by a web of colorful book covers that range from Japanese children’s books to books of creative skateboard deck art to textbooks on graphic design in the internet era; mostly none of which I have seen anywhere else. One of my recent revelationary obsessions is with a wonderful documentary called “Beautiful Losers” that gives the history of Alleged Gallery, a now defunct art gallery in Manhattan’s lower east side, which was run by street artists and skateboarders, and is now, arguably one of the most important driving forces behind the wave of such art that Analogue subscribes to. In my initial browse, I found a book on the work of Ed Templeton, Skate legend, and star of “Beautiful Losers”. His book, Deformer, is an amazingly personal chronology of images and words describing Templeton’s rearing of himself as an artist. It’s also a very bizarre montage of images that makes you feel like you are staring at Ed Templeton’s personal life through a very outré Truman Show-esque lens.
After discussing how awesome the Toy Machine deck graphics are (Templeton’s skateboard company) with the store’s owner Russell, I started browsing through another one of my favorites, David Shrigley. Shrigley’s work has the same sentiment of an incredibly self-aware, pre-pubescent, poet. His drawings and accompanying monologues are small, often grotesque commentaries about issues that you didn’t think deserved commentaries. If you were to vocally criticize his work, it’s because you know that he is smarter and more interesting than you. I think he is awesome, and I spent 5 months looking for a book of his work before seeing it in the window display at Analogue. Goddamnit.
When it comes down to it, some of the work in Analogue would give even the most liberal art critics a brain hemorrhage. It isn’t unlike doodles that you yourself have done in the waiting room of a doctor’s office, or while you are waiting for your son’s reading tutor to arrive, or while you are waiting to be called in to interview for your last resort job; when you draw to escape the blasé reality that are living right then. Many of the zines or photo books in Analogue aren’t like this, but ARE this. The type of art in Analogue is the type of art that reminds you of how your brain worked when you were a child. It’s genuine, emotional, inspiring art that more often than not gets the wonderfully “I could do that” line, that seems to have become synonymous with outsiders to modern art. In which case, you respond “but you didn’t, you brainless hack.”
Russell and I had another lengthy chat about artists like Marcel Dzama and David Shrigley in the world of outsider art, which turned into the Vinyl Toys and how cool Japan is, which turned into me telling Russell that he was a visionary for owning such a store. Russell won the word battle and I reluctantly backed down from my claim of his prophetic entrepreneurship (he’s a humble dude), but nevertheless we agreed on the importance of having a place like Analogue in Edinburgh and furthermore of the importance of having this style of art in the world. See, the castle is far from the only thing in Edinburgh that makes you feel like you have walked into a pre-neoclassical stone enthusiasts convention. Edinburgh is a major European tourist junction, so everywhere you go is shrouded in some sort of Edinburgh relic. Analogue isn’t just a bookstore; it’s tribute to a culture and international youth community. So when you are done touring the castle and drinking your standard denomination of Scotch on the rocks, go talk to Russell about things that you don’t know enough about.
By: Ben Majoy