Roderick Buchanan focuses on what shapes our identity and to what extent we shape our own. He asks these questions by looking from the outside in, usually through making photographs, videos and sculptures. Sometimes he uses methods similar to portraiture to investigate whether sport, culture and clothes say something about who we are.
Buchanan looks at the groups or ‘clans’ we divide ourselves into, often using his native Scotland as an example. Sectarianism, and its links with football and music, has been a focal point of his art throughout his career. I am Here (2007) presents us with a Loyalist flute band playing on one screen and a Republican flute band on the other. There are religious and cultural tensions in Scotland between Protestants and Catholics, often linked to the Irish heritage that lies behind them. By placing these videos side by side, Buchanan compares the two cultures in a thoughtful and optimistic way.
In Sodastream (1995) he light-heartedly explored the smaller details of Scottish identity. Garvie’s soft drinks were once a national alternative to the global giants. In this video, each candy-coloured flavour of these bottles smashes to the ground. In 1970s Scotland a bottle of soda was a symbol of status for a kid. In a mischievous kind of street game, each bottle leaves a fizzy, abstract mess in its wake. The video is both a cheery appreciation of the drink and a poignant reminder of the growth of larger, faceless corporations.
Gobstopper (1999) shows different children trying to hold their breath as they pass through Glasgow’s Clyde Tunnel. Filmed in a campervan, it shows the fun of such a simple game. Buchanan remembers playing this game as a child and viewers may find themselves trying to take part in the 50-second challenge. The children are all united in their efforts to ‘win’. Here, perhaps less obviously than in other works by the artist, the video contains both the competitive and social elements of sport. Gobstopper demonstrates the way in which games can join us together by evoking a memory of the game or a general nostalgia for childhood. Roderick Buchanan has the ability to bring viewers together with work that speaks both to those who have specialised knowledge of art and those who do not.