In our favourite Friday night drinking place, Boda bar on Leith Walk*, there’s an exhibition on called Bams in Bars. Originally, I was attracted to the pictures because they’re all on bright coloured backgrounds, and then I looked closer and read the explanation and it’s so clever that I think more people need to know about it!
Here’s what artist Jonathan Gould says about the project:
What makes a bam?
In Scottish colloquial language, a bam is used to mean an idiot who may well be dangerous to know and share a 2 litre bottle of cider with. It can also be used as an affectionate insult directed at over-excitable friends.
The ‘bams’ in these portraits were originally etchings from Cesare Lombroso’s 19th century studies of delinquent and criminal young men, from London, Rome and Paris.
Lombroso’s theory and research, presented in his work The Criminal Man (1876) popularised the idea (and fallacy) of the born criminal, and proposed that criminals were biologically pre-determined, their physical features being completely different from ‘normal’ individuals. Characteristics such as a large jaw or hard, shifty eyes were considered typical of the criminal class.
These portraits explore our fascination with criminal culture and psychology, and the tension between understanding, moralising and condemnation. The collage technique and vibrant ink colouring combine historical etchings with notorious yet consistently cool branded clothing imagery, to create a portrait of a bam who is as appealing and familiar as he is aggressive and untrustworthy…
* Don’t know if anyone from Edinburgh is reading, but isn’t it weird how Victorias is always packed on a Friday, but you can almost always get a seat in Boda, when Boda is so much nicer and has excellent music?