The Glasgow International Chronicles: Part III

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The Glasgow International Chronicles: Part III

Next on my list of my whirlwind tour of Glasgow International is the Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA). Entrance is free!! In conjunction with the festival, the space has been taken over with some specially commissioned pieces.

I had chance to see three out of the four exhibits, one whole heartedly recommended, one slightly recommended and the other unfortunately not so much. But it comes down to taste rather than quality in this instance I feel.

First, the not so great. (Now my opinion might be bias as this was the last one I visited and I was aware I was on a time restriction.)

Third Hand: Autonomous Art from Scottish Prisons. This exhibition is in until 23rd April. For opening times check the CCA website. This exhibition is a tin. (Does what it says.) The show presents works of art created by prisoners creating artwork for the first time. For me, (and although it is a great cause and premise (any introduction of making into anybody’s life at any time has nothing but a positive impact in my eyes)) it lacks the criticality that is present in other art of similar vain. It follows the trend of ‘outsider art’ but instead of presenting the show with the same validity of other contemporary art shows, it looses its chance to ask the audience to see beyond the labels of ‘naive’ and ‘outsider art’ as the brochure suggests. It feels crammed into a little corner of a room. (I wasn’t that into the artwork itself either. What can I say? Sometimes you like what you like and you don’t what you don’t.) If you are there in the building already you might as well have a skirt around. But I wasn’t that into it.

Now the slightly recommended. This exhibit is called: The Polity of (symbol) and is open until 25th April. Open daily.

The exhibition is particularly pertinent today due to the theme it deals with. Φ is (quote) a floating nomadic country without possession of any landmass rooted on earth, whose occupants live, work and play together as an autonomous community. This utopian state is manifested in the form of an intergalactic vessel. 

This exhibition is part of a community-led research project, encouraging an open dialogue on the right to inhabit specific geographies instigating an inquiry into who exactly is welcome in Britain. 

They try and create a different experience as soon as you enter the door. (If I’m honest it reminds me of a parody of a cult (the kind of representations in films.)) Flags are hanging everywhere, what feels like a propaganda film plays in the background promoting this version of society. A row of chairs (ready for unannounced rallies) faces an official looking set up. Government booths which you approach to fill out a form to receive a visa. Dependent on how you fill the form, depends on whether or not your visa is accepted.

I completely get what they were trying to do – and I did enjoy it. The only thing was the visa application. What I thought would be a double sided sheet was a full on A5 booklet full of very difficult questions about geography and current/historical affairs. Now I’m not very good at this when it comes to my own country, so when it was focussed on Africa and Asia I really struggled. Particularly as some of the events focussed on living memory but before my year of birth. (A lady never tells her age, but I’ll let you know it’s the early 90s.) I liked that it highlighted how ignorant we are when world issues not concerning the West/ Europe are not as valued or known as the rest of the world. But, after the third page of these difficult questions, the visa application just made me feel stupid. I think it was too long, and because of that they may struggle to get all the answers they wanted, as half way through I just started to guess them all unless I thought I knew the answer.

In summary: nice idea. Not realised to the best of its potential. Worth a sniff.

Finally, and not least by any means, the exhibit I found myself drawn to. (In honesty, I came to see the exhibition mentioned above, but I fell in love with this one.) Simply named after the artist (Pilvi Takala) the show displays an overview of her work to date. (Including a new commission by Creative Scotland to revisit a previous performance.)

She intelligently investigates social situations and human behaviour by subtly subverting the norm. (Essentially, Takala becomes the unexpected in a regular situation with invisible written rules that are followed by everyone else. She successfully, very gently, disrupts societal routine to create quiet ripples that have very present and very visible repercussions.)

Her work primarily exists in video. There were some key standouts from her selected works that were on display that made me question things I wouldn’t have given a second thought to before.

The Trainee, 13.52 min, 2008.

This was a month long project where the artist (with only a select few knowing of the true reason of her being there) posed as a marketing trainee using odd working methods. She shifted her focus from working to thinking. For example, the film shows her repeatedly riding the lift up and down the different floors of the office building ‘thinking’. Some colleagues found this amusing, some clearly thought she was weird. This particular exercise she tried ended in an email being sent to her manager. She tries other tactics to subvert the norm – so I thought this film was definitely worth a watch.

To briefly name a few others I would recommend researching:

  • Wallflower, 10.25 min, 2006
  • Easy Rider, 4.25 min, 2006
  • Broad Sense, 8.36 mins, 2011
  • Lost Pigeons, posters, phone, 5 min sound, 2012

The exhibition had a very clean and simple layout, with one room dedicated to a piece entitled Broad Sense. Once finished with this room, the long rectangular space is transformed by multiple TVs hung from the ceiling, each with two chairs. (Good choices of seating here. Tate take note.) But the extra touch that worked so well was that the clothes (or props) that featured so heavily in a few of the pieces are slung across the back of the seats you sit on to watch the work. It was a nice reminder to the reality and physical presence that these pieces have that can sometimes feel distanced because of the media used to capture these happenings. It brings the immediacy of the work to the forefront of the audience’s mind again. These pieces don’t work in isolation with no contextualisation on our part. They have a place in our everyday lives and having the clothes there breaks down that barrier and safe distance that a screen can provide.

Overall, I loved this exhibition so much, that I am readying myself to buy a book of Takala’s work. If the other exhibits don’t tickle your fancy just make sure you come for this! On until Sunday 15 May. And it’s free. So no excuses. Unless you live a long way from Glasgow. Then I’ll let you off.

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