Glasgow International 2016

 

I visited Glasgow International on the opening weekend this year with the uni trip. Though as it was impossible to make it to everything I wanted to see I was able to spend a good amount of time at exhibitions that I did get to; which in the end was far more enriching for me than trying to tick off as many as I could in the limited time.

Though by no means did I enjoy everything I saw: the exhibition and accompanying opening night performance at Transmission did little to impress me and, I feel, widely missed the mark of its professed exploration of feminism in relation to “3D genders and post-human sex”, I nonetheless felt that I gained a lot from everything I visited even if it was what not to do.

A highlight for me was Tessa Lynch whose exhibition Painter’s Table presented “an architectural drama: a collection of new sculptural works which loosely mimic the objects, scenarios and histories found on her daily commute.” This work included a script which acted as a way to navigate the installation; the sculptures and text became a map which appealed to my own mapping practice.

Henry Coombes‘s Seat in Shadow, was a surreal ‘walk in film’ presented in a padded cell. Three storylines lined the walls running concurrently; at ceiling height a collection of collages, desert scenes with potted plants and eyes painted onto landscapes in various symbolic ways; along the middle of the wall, a series of paintings depicting strange scenarios for example “Arnie holding a man that deserves new body”; along the floor  progressively explicit homoerotic and phallic images played out in black and white stills. These paper film strips were crudely stapled to the un-hemmed fabric which lined the entirety of the walls. The space had a dreamlike quality enhanced by the dirge soundtrack provided by a film playing on repeat; in which, a stylised Ned Kelly walked barefoot in a desert, losing his eyes in a puddle of mud. The exhibition felt like an intrusion into someone elses mind. As the viewer I became the psychotherapist attempting to decipher the images. This work felt deeply intelligent yet deeply absurd, a description similar to one someone once used to describe my own work. I felt a resonance with the anti-slickness and enjoyed how this crude presentation elevated the work conceptually.

I was particularly inspired by Open Jar Collective‘s project, Soil City. Again a project which appealed to my own interests and gave me plenty of insight into ways of installing work which deals with visual data, community interaction and ecological issues.

 

When I visited, the space was fairly empty; the project had opened the previous evening and the some of the artists had just set off on their bikes for their first site visit to collect soil samples. Despite this I spent a long time in the space, drinking nettle tea, reading books from the soil library and talking with the remaining artists. I have continued to follow the project online as it has progressed over the month, collecting soil samples, mapping and processing them.

What I liked about this project was how it balanced its art and community contexts. Next to the slick, whitespace artworks that formed much of GI it might have seemed pretty low-fi (and it was!), but this was not a negative. The space was welcoming and interesting, there were participatory activities as well as talks and discussion events planned throughout the festival and the space was intended to grow and develop throughout this period as well. The exhibition space functioned as a hub for these activities, as a laboratory to process the soil samples and as a social meeting place. There was a good balance between the aesthetic nature of the work and the information contained within it; for example the Soil Profile was an image made by layering the soil samples in a specially made frame and marking each layer on the glass. This created a visually compelling work which referenced the natural stratum of soil structure as well as providing a visual comparison of different soils found in the city.

 

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