Dear Creative Scotland:  Ellie Harrison is a Class Act

Sighthill, North Glasgow

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In 2014 Glasgow City Council provoked uproar by proposing the demolition of the infamous Red Road flats as part of the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games.  It was a truly defining moment for Scotland’s largest local authority and met with what seemed like universal derision.

But be honest.  How many people from more affluent back grounds actually thought it was quite a good idea until the wider population signalled how deeply offended they were? Come on tell the truth.

The notion of watching those unsightly high-rises crumbling at free-fall speed filled much of Glasgow’s middle class population with excitement.  The towers’ enduring memory would now stand as a symbol of social renewal following a nightmarish period of de-industrialisation that left many pockets of Scottish life better off while entire communities lay idle, drug-addicted, on the economic scrap-heap.

No longer would families live like battery hens, caged in sky-scraping fire-traps (academically celebrated, award-winning fire-traps in their day), shuttling up and down urine scented elevators with second-hand prams or braving barely-lit stairwells that reeked of wet dogs and damp cigarette butts – couples arguing through the paper walls.

Finally these ungodly eyesores and the social deprivation they symbolised would be ripped from the Glasgow skyline like rotten teeth in a television extravaganza beamed around the globe for the sport of all the world’s citizens.

The idea this may have been upsetting – heart-breaking even – to the people who used to live on Red Road was barely an afterthought.

Welcome to Scotland where this sort of thing goes on all the time yet somehow people have the gall to wonder why so many are pissed off about Ellie Harrison’s year-long fact-finding mission.  A journey into the bohemian odyssey that is the very specific daily plight of a celebrated, internationally known, distinctly educated, professional contemporary artist cursed to live off the humiliating crumbs of regular commissions.

Shake yourselves awake man.  This was never about attacking one unfortunately titled project.

If only influential sections of Scotland’s established arts community were as insightful and articulate as they seems to think they are.  If only they could grasp the fact people are not actually annoyed at Ellie or even conceptual art – infuriating as it is at times.  If only they could grapple with the thorny reality that people are actually annoyed at the big floppy-haired elephant in the green room:  they are annoyed at rising social inequality and how this expresses itself culturally.

We have to get honest with ourselves about where scepticism of certain forms of art and culture comes from.  It comes from the fact we are now living in two different worlds.

In working class communities symbols of culture and identity are ripped out, renamed, sold off, mysteriously burned down, gentrified and/or demolished routinely in the name of progress.  This progress usually comes in the form of a road which connects affluent towns and suburbs to shopping destinations in cities.

Then there’s the constant back drop in which schools are closed regardless of what locals think, common land is handed to private developers, regardless of what locals think and public spaces are locked up at weekends due to funding cuts while suburban Scotland frequents the swanky shopping village now perched on the periphery of these criminally under-resourced communities.

These shopping districts, super-imposed on the receding cultural landscape, are hailed as the solution to poverty and are always given new names which subtly disown the heritage, history and people of the local area – who now work there for peanuts.

So when Creative Scotland decides to bankroll one person’s investigation into how being stuck in Glasgow with no road out affects your social life, career and mental health then you better fucking believe some Glaswegians are going to be fuming about it.

There isn’t much difference between this issue and the Red Road issue save except the level of anger over the Glasgow Effect hasn’t quite scared educated opinion into a humbled and wise retreat – yet.

Yes it has been heated – sometimes abusive – but luckily there is always someone with a degree on hand to tell everyone to calm down.

Let me be the one to call this out for what I think it really is:

The Scottish arts establishment does not know how to communicate with the country’s working class population anymore.  This is because it’s dominated by people from middle class back grounds who get offended when someone further down the food-chain questions their expertise and intentions.

But instead of showing some contrition about this, the only response seems to be an instinctive dismissal of people for getting legitimately annoyed about what they understandably feel will likely be another socially irrelevant, artistically indulgent and thoroughly middle class fact-finding mission.

A fact-finding mission that will add only to an exclusive bank of middle-class knowledge most people will never be able to alter or interact with.

Another torrent of torturous terminology that exists solely to be recycled at shit dinner parties and multi-million pound Third Sector jollies as evidence that Scotland is going to be okay because you guys administer everything.

But it’s not going to be okay and that’s why so many people are pissed off.

Not because they aren’t smart enough to understand what the project is about.  Not because they are prejudiced against art or rushing to conclusions without knowing the full facts.

(Christ, when has the absence of fact ever prevented any of you from wading in?  Why is mass outrage only legitimate when it serves the cause of a large enough section of the country’s middle class but gets dismissed as uneducated rabble when it doesn’t?)

People are angry because The Glasgow Effect re-opens a wound that exposes Scotland’s structural inequality.

Just look at the project’s title:  The Glasgow Effect.  For a comfortable minority this term is purely mechanical; describing how industrial-scale poverty finds expression through the population’s infamously poor health.

But for most people in Glasgow, the city’s effect plays out on the creaky stages of unnaturally short lives, punctuated by incidents of violence, social exclusion and the all-consuming dread of life-long economic insecurity – while their entire existences are caricatured, vilified and misrepresented in every form of art, media and culture you can think of.

The grotesque structural inequality Scotland’s cultural intelligentsia seem incapable of perceiving, acknowledging or articulating, has spawned two societies each with their own divergent language and cultural tradition, living side by side, fighting to re-enforce their own legitimacy.

But only one is fairly represented culturally and this manifests as a nagging anger in the tired hearts of those living under the spikey cosh of permanent austerity.  They look out at their culture and see only shadows of themselves chasing faint echoes of who they really are.

People are not sceptical of ‘culture’ because they are daft they are sceptical because culture is too often a conversation from which they feel locked out and alienated.

They are sceptical because whenever they try to take any cultural capital into their own hands mystical bureaucratic road-blocks protrude from the Earth making them want to give up almost instantly.  They are sceptical because they never hear about what funding is available because they are not part of ‘creative scenes’.  They are sceptical because the forms of culture they enjoy are dismissed by the subsidised arts community as vulgar.  They are sceptical because those same progressive voices that dominate cultural discourse are always policing them about how to talk and what to think while demonstrating little insight into what working class humour and sophistication looks sounds and feels like.

But most of all, they are sceptical because they live in communities where arts organisations parachute people in every year who unintentionally usurp the natural order of things by installing their own temporary hierarchies; failing to consult or collaborate with the individuals and agencies who already live and work there.

The very people who already know the answers other folk are being funded to find out.

Then these organisations send word to Holyrood of the amazing ‘transformational’ impact they are having.  No surprise great care is taken to leave out the part about the seeds of resentment and scepticism they have sown on the way to cultivating the cultural enlightenment.  Seeds which have sprung in the last 48 hours.

So stop kidding yourself on that this is all a storm in a tea cake, down to people misunderstanding the issue.  I think most people understand it just fine.

The only thing they don’t understand is why £15,000 is never available when someone where they live needs it.
PS – I wonder if you would consider funding this project  


Comments (80)

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  1. Jane Kidd says:

    This artist has a prestigious job as an art lecturer- in the less than affluent Dundee, for which she intends to continue drawing pay – and has named “Strathclyde”, not “Glasgow” as her voluntary boundary in the Creative Scotland application. It is impossible not to see this project as an extended skive, dressed up as an art project and defended by genuinely sincere anti-poverty campaigners. Not everything. roduced by artists is useful or worth anything, and when it isn’t it should not be supported

    1. Jim Bennett says:

      “Not everything. roduced (sic) by artists is useful or worth anything, and when it isn’t it should not be supported”

      Really? If it isn’t utilitarian or doesn’t generate financial value it shouldn’t be supported?

      A big Fuck you to Van (I can’t sell a pic in my lifetime) Gogh then, eh?

      1. Jane says:

        Jim, I’m not a philistine and by ‘useful’ I meant of use to the world in general and by ‘worth’ I meant worth spending any time thinking about.

  2. Bram says:

    Excellent commentary Darren – cuts right to the heart of the matter. Yes, some of the tweet-mobbing and unpleasant comments were indefensible, but they were absolutely a function of the process of cultural disenfranchisement which too many middle class academics and artists willfully ignore.

    Having tried to champion Scottish hip-hop in the music press for more than a decade, I can absolutely confirm that the general attitude towards it as an artform is one of condescending and wilfull ignorance; or worse, of cheap, reductive caricaturing.

    That’s just one artform I can speak about with authority, and I absolutely believe that SHH’s suppression and exclusion is motivated by (both conscious and unconscious) class prejudice. This is starting to change but it isn’t happening fast enough.

    Well done for clarifying the issues here, and also for not portraying this as a simple, polarised issue of “pro arts / arts funding” versus “anti arts / arts funding.” It’s about the distribution of funds, its about access to networks, and its about acknowledging unspoken class divisions in Scottish art.

    *applauds roundly*

  3. tickle says:

    SPOT. ON.

    //The very people who already know the answers other folk are being funded to find out.//

    Nail on the fucking head man.

    I found the inability of many (almost exclusively middle class) commenters to see why working class Glaswegians might be a bit fucked off quite eye opening.

    “she’s an artist”, “it wasn’t meant to get anyone’s back up”, “you don’t understand” and so on.

    looks like the increased focus on privilege checking in 2015 is gonna have to continue and deepen.

  4. Derek Grierson says:

    You make some valid points here, but I’m still pissed at the eagerness with which people jumped on the artist, who after all has no choice about where to seek funding for a project. If you want to be angry, recognize first, that the artist didn’t cause the problem. The broken funding system she is forced to use did.

    Artists are currently obliged to seek funding for projects from Creative Scotland – a government quango – to enable them to carry out their ideas, particularly if they involve a community element. I don’t hear anyone lining up to say that community art projects are in themselves a bad idea. I agree that there is a disconnect between our communities and the perceptions of the often Middle-Class quangos which are supposed to service them.

    The solution may be disarmingly simple. We should lobby for a change in the arts funding mechanism, where the artist approaches the community for approval, the community approaches Creative Scotland for the funding, and the community manages the project via Housing Assoc, Community Council, etc., as appropriate.

    Bingo! Everyone stays happy.

    1. Db says:

      ‘If you want to be angry, recognise the artist did not cause the problems’ hardly think loki is blaming the artist for structural inequality , he’s simply holding her to account for her idea…

      1. anon says:

        “The solution may be disarmingly simple. We should lobby for a change in the arts funding mechanism, where the artist approaches the community for approval, the community approaches Creative Scotland for the funding, and the community manages the project via Housing Assoc, Community Council, etc., as appropriate. ”

        That will be a good solution. Well done Derek!

    2. LizW says:

      Anyone who submits an application to Creative Scotland has to demonstrate the artistic and public engagement worth of the project – the public engagement element should show either the support of the ‘community’ (be that through community councils, local groups, specific groups working in that area, etc) or demonstrate clear plans to engage with the community. Ellie’s application has been published & seems to meet that criteria.

  5. Walloper says:

    >If only they could grasp the fact people are not actually annoyed at Ellie or even conceptual art – >infuriating as it is at times.

    I *am* angry at her. I *am* angry at Scottish conceptual art. I give them both the credence that they know exactly what they are doing and who their audience is.

    Scotland’s shrinking middle class also know exactly what they are doing. And they are also sufferers, socially and spiritually, from the Glasgow effect.

    Please do not presume to speak on my behalf.

    A Scottish working class.

    1. Loki says:

      Fair point. These articles could never truly capture every single feeling. I’m just trying to articulate a feeling that is out there that seems to be getting lost in translation that’s all but I take your point.

      Thanks for reading

      1. Walloper says:

        Thanks for taking the time to read my comment and get back to me. I’ll admit I was a bit narked when I wrote that. I do appreciate you can’t accommodate every viewpoint in a single article. Whilst I think it’s useful to have a somewhat united front, it’s easy to speak of “the working class” as a unified lump (and for that matter any class) and that’s probably bad.

        I’ll also admit I made the mistake of expecting your Dear Creative Scotland not to be an actual explanatory note for Creative Scotland, perhaps that’s actually what’s needed. For me though, increasingly, I wonder if there’s anyone listening in the other of our “two societies”, certainly I find it impossible to see any incentive for the dominant party to concede a single inch. For whom is Ellie’s year-long fact finding mission? For those to whom you’ve address this article?

        Let her have her year in Glasgow. For me tho, tae hing wi Glasgow, it’s Glesga A care aboot.

        Keep up the work man.
        And the good fight!

    2. Alastair McIntosh says:

      Bravely said. I am sickened by the pretences of most “conceptual art” in the face of Scottish poverty. What real people hunger for is beauty, and comment of meaningful depth. I suspect that, like myself, most conceptual “artists” can’t actually draw or paint, our art schools let this pass, and need to wake up to it being alien to the great cultural legacy to which we need to reawaken to be a nation.

  6. John Mooney says:

    The whole “experiment”reeks of pretentious middle class bullshit! It epitomises the chattering class numpties who fail to recognise “The Emperor’s New Clothes”.

  7. Doreen Milne says:

    Hit the nail on the head in this piece. I find the idea that someone with a JOB can then get funding for what seems to be daundering about Glasgow not actually doing much whilst getting paid extra to do it incredibly insulting.
    BTW I’d fund your project but I’m one of the folk she’s thinking she’ll ‘get in touch with’- I’ve got piss poor health due to social inequality, low wages, poor diet when young etc etc.

  8. Jan Currie says:

    This is a great and insightful piece of writing Loki. it needs to be read by a wide audience. I also agree with the comment from Derek Grierson about the funding process. It requires radical change. How cool would it be if the responsibility for choosing these projects lay within the community itself…..then we really might see transformational projects which benefit the communities themselves

    1. Alf Baird says:

      Jan, the National Museum in Edinburgh was ruined when the public school/elite uni lawyers and accountants who run it took away the two large internal fish ponds so they could have fancy corporate events for their posh friends and people like them. The museum would be far better run by locals who would have respected the fact the ponds were an important and historic feature that the people valued.

  9. Erasmus says:

    It’s not just the arts. Years ago I attended a conference held mainly for and by senior civil servants, charity bosses and academics in Glasgow. For the entire day they droned on about the importance of mixed communities (mixed tenure/social mix/ethnic mix) and how more needs to be done to foster and promote them. It all sounded plausible and was certainly nothing any reasonable person would object to. That evening I spent the night staying at a friends house in Hyndland and had to join the rush hour commute at Hyndland train station the next morning. And there they were. Senior Civil Servants, academics from the University of Glasgow, charity directors and third sector CEOs. It was a rogues gallery of those-and-such-as-those. Then it dawned on me that a great many of the people who had been shouting (the loudest) about the urgent need for mixed communities lived in the very least socially mixed, ethnically diverse, area of Glasgow. Loki’s right. We need to put ‘class’ right back on the agenda. It’s too important to leave to ‘professionals’ who, lets be honest, would see the material and symbolic profits which they reap from their ‘class-based professional occupations’ greatly diminished if ‘inequality’ was eradicated tomorrow.

    1. Jim Bennett says:

      Yeah, let’s bring back Mao’s Cultural Revolution!
      Send the educated youth to be proletarianised!
      Down with intellectualism and bourgeois art!

      For the avoidance of doubt, I am indulging myself in some middle class irony.

  10. Graeme Purves says:

    Adopting the boundaries of the former Strathclyde Region will allow restorative excursions to Luss, Bearsden, Troon, Eaglesham, Biggar, Girvan, Tighnabruaich …or even Oban. Indeed, they are so close an approximation to the boundaries of the known universe that they hardly impose any meaningful restriction at all. Perhaps the boundaries encompassing the eight Glasgow and the Clyde Valley authorities should have been considered?

  11. Neil Ross says:

    You don’t know when to stop, do you?
    Frightened like a startled rabbit in the headlights of the truth that you just might have over-reacted; you turn all that righteous anger out on the entire arts scene.
    I’ve watched you grow this. Well done, you’ve lost the plot and any respect I might have had for your opinion.

    1. Graeme Purves says:

      When and why should he stop? What is wrong with having a robust debate about art?

      1. Neil Ross says:

        Debate is good.
        Calling the rehashed half truths and distortions of the kneejerk MSM, through a Wolfie Smith filter, is stretching the definition of debate to breaking point.

        1. Kay McKellar says:

          Loki should give it up now.
          He fell for the paper’s bullshit stories about Ms Harrison’s project and reacted in a knee jerk fashion.
          Using his cultural leverage as a working class ‘artist’ he took it upon himself to lead the witch hunt against an artist who is socially and environmentally responsible. Unlike the members of the pitchforking mob, I know Ms Harrison. Most of the crap that has been circling the sewer drain of the web about her work, this project and what she plans to do this year is ridiculous.
          Loki has fanned the flames of outrage as a way of attracting attention to himself. Fuck sake, Harrison is not ‘working class’ enough?
          Well I am. Glaswegian born and bred, first home was in Cobinshaw St, went to school in Cranhill, lived in Greenfield, child of a single parent family. I’ve lost family at ridiculously young ages, watched others move away from Glasgow just to make a living. I’m also a fine artist and a MFA student at the college that Ms Harrison teaches at.
          Not one of the commentators understand the constant threat of job losses at Djcad. I didn’t see any of you working class heroes standing with the unions when Dundee uni staff held strikes.
          The teaching staff has been cut by 14 equivalent full time staff.
          Considering most staff, including Ms Harrison are on part time contracts that’s a huge chunk of the workforce. Where was the outrage then? So Ms Harrison has worked out a method that guarantees aember of staff for a year, fantastic, I say.
          This is something not generally understood. If part of the point of her project to to show how universities treat staff, how funding for art is unwieldy then I feel managed it already, without mentioning RRAAF.
          Loki should consider an apology.

        2. Graeme Purves says:

          Your attempt to conflate Loki’s critique with the offensive nonsense in the MSM and social media does you no credit. That’s simply trying to stifle debate by silencing someone you disagree with. Try engaging honestly with what he is actually saying.

          1. Kay McKellar says:

            I disagree with your assessment.
            I’m simply stating what I see.
            Loki saw an opportunity to play to the crowd for his own aggrandisement and ran with it.
            Where did he get his flawed information from, if not the MSM?
            Attacking me for pointing this out proves no point.
            Wind your neck in.

  12. Brian says:

    Good article. Much better than the last one I read by you about independence.

  13. Jim Bennett says:

    To be honest, I’m appalled at the reaction here. Apparently, you have to be a horny handed former shipbuilder who lives in a scheme to comment on anything that’s said about art?


    But just so I can comment, I’m the unholy produce of Brig’toun and Calton with stops off in Whitfield, Ardler, Bainsford and Pilton along the way. Does that give me permission enough to comment? Or should I give the details of the long term conditions I have as my personal genetic inheritance of the Glasgow effect as well?

    Loki dresses the attacks up as:
    – despair at social inequality
    – disenchantment at funding methodologies
    – a middle class conspiracy.


    I’ve read many of the attacks on Ellie Harrison, and the majority of them are:
    – misogynist
    – anti-arts funding entirely
    – dripping with envy
    – and, just plain antagonistic to her as an individual.

    I don’t know her, never met her and probably never likely to meet her but the complete monstering that the woman has had on both new and old media have been a national disgrace. Loki’s intellectualising of her bullying simply brushes over that.

    Is art only good because it has the approval of working class people?

    That would be a big fuck you to everyone from Eduardo Paolozzi to George Wyllie, from Frances George Scott to Christine Borland, from Alison Watt to Suzanne Phillipsz, from William Johnstone to William Gear…. and god alone knows whether Ian Hamilton Findlay would have got a look in. I dislike a lo of their stuff but is Scotland the richer or not for the art they developed? Do you honestly think any of these artists would have been funded if their proposal were subject to the national vitriolic abuse fest that Ellie Harrison has had to endure?

    Ellie Harrison’s three days of activity has generated dozens of comment articles, 5000+ Facebook followers, a myriad of social media discussions, radio phone-in programmes and even this dummy spitting from Loki. Can I ask you, when else has art is Scotland stimulated such a public discussion?

    If Loki truly believes that “People are angry because The Glasgow Effect re-opens a wound that exposes Scotland’s structural inequality.” Then he should be getting down on his knees and thanking Ellie Harrison for developing the vehicle that prompted the discussion. £15 grand is a miniscule price to pay for that.

    However, Loki’s intellectualising of the mass bullying that has been vented on Ellie Harrison is the real key to understanding where he’s coming from. “Look at me, look at me, don’t look at her look at meeeeeeeeeeee. I’m the genuine, authoritative voice of art … LOOK AT ME!”

    Ellie Harrison has developed a new campaign to link art to renewable energy production and funding for radical artists. . She’s led the campaign to renationalise the railways . Give me her “middle class” activism and art to the small minded, parochial penny pinching, backwards fuckwittery that’s she’s been subject to any day.

    1. Loki says:

      Thanks for that. Every artist wants people to look at them so i’d say that’s the least insightful aspect of what you said. Apart from that I think your comment is pretty fair. Cheers.

      1. Loki says:

        Also….here are some other reactions to the piece you might not have seen just incase you wonder who I even write for

        ””Heres the thing….and if i could be bothered I would start a whole new thread on the page……Im a single parent, singer/song writer and a vocal coach. Its very difficult to hold down a career in one place but thanks to the internet you can do it. I imagine if I didnt have a kid it would be even easier. I could organise and gig with a band etc. So theres your answer… can be done….It didnt cost me £15000 to work it out. my carbon footprint is fine. The option for it to be less fine is not there for me. So thats it. Thats the thing thats pissing some of us off. She has the luxury not to stay in one place and shes spitting in the face of opportunity like its something new and interesting when its not….its just….what we do here. Its not revolutionary. It’s not something different….just money for old rope.”’

        ”I think Loki has summed up my thoughts on this pretty well.
        Even just reading this I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut again though”

        ”Thank you Darren Loki McGarvey insightfully cutting through and as usual hitting the nail on the head.”

        ”Nearly greetin reading this, says everything I’ve not been able to articulate over the last couple of days when a surprising number of my FB pals seem to be on the dismissive ‘they just don’t understand the arts’ side of this.”

        ”Yes. It IS insulting to the working classes of Glasgow. But when loads of artists started backing her, I chickened out of commenting on anything in case I was thought of as a troglodyte!”

        ”Darren Loki McGarvey cuts to the heart of the Glasgow Effect furore with his typically articulate and insightful honesty. The Glaswegian working class dont, on the whole, have an issue with the arts. It’s the systematic and deliberate eradication of the working class voice and experience in our own city, by the likes of the middle class art set so beloved by Creative Scotland, that really fucking grinds the gears.”

        ”Its not that working class people don’t understand art, its that modern Scottish art certainly doesn’t understand the working class and our Real struggles. Loki has a great way of articulating why people, like me, are so offended, excellent read.”

        ”Art is for everyone, it is not the preserve of one group or class of people. We are all creative beings in our own ways and just because someone does not like a certain piece of art : I dont like the pretentiousness of some artists and those who acclaim them , ( think National Collective epitomised this with their wish trees and middle class exclusivity which saw them not really getting that plenty of talented people resented their elitism although they claimed anyone could join in.
        There was a difficulty if ye felt excluded,despite their rhetoric, perhaps some members just didnt get that their patronising attitudes and their condescension really annoyed people.

        it makes us no less appreciative of different forms of art. for seeing through the inbuilt bias in how the arts are talked about or viewed.”

        Key thing is that many of the interactions come from young people from back grounds that artists like Ellie simply don’t reach. My ‘intelectualising’ helps to give some of them a wee foothold in a discussion many of them may not feel comfortable having. I say that as a person operating in such communities for 15 years. Anyway I take on board what you said. Have a good day.

        1. Jim Bennett says:

          Thanks for that, Loki. All good food for thought.

          P.S. I’m generally quite a fan of your stuff!

      2. kate says:

        that a narcissistic motive is common to artists is true, but you rarely claim to speak completely for yourself and your personal need to be heard and noticed. sometimes it does seem to be mainly about you as celebrity in specific local and national contexts.

        at its best your writing and music place experiences you share with others who have not been given or taken a voice in the face of a wider audience, throwing down the gauntlet for your version of working class with an eye half loathing and half envious to the upper/middle class. that is unavoidable as they have great resources and a lot of it is more or less hereditary and not particularly deserved. envy and belief in just distribution of wealth & public resources have overlap.

        but as you back the greens – who in patrick harvie’s case have specifically repudiated socialism- and not any of the socialist parties or alliances you seem at loggerheads with yourself over class. if you could help bring it about would you want class division itself to end, or not? your goals when discussing class and your intended audience in that respect are not clear. are you asking the middle class to play fair or looking to a different system? you know people in relative positions power for generations will not take voluntary redundancy from being the ruling class any more than men will with women.

        btw i think you blame people supporting the SNP for liking in them what a lot of people actually want, pretty much always – some change but not very much. also blame others for taking on SNP as the best of a bad lot in voting, as you have yourself. the scottish electorate is now an unusually aware one but you often write as if your fellow citizens are stupid. a dead end there.
        that is where you sometimes spill into a kind of verbally aggressive male egotism, without real or at least clear aims and aggravate others (also lose Bella income & audience) while changing little – something you said the left often does in one article, i remember. no point berating people for not asking for equality and radical change via SNP that some,maybe many, people are not interested in due to lack of incentive for real change. the audience you say you write for has that incentive for change. maybe it is them you are berating about supporting SNP, but i never get that feeling.

        it does makes sense though to ask why people who call themselves socialists are in SNP, but likewise with the Greens, who you support. With so many of your own contradictions about your audience and aims floating around you could ease up on the preaching quite so on high.

    2. Shonar says:

      “That would be a big fuck you to everyone from Eduardo Paolozzi to George Wyllie, from Frances George Scott to Christine Borland, from Alison Watt to Suzanne Phillipsz, from William Johnstone to William Gear…. and god alone knows whether Ian Hamilton Findlay would have got a look in. I dislike a lo of their stuff but is Scotland the richer or not for the art they developed? Do you honestly think any of these artists would have been funded if their proposal were subject to the national vitriolic abuse fest that Ellie Harrison has had to endure?”
      I’d love you to run that statement past the vast majority of Scots! There in lies the problem. Who? What?……

      1. Alastair McIntosh says:

        I’m wary of anyone who conjours up a stereotype of “a horny handed former shipbuilder who lives in a scheme”, and claims to be of such provenance. Exitism? Any understanding of how much the poor (yes) are hurting?

        1. Jim Bennett says:

          Alasdair, we’ve met and spoken some years ago. You won’t remember me but maybe you’ll remember the meeting. The meeting with 10-12 people sitting round a table where you said “I want real people to be involved in this”. I thought:

          “Real people. Real people. Real people? What, am I not real? Cut me and do I not bleed?”

          In some way, I simply wasn’t authentic enough a human being for you. But I imagine that most messianic narcissists have that issue.

          You have led an enormously privileged life: you have a BSc in Geography from the University of Aberdeen, a financial MBA from the University of Edinburgh and a PhD in theology from University of Ulster (2008).

          No doubt your geography degree comes in handy with the poverty tourism you’ve spent your life engaging in.

          Perhaps the Lewis wee Frees with their foundation stones on the money of slavery have left an indelible imprint on your attitudes towards art. Put your pretentious shite like “Performance on Awakening an Ecology of the Imagination with Butoh Dancers and a short reading from the Leary/Metzner/Alpert edition of The Tibetan Book of the Dead” to the scrutiny of the Glasgow populace in the way that Ellie Harrison’s project has been and we’d see how long you’d last.

          You have delivered a lecture on The Artist’s Response to Climate Change (paid handsomely by the Scottish Government’s Climate Challenge Fund) and yet you fail in your criticism of Ellie Harrison to recognise that she is a major promoter of radical artistic participation in renewable energy. Hypocrite. What’s the problem Alasdair? Don’t like women encroaching on your turf?

          I find it difficult to take holier than thou lectures from someone who happily takes income from the Ministry of Defence, Foreign Militaries, NATO, the BBC and the Police and yet professes to speak for the poor. You could walk away from your poverty tourism any time you want to. It just suits your schtick to wear it on your sleeve like a martyr whilst criticising genuine individuals attempting to create art.

          1. Alastair McIntosh says:

            Yes, my outreach is very eclectic, and as you’ve discovered, I publish all significant or potentially controversial sources of my income, including my tax accounts, on my website.

            Do you?

            The issue with art is much bigger than any one artist. See my Twitter stream for comment on that.

            We’ve met? We should do so again. I’m tied up until March, but if you’d care to contact then by email, I think we might have an interesting conversation.

          2. Jim Bennett says:

            Sorry Alastair. Like the vast majority of the poor, I don’t do Twitter.

          3. Alastair McIntosh says:

            Jim, are you the same Jim Bennett who contacted me in Feb 2006 about an attempted land buy-out issue in Dunblane, and to whom I gave support in the face of the then Scottish Executive’s rejection thereof? I’m asking, because I was troubled that you were left with a memory from a meeting with me, in which you said you felt counted out; and so I checked to see if there was any email thread. If you are the same Jim Bennett, I’m all the more puzzled by your recollection of our interaction, given what I wrote to support your cause. I confess, however, that I don’t actually remember meeting you face-to-face. That’s hardly surprising, as I have many meetings, and am terrible at remembering names and faces. I am very sorry, however, if I said anything that you understood in a way that left you feeling as you say you did. If that was so, I wish you’d said so at the time as there was probably some misunderstanding. However, it may be you’re not the same person.

  14. kate says:

    i once heard a group of english & australian art academics discuss the merits of the individual shops in an arcade in florence which many of them apparently visited fairly regularly. the well off are rarely confined to one place. artists traveling/ the world for commissions. how degrading!

    in australia amongst academics studying art made in the present, the political contexts of the work are very often ignored where it might interrupt the money flow of grants,investment,sponsorship etc. and disturb the middle classes or those of other human rights abusing nations doing their own culture washing. probably scotland is similar.

    the people ruling arts boards are business magnates connected to corrupt media empires such as murdoch, families with stakes in detention centres, in scotland oil executives, and so on. it seems there is no resistance to the rule of the arts by & for the upper middle class. in the australian art establishment political or sexual ethics connected to sustained artistic criticism of govt policies outside the arts narrowly defined -ie refugee policy, income inequality, mining, climate change, health…,or which might stem the flow of either govt or dirty big business money such as packer’s casinos into the arts to expedite & promote business interests, are generally despised.

    wei wei is a celebrity,so that’s different.

    art/culture as with all professions at upper levels is partly about the generational class transmission of status work & available income strands- unless you wrench the prizes out of their hands, through the difficult and so far only imagined process of destroying class based social structures.
    western art from ‘below’ is typically appropriated into ‘high art’- non elite art is appropriated & used up until destroyed, but high art does not seem to give back inspiration to ‘low art’, at least not anymore. possibly high art is no longer fertile , it steals ideas from below to renew the idea of cultural dominance.

    Very little is said, much less done, about class inequality reflected in art and culture, by people who are not themselves ruling class. also it could only be more interesting as well as egalitarian if the wheel was in any way possible taken from upper middle class artists, curators,directors,academics. if ‘even white people are sick of white ppls bullshit’ the same applies to class.

    the edinburgh festival appears a kind of establishment bastion with flashes of middle class daring. maybe the the effects of glasgow could be retold by working class artists confined more or less to glasgow & unfortunately unable to make it to florence for holidays and shopping a few times a year ?

    1. Jim Bennett says:

      Just don’t invite Wei Wei to Glasgow. Just like in China, his art would be viewed as anti-proletarian!

    2. Alf Baird says:

      Fascinating read, Kate. Brought up in Edinburgh, my mother used to refer to the festival as “too highbrow an no fir us”. It may have changed…..a wee bit.

      1. Darby O'Gill says:

        Same with my family Alf, but then along came the People’s Festival, which was revived in 2002. Lots of low-priced or free shows to rival the main event. They also celebrate Burns.
        This season starts this year with a ‘Burns on the Beach’ barbeque for refugees at Portobello on Sunday 25th January.

  15. Fran says:

    Brilliant article. The voice of sanity that highlights the ignorance of part of our society about how many of us live. If I could even travel to the edges of Strathclyde I’d be a happier healthier person. As it is I’ve barely been out of Glasgow in over a year, and to avoid going nuts have found myself wedged in the kitchen just for a change of scene. I’m an artist too and am painting pictures of trees and hills to try and give my mind somewhere to go.

    1. kate says:

      have had similar feelings of being hemmed in. i hope you have a better year and years ahead

  16. Alf Baird says:

    Another great article, tells it like it is. Scotland’s ‘elite’ uni’s are full of middle class academic researchers, most now from outside Scotland (as we don’t support many Scots to do PhD’s any more), and funded by public agencies (that are likewise run by overpaid middle class ‘elites’) to undertake a great deal of pointless research, which very often ends up stating the bleeding obvious, especially when it is about the lower classes. They call it ‘Scottish Science’.

    1. Leigh French says:

      thanks Alf-“the private sector simply does things much better”-Baird, but Loki’s incisive article has nothing to do with your racialised narrative of competitiveness

      1. Alf Baird says:

        Leigh, once upon a time even the road haulage industry in the UK was run by the state; it was not very good. There are some very good examples of state run enterprises. I can think of a couple in Singapore, and in Dubai. And in Edinburgh, Lothian Buses. But there are state run enterprises that are challenged. Where the UK often gets things very wrong is inadequate regulation. We need to regulate private business much better, especially the former public utilities.

        There is in my view significant discrimination against Scots, in Scotland, more especially at higher levels in certain public and semi-public institutions. Historically this seems rather typical of colonies, I’m sure many would agree. I think it is important to highlight this, and to ensure that Scots are not blocked from personal development. For example, within the next couple of years, it is possible that all 19 higher education institutions in Scotland will have principals who come from outside Scotland. Some may say that is a good thing. But what do you think that says about us Scots? I would also say such an outcome would be unthinkable in any other country, though perhaps not in a colony.

  17. The Ubiquitous Chip says:

    I find this one hard to get to grips with-the mob mentality of personally attacking the artist on her looks and supposed wealth/identity is worrying and of course arts should be funded for all to allow risk and experimentation, which is supposed to be the entire point of Open Project funding. Yet for all this, the chosen title and imagery of the Facebook page doesn’t reflect the working title ‘Think Global Act Local’, and it is this that has invited the scrutiny and anger, not the funding in and of itself and it speaks of a degree of either naiveity or cynicism for someone that’s supposedly a context-aware, community facing artist/activist.

    The funding arrangement whereby Creative Scotland’s money is actually going to be paid to her employer, is similarly confusing the matter and seems to have stoked a lot of ire under the misguided impression she’s being paid twice. Fairly or unfairly, both aspects have put the creative community generally under a bad light that can only damage working relations by supporting what seems to be the popular image of artists as a load of pretentious chancers who are totally divorced from the rest of society that people are accusing her of in perhaps less polite terms, and I think it’s a lesson that a lot of people will be more mindful of in future. Personally, I’m surprised that the project was funded, but having given up on applying for such support after some mystical and contradictory responses from CS, I don’t grudge anyone who can jump through such tedious hoops the success.

    I can’t help but feel sorry for Ellie as I think she’s been very unlucky in the way this has blown up, but if it’s only taken a matter of days for her to alienate a significant percentage of her supposed target ‘community’ (can you use this to describe Scotland’s largest city?) where she’ll be living exclusively for a year, rather than disconnect from Facebook she might be better either explaining the choice of title/imagery more clearly or, if it’s been a too casually selected and thoughtless oversight, apologising for it to allow her to move on with hopefully making the remainder of the project a success.

    Personally, I really don’t see what the challenge of making opportunities in Glasgow is when funded with the equivalent of a full-time salary for a year; money is the main obstacle for all artists working in the city- a major global artistic centre already-and with that funding and contacts gained from living here for 7 years she has a huge scope of creating her own local projects. If it had been Dundee where she works and which has been trying to advance itself as a creative centre for years now, or a less populous or remote city like Inverness it might have been more interesting for her and more advantageous for the community, but obviously Creative Scotland disagrees. Anyway, all art forms have their place-the problem in contemporary Scotland is that working class artists are excluded from participating because they don’t have the family support required to subsidise their activities in the same way as others d0, and that’s only going to get worse.

    1. Leigh French says:

      I don’t think you’re saying Loki’s personally attacking the artist, though I’d agree that there’s been something indicative of an opportunistic ‘mob mentality’, which ought to force some post-IndyRef self-reflection on the democratic claims made for online communication spaces, especially if a not insignificant portion of this treatment is indicative of how such spaces now perform – something a couple of BellaC editorial replies seem to have been compelled to address recently. But that’s not to undercut the legitimacy of the anger that many have expressed either, and which Loki contextualises here.
      I’m unsurprised that the project was awarded CS funding (whilst CS’s gatekeeping also isn’t a monolithic totality displaying a oneness-of-will and nor should it be) as the project mirrors and will act to mutually reinforce CS’s stated ideology of an organic ecology – this playing down of structural violence, in favour of promoting social adaptation to global competitive conditions, is a position that’s rightly being challenged.
      I think CS’s inconsistent treatment of H.E. (as but one off-the-shelf unfunding excuse) stems in part from CS’s changed function, to one more akin to an economic development agency where it also partners & participates in various pop-up guises.
      With the further ‘clarification’ of the project, evidently the target ‘community’ is not the one patronised in the choice of title/imagery (which confuses so-called Miracle & Effect) but the Creative City construction, as you rightly say, which is a mode of governance (not a community) that’s anything but an isolated relation in any event – most obviously state funding itself isn’t regionally internal but negotiated across these processes as we’re seeing.

      1. Walloper says:

        I guess you’re either undertaking or have recently completed some sort of social science post-grad, perhaps something more advanced than a masters. The style of discourse you employ here is widely identified as a post-modernist rhetorical disease that is, perhaps wholly, responsible for the rise of anti-intellectualism. It drives a wedge between the educated and the uneducated in places where there is little of technical import actually being communicated. I suggest you practice talking normally and embrace euphony, particularly as this would give quite a decent harmony between form and content.

        I wish you a speedy recovery!

        1. The Ubiquitous Chip says:

          what, me or Leigh? I hope i’ve nae post-modernist rhetorical disease… sounds worse than the clap!

          1. Walloper says:

            Not yourself Ubiquitous Chip, I understood you just perfectly!

            Beware the disease though, in its own way it’s worse than the clap. And studies are now throwing up some anti-biotic resistant strains. Keep vigilant!

            Early signs include: the inability to use fullstops, other than at the end of paragraphs; non-standard and unannounced abbreviations and acronyms; multi-claused sentences (with extensive use of parentheses, even within parenthetically separating comma or semi-colon pairs); and obscure, idiosyncratic word choice and invention.


    2. Jim Bennett says:

      Excellent stuff. Well said.

      1. Alf Baird says:

        Care to translate, Jim?

        1. Jim Bennett says:

          Was aimed at Ubiquitous Chip!

  18. Jim Bennett says:

    Ellie Harrison has been pilloried across the print media, all over Facebook and on radio and TV programmes for the temerity to successfully access £15k for her art project. The vast majority of people criticising her have heard the words “art”, “£15000” and “can’t leave Glasgow” and made their philistine voices heard based on that alone.
    Given that, I thought that I might make a similarly quick prejudiced summary of artistic endeavours and see how many people might buy into them.
    I want £15000 to:
    • Bury a big stone in the ground but leave a bit sticking out
    • Bury loads of big stones in the ground in a circle but leave bits sticking out
    • Put hats on the big stones
    • Make a film with junkies swimming in shite
    • Paint a picture of a fat lassie on a couch
    • Build a fuck-off big building that nobody’s allowed to stay in, is hard to heat and the roof always needs repaired
    • Paint a picture on the ceiling of the fuck-off big building of two guys touching fingers
    • Take photos of children on fire
    • Write a book about murder, rape, incest, human sacrifice and not being allowed to wear cotton and wool at the same time
    • Take photos of guys with hands up their bums
    • Knit a big picture
    • Spray paint picture of rats on buildings
    • Paint a picture of a lassie that’s no really smiling
    • Build a big iron quine wi’ wings that’ll go a bit rusty
    • Build a hill
    • Build five hills but make them pointy
    • Stack stones on top of each other
    • Paint pictures of ruffled sheets
    • Paint a fanny
    • Take the piss….
    Any magnificent piece of art can be given the tabloid treatment and have a baying mob unleashed on it. I say give Ellie Harrison time, space and goodwill to create wonders.

    Some say that Ellie Harrison is a fanny. Well the Arabic word that is pronounced fanny is ي : it means creative.

    1. Martin Audley says:

      The distinction all us ‘philistines’ make is: You are very welcome to make this art, and see if people like it. But don’t expect to forcibly, at the threat of violence*, demand that we pay for it, without a chance to see it first.

      Perhaps lots of artists could try to produce art and compete to see which is the best, and which is most able to persuade people to part with their money? We could call it ‘The Free Market’ perhaps?

      *Don’t believe me? See how long you can get away without paying your taxes.

  19. Bramblesack says:

    I hope your crowdfunding appeal is successful but why don’t you make a serious application for funding to carry out the West End Effect project but without any satirical or facetious angles and treat it as a real sociological research project? I think your proposal is quite interesting in terms of looking at how different social groups within the city interact and the perceived attitudes of the ‘cultural intelligentsia’. You could apply for money to live in the west end for a year and carry out investigations into how you interact with the residents there and how it informs the decisions you make from day to day. Being financially supported to do this for a year would also in itself affect your lifestyle which is something else worth researching. From that research you could then draft some well informed proposals for policy makers on how to approach the economic, cultural and social divisions within the city.

    I enjoyed your article, you write well 🙂
    All the best.

  20. Redguantlet says:

    We need to hear more from Loki, he is articulating the social chasm which is the British class system…what can you say about the British class system? It is the most entrenched, it is the most viscous, it is the most cruel in the whole world…I have never seen anything like it…and the Scottish dimension is that it is found in language…so if you speak Scots you are working class and if you speak Scottish English, then you are middle cannay tell the social class of an American, a French woman or an Italian down the telephone….

    …but a word of warning to Loki. Often the working class earn more than the middle class – think of a tradesman – and the whole class system is there to divide people. Historically, middle class intellectuals have played a fundamental role in transforming society in benefit of the working class. So blanket accusations are not necessarily helpful, though we all tend to generalise.

    Only when a political party comes about which can transcend the class divide will Scotland change.

  21. Darby O'Gill says:

    Some very ‘creative’ contributions, but as usual generating more heat than light. How about some creative solutions for the role of Creative Scotland. Here’s one.

    I read about a housing estate in Dublin where conditions were so bad they didn’t just have packs of wild dogs, they had herds of wild horses roaming the estate. All attempts at repair/restoration failed until the architect moved his office into one of the tower blocks and became part of the community. I remembered this when I was to commissioned to restore a run-down mining village in Midlothian. I moved in. It worked. Local people made choices and felt involved. We even managed to include an arts project with the local school. The village looks as good now as when the work was completed over thirty years ago.
    Why not have Creative Scotland put offices in some of our poorer housing estates, make connections, and tap into some of the latent talent that undoubtedly exists there. Maybe even have board meetings from time to time. In due course a whole range of public facilities can be added offering advice and services. Only when the middle classes become aware of the problems can they become part of the solution.

    1. Alastair McIntosh says:

      Brilliant suggestion. “Nothing about us without us is for us” – Poverty Truth Commission. The underlying issue here, and why it matters and is generating so much discussion, is not about the artist (who hopefully didn’t realise the significance of what she was doing when she renamed her project). Neither is it Creative Scotland (for whom this was a smallish grant that had ticked the boxes required for an open system of accountability, as distinct from patronage). Or the Scottish Government (which rightly funds the arts in the public interest, and cannot be politically heavy handed as to how a quasi-autonomous body hands it out). Rather, the issue lies with where art is at, who and what values it serves; indeed, what constitutes art in a world that sits uneasily with anything that many critics would deem “essentialist”, which is to say, metaphysical, which is to say, spiritual.

  22. Callum McCormick says:

    Excellent article. I have to say, I support the principle that projects like this should be funded and dislike the philistine impulse in some of the criticism. I dislike while finding this proposed project completely worthless, self-indulgent and imbued with a nasty sense of superiority. Nonetheless, Loki gets to the heart of the matter here. People are suspicious of ‘the arts’ because ‘the arts’ have no place for them. Their tastes and preferences are, at best, ignored and more regularly sneered and laughed at.

    1. Alf Baird says:

      Perhaps this stushie is really related to the much discussed issue of arts ‘leaders’ coming in from elsewhere and knowing little about Scottish culture but being keen to learn, and the same might be said for some academics.

      A priceless comment there by Jimhutchy about Dundee’s arts scene seems relevant to this debate:

      “as a working class dundonian i always laugh at this concept called the arts, in dundee we have a cultural quarter, which has very little to do with the culture of dundee , lately becoming a theme park for dc thomsons , the sad truth is though that here in dundee a very small percentage knew or had even heard of michael marra , and this from a city applying for city of culture status , but only when real culture arrives in the shape of the V@A museum at the waterfront , strangely enough plays with a dundee dialect such as the Mill Lavvies never or are rarely shown outside dundee as the scottish dialect is too strong and other scots or luvvies wont understand it , this I find unbelieveable ! scots not understanding other scots surely not ?”

  23. Tits Mcghie says:

    This article is spot on however going on some previous articles by Loki and in the wider sense Bella Caledonia, it’s the pot calling the kettle black.
    I enjoy our alternative mediaand I’m sure intentions mean well however
    middle class, well educated buddies have taken over the debate about Scottish Independence and progress in general.
    The left are not often excluding and belittling of the Wee Tams who has worked aw their puff in manual labour, who dreams of a better future for his wains and grand wains but happens to swear like a trooper, even when warming addressing someone! it excludes wee Jenny down the road who fell pregnant at 16 and is struggling to get work, struggling with everything including her sanity, the guy fae an ex mining town that lost his leg and can no longer work and drinks a little too much to blot out bad memories and feelings of inadequacy, it often alienates the very people it claims to want to help by policing their language and ignoring the context, by berating and blaming wee Jenny for enabling sexism because she doesn’t take umbrudge to certain words, words she’s heard aw her life, words that in her world that are used to express fondness more than hostility.

    Folk that look around and see their struggling communities, witnesses first hand to the harrowing decline and wonder how on earth we can afford aid for foreigners, on expressing this they are shot down, called racist, called un-educated, berated for not having something that was never really an option for them, food needed to put on laps ( tables are for poshos) , they didn’t have time to ponder about what career they wanted or what fancy course they wanted to do.
    A very vocal part of the left tend to enjoy vilification more than actually engaging folk.

    We are failing to reach these people that are crucial to our ethos, we are failing to include them.
    I’ve attended many political events in Scotland over the past 3 years, not once has a single mother who works part time at the bowling green been the one on the stage speaking, neither are the wee Tams.
    Why is center stage reserved for folk that’s already improved their lives?

    Why do lots of people from poverty backgrounds feel unwelcome and alien within a movement that is supposed to be about helping them?

    I would love to see less ego driven, pretentious soundbites and hear more from the people that matter the most about what changes they think are needed.

    Can the middle class academia of the left take a wee backseat please?
    Let’s engage our poorest communities at their level and hear their voices.

    1. Tits Mcghie says:

      * often excluding in replace of not often excluding.

      Should have proof read first 🙂

  24. Kev says:

    I’ve read two of your pieces for Bella now. You seem to be angry and flail in a number of directions all at once. Whirling like a pissed-up Dervish.

    The lady/artist herself is not the issue, if you can refine your analysis and look at power structure, the cringe and the continual prolier-than-thou theme you speak about, then you begin to get a focus.

    The Arts establishment like the the Legal, Administrative establishment is a function of private education, the cringe and the colonial status of the country. It is only with the setting up of National Collective that the Arts left their cosy cultural niche.

    You’re on to something, but you’re projecting a whole lot of extra anger that belongs to you and clouds the emergent analysis.

  25. Loki says:

    Thanks everyone for the comments and engagement.

    Let me deal with what I feel are the main points people raise:

    The issue of class in the arts is something I have been addressing for 15 years. The notion I am trying to lead a witch-hunt to further my own career is naive. I saw an opportunity to raise the issue I have been raising since forever and I took it. Conceptual art relies on such responses from the public.

    Second, some say we should not talk about it because it hasn’t happened yet. Cool, then that must also apply to all the other things you guys like to theorize and argue about that haven’t happened. You set a dangerous precedent by saying something should only be discussed once it has happened.

    Third, there is a feeling that I attach myself to this in order to further my own agenda. You better fucking believe it! My agenda is to articulate how living on the wrong side of the tracks feels for people and this is what I am all about. If I can build a career out of doing that then what is the issue. I am not asking anybody to fund it am I?

    Until yesterday people were wrongly assuming that the back lash was based on prejudice about art. I have simply tried to articulate where some of that may come from.

    What I have said is perfectly legitimate and perfectly consistent with everything else I have done up until this point.

    Apart from these things I have outlined I think everybody’s comments are fair and spot on. People from privileged back grounds should be thanking me for deepening their cultural understanding around the topic of art and how inequality expresses itself culturally.

    I have since read Ellie intended this discussion about class to happen all along….so isn’t that a real victory for inter-class relations then? Good thing you have somebody like me to speak fluently in both languages eh?

    Good day to you all ya bunch of absolute belters!

    1. Redguantlet says:

      Loki, gie the glue a break pal…hee hee…what kind of a rant is that? We´re t be grateful to you…hee hee…fair doos…it´s a free world….

    2. Jim Bennett says:

      Well, done, Loki. Magnanimously put! Thank you.

  26. LizW says:

    This seems to focus exclusively on two things and extrapolate from there: Red Road Flats and Ellie Harrison. Ellie’s application has now been published, read it. Perhaps without the wilful misrepresentation of the tabloid MSM, there might’ve been a civilised debate around it. The Red Road Flats debacle was conceived by Commonwealth Games related committees. You’ll be hard pushed to find anyone in the ‘arts establishment’ who thought blowing up most of the Red Road Flats (but not the one for the asylum seekers, oh no) was a superfun idea.

    And I must confess that I’m a member of the middle class arts establishment. I must be: now that I work in the ‘establishment’, seems I’m no longer working class enough for Loki. I, and all my colleagues across the arts sector, are immediately ‘middle-classified’ as soon as we get the job; our experiences of, say, growing up in an area of multiple deprivation, being homeless multiple times and coming from fairly typical backgrounds of alcoholism and unemployment are instantly forgotten and we become solely interested in public school, posh graduates and the opera. We get really offended when the lower classes dare to venture an opinion.

    That’s rubbish. If Loki cared to look further into what the funding agencies, he might see a hell of a lot of under the radar work trying to engage, empower and offer opportunities to the communities, areas and people he’s concerned about. Not parachuting in, but responding to their needs. Of course, yer man trying to get a job on a tabloid and a nice juicy ‘quango wastes money’ headline isnae interested in that work.

    Wilfully misunderstanding the arts project in question and using it as an example of how working class people are ignored or sneered at by the ‘middle class arts establishment’ is reductive, reverse snobbery. You want people to value ‘art’, to find their voice, to think it’s for them, to create, to apply for funding? Try addressing the wider attitude to ‘arts’ not the people already trying to change things. Look at the big picture, inc: education (why ‘the arts’ isn’t just something to be consumed, it isn’t all about performances or ‘workshops’ for young people), transport costs and availability, access to facilities in your area, the lack of diversity and focus on homogeneous role models, continuing cuts to arts budgets at local and national level. What do you think will get cut first: the arts infrastructure, who kicked up such a fuss last time their funding was threatened, or the unsexy under the radar work?

  27. Marcia Blaine says:

    As said above ‘it’s not that the working class don’t understand modern Scottish art, it’s that modern Scottish art doesn’t understand the working class’. Much of this debate/debacle centres on (or is an elliptical criticism of) our national arts agency. It seems the maladroit Creative Scotland is all too reticent to make any comments on the Glasgow Effect fracas.

  28. Alastair McIver says:

    The Glasgow Effect – A Sonnet

    And for a fee of fifteen thousand pounds,
    I’ll gladly stay in Glasgow for a year –
    Well, better make that “Glasgow and surrounds”
    The city isnae wide enough, I fear.

    For fifteen thousand pounds, a bargain price!
    I’ll cage myself within this city’s walls
    And touch a common Weegie once or twice,
    But otherwise do mostly bugger all.

    I’ll analyse this city’s sorry state
    With deep-fried mars bars, chips and Irn Bru
    The impact of my project shall be great!
    Experiential art is art and true!

    The quoth the bored Creative Scotland staff,
    “Let’s pish wur cash on this wan, for a laugh!”

  29. C Rober says:

    I like art , but like others I am drawn not by snobbery or what others hold in high regard , but what I like personally.

    I do though hail from Schemes and Shipyards , where art could be seen everywhere , and wasnt instead middle class sculpture foisted on local communities by councillors and policiticans keen to keep their ilke in income.

    One considers art to be that which someone finds a want for , not a need , for me that cant be a manky bed or a pickled sheep.It will never be comteporary , howling at the moon , or experimental.

    It may well be a book where and artists has sculptured each leaf page into a scene from the book costing a couple of hundred quid.

    It my well be a relatively mass produced hand made coke can turned into a desktop fancy costing a fiver , from some poor chap making a dollar a day , or slumped glass bottles into curios for holding my spare change and keys in the hall near my soulless CRS double glazed faux CRM front door.

    It may well be some particular stone I find while out walking , one that will sit proud along with the coke can or slumped glass.Something that no one else would think as art , or has told me is art.

    It may well be a picture of a rusting car , forgotten in woods , or a new hand made motorcycle made in the outback from aluminium.

    It may be a minimalist painting from a an unknown artists , most likely mass produced in china , of three painted strokes that capture the sails of a boat , or a lithoprint of a Judge Dredd scene from 2000ad.

    It may well be a moment when the light and weather is just right when I take a picture of nothing or something and decide to have it printed and framed , considering I have taken many thousands and have only printed 3 should tell you I am my own worst critic.

    Even architecture to me is art , but never when it is trying to be so.There is many forgotten architects , more than CRM or AGT that should be held in as high regard , the same goes for many shipwrights.

    Perhaps it is that very ship yard and scheme derivative to me that makes the sweat involved in hand making , in the engineering fore and after thought , art that appeals to me.

    Perhaps it is the same for those in such uproar about the middle class established and controlled arts.

    The last piece of art bought in those households may well have hailed from B and M via china , and previously to the place it now adorns was plaster ducks , spiky clocks , thread weaves mounted on boards , swords on plastic shields , or that fecking picture of the crying child.

    But then again thats popular art of the day , a totally different thing altogether , pop today tat tomorrow , then after ironic art , then kitsch , then collectable , then back to art again.

    1. Alastair McIntosh says:

      That’s writing in a beautiful spirit about art. This whole thread of discussion has been very rich, and all round so.

  30. Denny Hunter says:

    Is it not true that artists should be free from class?

    Of course artists can seem to sit on one or other side of social boundaries but the art itself should be outside of class or if people insist upon pigeon-holing then artists should occupy a class unto themselves free from political intervention.

    Creative Scotland has awarded an artist 15K to execute a work of art that is likely the culmination of years of hard work and soul searching. Let’s judge this artist on their completed work rather than on bigotry alone.

  31. Kerry Grassick says:

    I’m a single mum living in Possil in Glasgow. I’ve been working on a folio for 3 years in my spare time to try and get into GSA. I’ve done a basic google on ‘the main player’ in this fiasco… so I’m going to be blunt…and write it up in bullet points so all the academics can speed read through it:

    1. Creative Scotland have been short sighted (not reading between the lines of a devious and muddled application – I think she want to have a unofficial sabbatical and keep her job even though she’s still on probation…geez man!)

    2. Creative Scotland are now covering up the truth which is worse! (the application budget is now published online guys! – clearly states the £15,000 was to cover her pay, pension etc eh?!)

    3. Creative Scotland have obviously been scammed by one of the best (From her wiki, I can see Harrison is an activist – her art is a vehicle for her politics – thats no bad but… she’s a bit of a self-promoter isn’t she!? And it’s all about ‘her causes’ – where the communities say?)

    4.Creative Scotland will no doubt suffer serious financial damage from this (a total f**k up after what looks like years of trying to become more efficient and transparent -why they not see that this is unethical to let a lecturer scam it? – chop chop chop at the next CS budget I bet?)

    5. Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design have acted unethically surely! (perhaps colluding with a staff member to screw the Scottish system to their advantage? or just being complacent and lazy? What a shambles!!!)

    6. Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design have been scammed? (Only Harrison will survive this – no doubt manipulating the whole mess to her advantage and tell her students ‘be an art scammer and be cool like me it’s all political crap so screw them all!’ what an Art cliché!)

    7. Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design will no doubt suffer serious financial damage from this (why did they not insist Harrison confined herself to Dundee?! A perfect opportunity to engage with Dundee that really DOES need more help from a professional artist to grow a community art scene! not now…chop chop chop at the next DJCAD budget?)

    8. The whole Scottish Art scene will now have to defend their practice more than ever before to a Scottish public that often sees no worth in it during times of austerity (The opposite of any ‘effect’ the project proposed to do – thanks Ellie!)

    9. The whole Scottish Art scene will now feel more pressure to make art that appeals to a broad spectrum, grrrr (I can imagine a large proportion of the art scene have no desire to make ‘help the community’ art so don’t apply to Creative Scotland. I can see from their blurb they want more community stuff..Unless it’s made from the ground up by local people themselves, it comes off as weak, patronizing and bland…much like a movie after a focus group. Group art is not all it’s cracked up to be – someone please tell the CCA this!)

    10. The whole Scottish Art scene will no doubt suffer serious financial damage from this (more skepticism and bureaucracy to fight against to receive ‘genuine’ funding for an individual project; more bigotry towards people from middle class backgrounds I bet. And more hardship for us working class Scottish Artists! I now feels more scared that I will never getting into GSA cos I’m not middle class people with a posh West End address. Well at least I’ve learnt Microsoft WORD this year. Seems to be more about grammar and application style these days…time to make my practice more wordy I think!)

    11. Ellie Harrison’s project application was manipulative and toxic (whether her ‘oeuvre’ is ethical or not, this application was merely a wondrous example of how to write up a weak unfocused idea and make it sound as if it’s ‘all about the local community’ and not really ‘all about me and my cv!’)

    12. Ellie Harrison will no doubt get her slot at the CCA Lab as suggest on her application (a stitch up as she’s probably mates with the CCA curators and arranged this already…we’ll see I guess….)

    13. Ellie Harrison will no doubt get her slot at the Intermedia Gallery as suggest on her application (a stitch up as she’s probably mates with the CCA curators and arranged this already…time will tell I guess….)

    14. Ellie Harrison will no doubt put it ALL on her Wikipedia, sell her West End pad and go back to London (and i’ll be stuck here in Possil wi the wean….but you never know I might get accepted to my third choice at DJCAD….actually scrap that, I’m gonna change that to Grays.)

  32. Alf Baird says:

    “I now feels more scared that I will never getting into GSA cos I’m not middle class people with a posh West End address”

    And you are Scots! The ‘elite’ university sector in Scotland is rotten. Scots applicants should be top priority, but they are usually the last. Self-regulating, Anglicised, asset-rich, international corporate fiefdoms, masquerading as charities – that’s Scotland’s ‘elite’ universities.

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