Critics’ Picks

Veronica Ryan, Particles, 2017, mixed media, 78 x 36 x 12".

Veronica Ryan, Particles, 2017, mixed media, 78 x 36 x 12".


“Life Support: Forms of Care in Art and Activism”

Glasgow Women's Library
23 Landressy Street
August 14–October 16, 2021

Commemorating the thirtieth anniversary of Glasgow Women’s Library, “Life Support: Forms of Care in Art and Activism” combines new commissions, existing works, and extensive archival materials that open alternative possibilities for community, care, and resistance. The exhibition spans the building, with contributions including Franki Raffles’s photographs of women at work in the late 1980s and early ’90s, documentation of Shona Macnaughton's 2017 performance Progressive, and the Glasgow Housing Struggle Timeline, 2021, compiled by Joey Simons and Keira McLean. A metal shelving unit of what appear to be cast seed cases, Veronica Ryan’s Particles, 2017, points toward the darker edges of institutional care and constraint, while Olivia Plender’s refit of the community room with new carpets and soft furnishings offers a vital space of respite and refuge.

Amid so much material, there is a moment of pure love: Alberta Whittle’s business as usual: hostile environment (a remix), 2020–21. Part of the film was produced with Glasgow’s Joyous Choir, a community of women from diverse backgrounds that meets to learn, write, and share songs from across the world. The choir are shown singing together on a canal boat. In one song, each verse names a member of the group (“Rema, my Rema /She is walking with me! /Walking for equality!”). When the song leader calls out “Alberta, Alberta,” we hear the artist’s warm chuckle from behind the camera.

Whittle’s films (there are three on show here) are not only powerful polyphonic responses to racist systems of policing and control amid the ongoing pandemic but also celebrations of multiple modes of resistance, from public protest to intimate moments of touching or talking. The choir leader’s gesture of inclusion—and Whittle’s resulting chuckle—acknowledges the artist as part of the community, an ethical position that informs much of Whittle’s work and that of the other artists involved in “Life Support.”