Glasgow International

Various Locations

As Glaswegian novelist Alexander Trocchi wrote in his spellbinding essay “The Invisible Insurrection of a Million Minds” (1962), “There is in fact no such permanence anywhere. There is only becoming.” His words reflect a city that was once “the workshop of the world”—but has in the last twenty years emerged from industrial decline as a post- Fordist shopping and services center. This spring, the already vibrant art scene in Glasgow was electrified by the third and largest installment of Francis McKee’s Glasgow International.

In many of the Glasgow International projects and events, McKee’s loose curatorial theme of “public and private” translated into an imaginative interrogation of the history of Glasgow. An atmospheric remapping of the city occurred in Raydale Dower and Judd Brucke’s walking tour The Secret Agent, 2008, commissioned by the artist-led gallery LowSalt and inspired by Joseph Conrad’s 1907 novel. Audiences were led through alleyways and into private derelict grounds, their progress arrested by artworks, puppetry, projections, and a live musical score. The Modern Institute presented a new work by Simon Starling, Project for a Public Sculpture (After Thomas Annan), 2008, in semiderelict former public baths in the Saltmarket. Starling scanned silver particles from a reprinted 1866 Thomas Annan photograph of a Glasgow slum and built a virtual model of their form—resulting in a large, amorphous, pale gray sculpture that resembled an unpainted Franz West. However, Starling’s work also describes how technology and gentrification have erased a complex history of communal domesticity. This interplay of public and private was also meaningfully explored in Polish painter and filmmaker Wilhelm Sasnal’s 16–mm film The Other Church, 2008—a song tribute to murdered Polish student Angelika Kluk—shown in the darkened basement of a disused printing works on Osborne Street.

There were also high-octane exhibitions, such as Catherine Yass’s High Wire, 2007, at the Centre for Contemporary Arts. Yass’s film documented tightrope walker Didier Pasquette’s failed attempt to cross a wire suspended ninety feet above the ground between Glasgow’s iconic Red Road flats. More dizzying spectacle awaited visitors to Jim Lambie’s solo show “Forever Changes” at the Gallery of Modern Art. Lambie cleared the neoclassical interior of partitions as well as a section of the gallery’s education department and paved the floor with The Strokes, 2008—a fl at ocean of shiny monochrome waves arrayed with sculptures displaying his knack for pop culture bricolage like Warm Leatherette, 2008, made from the stuffed arms of leather jackets and a bowling ball. Of the group shows, the most notable were curator Daniel Baumann’s Fluxus-like “Records Played Backwards,” at the Modern Institute, and Sorcha Dallas and Alex Frost’s “Run Run,” at the Collins Gallery, which positioned local artists, including Laura Aldridge, Gregor Wright, and Rob Churm, alongside more established figures like John Latham and Richard Deacon.

Mary Mary presented a geometric watercolor wall painting and understated drawings by Austrian artist Ernst Caramelle. Caramelle’s vivid and minimal painting elicited a curious sense of fluctuating space and light, which framed and intensified the effects of the other works on display, such as Untitled, 2000, a drawing made using sunlight on paper. Masking off sections of the small purple page, Caramelle created jagged lines and fl at layers of yellow, gray, lilac, and violet. The graduated colors of this small yet beautiful work mapped a process of gradual change. On a wider scale, this is what Glasgow International has achieved: encouraging both a heightened sense of the city’s history and of its becoming.

Sarah Lowndes