When the OCA tutor’s twins came down with chicken pox, a planned study visit to Glasgow International looked to be inevitably cancelled as cover at short notice was difficult to arrange. The visit went ahead however, with the 4 OCA students from different disciplines meeting up independently, following the planned itinerary from the tutor and taking part in a tour led by students from The Glasgow School of Art. In this blog post, OCA students Susan, Annette and Alison reflect on the experience in dialogue with tutor Gina and on making things happen despite the setbacks.
Tutor: What were the highlights of the show?
Susan, Painting/Fine Art: “The highlight of the show for me must be the ceramic installation “Code-Switching and Other Work” by Nadia Myre at beautiful former fish market ‘The Briggait’. Myre is an Algonquin, First Nation Canadian. To quote the festival guide:
“Myre’s practice explores cross-cultural experiences and mediations as a strategy for recognizing and reclaiming the contributions of indigenous arts and cultural production”.
As a ceramist I enjoyed the craftsmanship displayed in the work. Glasgow was an early and profitable importer of tobacco from the Americas. Disposable clay pipes were sold already stuffed with tobacco and the stems gradually broken off as the tobacco was smoked. This forms the basis of the exhibition; pieces of clay cylinder of about 6cm in length are used to ‘weave’ large basket like shapes which I imagine, reference the basket making skills of the First Nation people.
The narrative continues with a wall covered in a blue and white wallpaper depicting images referring to the indigenous people, trappers and colonists. Another work was the framework of a cube hung with what appears at a distance to be torn netting and which was also made up of the clay cylinders being strung together. It gave the impression of perhaps a fish net, which has been left to deteriorate in harsh weather and had a wistful appearance. All the ceramic works had a beautiful patina and subtle grey, beige and light orange colours. The ‘baskets’ suggested a suppleness, collapsing in on themselves slightly. Other works seemed to directly reference the archaeological and historical aspect of the exhibition.
Overall the GI exhibitions give the impressions of youthfulness and of addressing subjects such as gender, the outsider, colonialism, the alien or the ‘other’ which are themes often explored in Afrofuturism. This is the first time that I have come across this term. Consulting “Huffpost” of 2 Feb 2018, Jamie Broadnax describes it ‘reimagining of a future filled with arts, science and technology seen through a black lens’. The term first appeared in an essay Back to the Future by white author Mark Dery 25 years ago. He based his findings on interviews with ‘black content creators’ and posed this question:
‘Can a community whose past has been deliberately rubbed out, and whose energies have subsequently been consumed by the search for legible traces of its history, imagine possible futures? Furthermore, isn’t the unreal estate of the future already owned by the technocrats, futurologists, streamliners, and set designers – white to a man – who have engineered our collective fantasies?’
I like the last phrase who have engineered our collective fantasies. It reminds me of how little autonomy most of us really have in our preferences and tastes.”
Highlights from Annette on the BA(hons) Painting included: Ciara Phillips, Glasgow Print Studio –‘Show Me Your Glow‘ “My first impressions were, a surprising, good-looking show and how much can be said with very little. Her masterful use of surprising materials in experimental ways create thoughtful, graceful work. Phillips uses mundane material, tape and envelopes, along with meticulous techniques, as seen in the backgrounds of exact wood grain surfaces.
This was a delightful exhibition and all aspects of the printmaking art were explored; type of print; colour combinations; material and composition were combined in representational and abstract prints. It reinforces the idea of experimentation and testing out of ideas.”
Douglas Moreland, The Mitchell library, ‘For Matthew‘ “For Matthew by Douglas Moreland in the Stirling room at the Mitchell Library tells the story of 35 yr. old Matthew Clydesdale in 19th century Glasgow. Clydesdale was hanged for murder in 1818 and his body quickly removed to Glasgow University’s anatomy theatre for an experiment that tried to resuscitate him. This era was a time of enquiry into all types of scientific research such as electricity that was used in this experiment.
The experiments were conducted in front of a huge crowd of spectators from all walks of life, students, doctors, scientists, newspaper correspondents and general public. The ghoulish experiment of what looked like a surreal reanimation was widely reported, from frenzied sensationalisation in the newspapers to dry students reports.
The film, on the bicentennial of the event, is beautifully shot in “Caravaggio” style lighting with bursts of Pop art colour and some scenes looking like Hieronymus Bosch’s paintings of distorted human flesh in “The Garden of Earthly Delights”. The narrative is sombre but reflects both the sensational and scientific views expressed at the time.
The film asks questions about accurate recording of history and myth making, especially relevant I feel in todays ‘fake news’ culture.”
Alison, Painting BA(Hons), whose highlights also included Ciara Phillips at GPS as well as James Pfaff at Street Level Photoworks:
“This collection was a compilation of sketchbooks, photographs and mixed media works which tells the story of the artist’s road trip across America with his girlfriend.
This had to be seen a collection in its entirety to fully appreciate the story. It was much more than a sum of its parts.
There was a real feeling of nostalgia, harking back to the 60s or 70s, of more carefree, “hippy” times. The black and white photographs and typewritten text accentuate that atmosphere. One could appreciate the journey – of exploration of both the country and of the new relationship. It was a gentle journey, intimate where the photographer and his girlfriend seemed to be the only inhabitants of their adventure. I don’t know whether or not the relationship lasted beyond the trip but there is a definite sense of melancholy about the work.
The concept of a collection of work as opposed to an individual piece is an interesting one as a narrative and timeline can be incorporated as well as the ability to draw out emotional meaning in a more powerful way than can be achieved in a single piece.”
Tutor: How was it meeting up independently for the first time – none of you knew each other previously I think although I had introduced you via email.
“We all have the same basic goal and it was lovely to meet up with fellow students and we all got on well. Each brought something in terms of insight into the works on display.”
“It was fine, before the others turned up I met a couple of other ladies who were milling around waiting for a class to open at the GPS. Good to find outwit the GPS does, I may go for a class or two.”
“It was very nice meeting up with the other course-mates. Meeting total strangers and spending time with them is not something that I generally do. But being part of the OCA makes it very natural and enjoyable.”
Tutor: Without a tutor there on the day, did you feel you had sufficient information available to be able to get the most from the show? What were limitations? Were there any benefits?
“I could have used some input, see above, but overall it was fine, we had each other the bounce ideas around. The visits undertaken in the afternoon with a guide from the GSA were very good and he provided us with information and his own ideas on the work.”
“Probably got around 60-70% from the shows in terms of understanding and appreciation. Not having someone to “instruct” us on some of the nuances and to be there for questions and to open discussions was limiting.”
“There was a lot of information available and we had a good, guided tour of some of the exhibitions. I find the advantage of having a tutor is basically that I am getting information and insights from someone that knows a lot more about the subject than I do. I can’t say that I feel there was any benefit from not having a tutor with us.”
“We got to know each other a lot better and I feel we had a bit more confidence speaking peer to peer.”
Tutor: How do you feel about OCA testing out the idea of a virtual study visit – one that a tutor attends in advance, prepares resources/questions around and offers an online group discussion after everyone has attended the show?
“It would be better than nothing, but group discussions are better at the time when reactions to the works are fresh and you then have the opportunity to have questions answered and maybe see the work differently in situ. Bring back tutor-led study visits!”
“It would be great to try this but not everyone will be able to attend the exhibitions, or is it to be a virtual tour as well?”
“I think that virtual study visits are an excellent idea, which fit in perfectly with distance learning. Many students will be unable to attend study visits or even, I imagine, exhibitions. But I do hope that actual study visits are not phased out!”
OCA are currently looking at ways to enable more students to engage with study visits who might not otherwise be able to access exhibitions/events due to various reasons. Although this was not the intention on this visit, the opportunity to reflect upon the experience, on what worked and what didn’t was a valuable one. If you have any thoughts/suggestions on this area, we would love to hear from you.
All images were taken by students visiting the GI exhibitions, all © remains that of the artist and is reproduced here for educational purposes.