What can an artist/activist achieve in a place, given a year of not having to worry about money?

Livestream video of Ellie Harrison’s Talk

Even though she only revealed the tip of the iceberg of her research and activism  in her year of living within the boundary of Glasgow, I was impressed by the scope and scale of Ellie Harrison’s  investigations of the Glasgow Effect  She was inspired by   New Economics Foundation approach: Economics as if People and the Planet Mattered.  One of her themes was transport and the twin irritations of a city carved up by motorways and the sorry state of public transport, particularly the buses.  This in a city which has a lower than average car ownership.  Sometimes it takes a fresh eye to re-view what everyone else has stopped seeing,  just got used to. Pavel Buchler once said that one function of art is to stop and look after everyone else has moved on – wait a minute folks, look at this!  Not only had she looked – through her investigations, she had discovered that the monthly board meetings of SPT (Strathclyde Partnership Transport) are open to the public! She set herself up as undercover artist in residence at SPT and attended six Board meetings to learn and to lobby.

While I was thinking the talk itself was an impressive piece of artwork-in-progress, a hot-off-the-press sharing,  others were hungry to ‘see some art’:  screen-shot-2017-01-15-at-14-50-45
Watching online, I was also struck by the difference between the tone in the room and the tone on twitter.  For example – a quiet question about the choice to focus on car ownership rather than home ownership became a sharper twitter comment. screen-shot-2017-01-15-at-14-50-12

This  difference  is reminiscent of the  tone of some  Exhibition Comment books. Art and Antagonism seem to go hand in hand.  May even be a sign of ‘success’ in our harsh reality?

Peter McGaughey did a great  of hosting the Q&A.  Acknowledging the contradictions and complexity in the project, he picked up on one gentle critique of the talk as ‘meandering’. He recalled Roland Barthes’ insight that a speaker who tries to acknowledge the complexity of language while speaking sounds like a meandering idiot.  Beautiful.  He also usefully summarised the project as a manifestation of what an artist  can bring to activism through their creativity.