The DIY Movement in Art, Music and Publishing: Subjugated Knowledges

A new book by Sarah Lowndes, which captures the specific knowledge of 30 DIY creative practitioners based in 14 creative cities (San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dusseldorf, New York, London, Manchester, Cologne, Washington DC, Detroit, Berlin, Glasgow, Olympia, Moscow and Istanbul) including Jörn Bötnagel and Yvonne Quirmbach (BQ, Berlin), Dirk Bell (Berlin), Keith McIvor (Glasgow), Pavel Büchler (Manchester), Good Press (Glasgow), Franz König (Cologne), Alexandra Bircken (Cologne), Vasif Kortun (Istanbul), Nicholas Moore (Moscow), Evgenia Barinova (Moscow), Ealan Wingate (New York), Max Schumann (New York), Simone DeSousa (Detroit), Greg Baise (Detroit), V. Vale (San Francisco), Tom Lawson and Susan Morgan (Los Angeles), Andreas Reihse (Berlin), Chris Johanson (Los Angeles) and Louise Shelley (London).  The DIY Movement reflects upon contemporary DIY practices, in particular considering how the DIY movement has been impacted by the rise of digital and internet technology and globalized culture.

Good Press at The Glasgow Weekend (Berlin, 2013)
Good Press at The Glasgow Weekend (Berlin, 2013)

Published by Routledge in their Research in Cultural and Media Studies series in May 2016.

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The Burning Sand Volume IV launch October 24th 2015 3-6pm at Good Press Gallery, Glasgow

Michael Stumpf The Future is a Process | digital print on archival paper| 420mm x 297mm | 2015 |
Michael Stumpf The Future is a Process | digital print on archival paper| 420mm x 297mm | 2015 |

Getting ready to launch Volume IV of prose, poetry and art journal The Burning Sand

Contributors: Will Bradley, Gordon Douglas, Maria Fusco, Daisy Lafarge, Neil McKinnon, Amy Pickles, Kathrine Sowerby, Catherine Street and Michael Stumpf.

Design: Jessica Susan Higgins and Matthew Walkerdine

Editorial Board: Jenny Brownrigg, Katie Nicoll, Elizabeth O’Brien and Samantha Woods

Editor: Sarah Lowndes

Supported by Open Project Funding from Creative Scotland.


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Does the mural not belong in a wider sense to the public, to the people who want to see it?

A letter to San Francisco Art Institute, June 26th, 2015

I visited San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI) yesterday with my husband and two children in hopes of seeing Diego Riviera’s The Making of a Fresco Showing the Building of a City (1930). I am a lecturer in the Forum for Critical Inquiry at Glasgow School of Art (UK) and have a particular interest in Riviera’s work. In May I visited his Detroit Industry murals at the Detroit Institute of Arts, and in San Francisco I had visited the WPA murals at Coit Tower in preparation for viewing the Riviera work at SFAI.

You will doubtless be aware of what happened next. On arrival at the gallery, we found an installation by Alejandro Almanza Pereda entitled Everything but the kitchen sank which was almost entirely obscuring the mural. The Harker Award Resident Artist had constructed a 24-foot-high scaffolding of fluorescent light tubes “to contend with and complicate the legacy and monumentality of Diego Rivera’s fresco”. In addition to this, black construction netting has been installed to protect the mural during this process. The postcards provided outside the space describe the exhibit as a “limiting screen” and state that “Through Almanza’s scaffold of fluorescent fixtures, another narrative of historical imbalance, artistic legacy, and the imperious Riveria achieves focus” – but this is not an accurate, clear description. You cannot see the mural.

Alejandro Almanza Pereda, Everything but the kitchen sink (2015)
Alejandro Almanza Pereda, Everything but the kitchen sink (2015)

Aside from my real disappointment at being denied the opportunity to see the work, I have serious difficulty with the patronizing quality of the statement on your website, that states “Almanza’s scaffold of fluorescent fixtures doubles the structure of the fresco, shifts Rivera to the middle ground, and troubles the light sensor of the tourist’s camera.” [my emphasis] I am now 39 years old and this is my first visit to San Francisco. I do not know when or if I will have funds or opportunity to return to this city again, therefore this was probably my only chance to see this work in person. Someone working in the space offered me a postcard of the work and said, “You can see it better on this”. To be offered a tiny reproduction of the work to look at when you have made the effort to travel a very long way to see it is just beyond irritating. I have already seen reproductions of the work many times! And by the way, I did not come with my iPhone at the ready to take a selfie at the mural. I did not require my camera’s light sensor problematized: the sole purpose of my visit was to see a unique site-specific work, and to spend time in the space looking at the work. For many people, myself included, this mural is more than an artwork: it is a site of pilgrimage. SFAI may be the custodians of Riviera’s work: but does it not belong in a wider sense to the public, to the people who want to see it?

I understand the premise behind Alejandro Almanza Pereda’s work but find it very saddening and disappointing that one artist should choose and be allowed to obscure another artist’s work for 6 months in order to make a somewhat obvious and rather narcissistic point. I also find it irresponsible on the part of SFAI that your website does not make it clearer than the Diego Riviera mural is not available for viewing and won’t be until after this exhibit is de-installed on 12th December 2015. Your website currently states: HOURS:
 Open daily for exhibition and mural viewing 
9 am–7 am

At the least you should add a note on your website stating clearly that the mural will not be fully visible again until after December 12th. As I left the San Francisco Art Institute with my family, I saw another group of tourists arriving, maps and cameras in hand, who were about to be disappointed. I can imagine this scenario being replayed countless times every day for the next six months.

I look forward to your reply.
Dr. Sarah Lowndes

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The Key Material is Time (2014)

On Saturday night I went to the dancing. You were working late in the shop so you went straight there…you had your dancing shoes at work with you, and something for your tea.   The Plaza was nice with the coloured fountains and the wee tables. John and I liked it there. But we went to the F and F Palais in Partick too, and Green’s Playhouse, the Locarno, and the Albert…I loved the dancing.[i]

By 1946, Glasgow had 93 dancehalls, almost three times as many as London per head of population. The Saturday night dancing was a kind of counterpoint to that of the local heavy industries, being devoid of tangible goal or object. The dancehall was a place where a kind of subcultural currency (of seeing and being seen) was in operation – where young people could elevate their social standing through their self-fashioning and dancing skills alone. Dick Hebdige famously characterized the ‘subcultural response’ as ‘both a declaration of independence, otherness, of alien intent, a refusal of anonymity, of insubordinate status. It is an insubordination. And at the same time it is also a confirmation of the fact of powerlessness, a celebration of impotence.’ [ii] The subcultural response played out in Glaswegian nightspots in the post-war era matched Hebdige’s definition, serving as it did to alleviate the alienating effects of ‘normal’ society.

After 1945 Glasgow began a gradual decent into post-industrial decline, which lasted until the late 1980s, when the city re-emerged as a ‘destination city’, with a post-Fordian economy based on shopping and services. The artists, musicians, filmmakers and writers emerging in this period in Glasgow no longer had to make a choice between conventional labour and their artistic practice, given that there wasn’t much traditional employment to be had. As local poet Donnie O’Rourke put it, this created ‘a whole generation of artists, who, absolved of the old polarity between employment and one’s real work, just do it.’ In those years of high unemployment, thecity’s subcultural scene grew incrementally until its reachextended beyond the parameters of the weekend. New models of living and working were fashioned in those years, which would eventually culminate in a unique and largely self-initiated arts infrastructure. By the early 1990s, the ‘free’ space of the nightclub had found a kind of representational corollary in the art that was emerging from the city: work that was process-based, rooted in social co-operation and often realized with an economy of means and materials. This work reflected its point of origin: a city constituted and made meaningful by social relationships and marked by identifications or emotional investments.

I moved to Glasgow in 1993 to study at the university. One night I met Toby Paterson and Robert Johnston, who were volunteer committee members of Glasgow (then) only artist-led gallery, Transmission,which had been established by painting graduates from Glasgow School of Art back in 1983.   Crucially, the gallery was non-commercial: established not to generate sales of works, but to offer opportunities for the exhibition of work and a social space for discussion. It answered to Nancy Fraser’s description of a democratic public sphere: ‘not an arena of market relations but rather one of discursive relations, a theatre for debating and deliberating rather than for buying and selling.’[iii]. The committee members supported and encouraged the work of others, motivated by a belief in the importance of community.

I went out dancing with my friends at clubs like The Arches and the Sub Club, where you could feel the bass through your entire body. Detroit techno and Chicago house were the order of the day, played by visiting American DJs like Derrick May, Juan Atkins, Blake Baxter, Jeff Mills, Larry Heard (aka Mr. Fingers) and Cajmere. But there were also local heroes with equally strange monikers: Harri at Atlantis, Twitch of Pure, H’atch and J’Ilkes, who ran Knucklehead at the art school, not to mention A-man and Panic of Tangent putting on raves on trains, boats and underground bunkers and mobile sound units like Desert Storm and Breach of the Peace, who staged riotous ‘Part and Protest’ events in flagrant contraventionofthe 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, which attempted to prevent raves by outlawing public gatheringswith ‘amplified music’ and ‘repetitive beats’. As cultural theorist Hillegonda Rietveld noted,

The participants of the party and club life surrounding the musical discourse of house music were empowered by the celebration of a sense of community, which shaped identities that were excluded from, or given less power by, the world in which they were administratively ruled by government and mass media. The very existence of the house scene as a space for the bonding of ‘alternative’ identities was therefore a starting point for an opposing strategy.’[iv]

The main thing that was really striking was that the situation seemed exciting, and it also seemed wide open. You could get involved.

I remember going to the opening of the Girls High exhibition in 1996, at the Old Fruitmarket and seeing a work by Jonathan Monk called Whatever Will Be Will Be that consisted of a big mirror that had been dropped on the floor, and a sculpture by Jim Lambie, one of the constituent parts of which was a black pudding.I also remember seeing Claire Barclay’s exhibition Out of the Woods (1997) at CCA on Sauchiehall Street, curated by Nicola White. The main spacewas dominated by an enormous acid yellow plastic sculpture that stretched from the floor to the ceiling rafters: a giant florescent cut out bag. There was something so audacious about that.I remember the colour but also the smell of the work, the sense of knowing it somehow.  I remember Toby Webster’s trio of shows for the CCA, the first of which was the group show Lovecraft, which he co-curated with Martin McGeown, and which included pornographic pencil drawings by Tom of Finland alongside works by Glasgow-based artist Cathy Wilkes, an enormous quilted multicoloured cube by Jim Isermann and a whole wall covered in biro drawings, handwritten poetry and badly typed stories by fans of the Manic Street Preachers called The Uses of Literacy, put together by Jeremy Deller. Glasgow-born artist Lucy McKenzie later wrote that the work had discomfited her, ‘because it related directly to experiences with somebody real and not imagined.’[v] That was how I felt, too. The final show Webster curated for CCA was called Waves in…Particles Out, and featured a Piotr Uklański disco floor that Martin Creed’s band Owada played on at the opening. I don’t remember them being particularly good, but by that point I understood it was less about mastery, and more about having a go.

Tony Blair got into power in May 1997. That seemed at the time, a point of great optimism and Labour very quickly began the process of devolution for Scotland that was so necessary and so much desired.[vi] After I graduated, I started bringing out my own fanzine, and then started organising my own events. All the time I was going to gigs and clubs and exhibitions and thinking about and observing the scene in the city, which was beginning to attract more and more interest from outside.I carried on writing arts reviews for various places, initially local publications but later on London-based art magazines like Afterall and then Frieze. I was particularly interested in the work of artists like Hayley and Sue Tompkins, and loved their solo show Sounds of Grass, held at Transmission in 1999.

They have subdivided the space with a diagonal chipboard partition, and hung it with loosely draped squares of hessian sackcloth. There are a few cheap gold earrings, the kind they sell in Ratner’s, hooked into the sackcloth.  You pause in front of a dark cluster of what look like leaves hanging on the wall. They are magazine pages, crumpled until they are soft and shapeless in the palms of the sisters’ hands. The floor in the space is painted black, but they have left a dusty area unswept and then one of them has walked through it. You look at the footprints and think it’s like a kind of portrait. On the floor they have arranged, like a picnic blanket, a large hessian square, with a neon pink seam, set with a glass of orange liquid, probably paint water but possibly orangeade.

One of the most important changes in the local situation came when The Modern Institute was set up in Glasgow in early 1998, by Will Bradley, Charles Esche and Toby Webster, with a view to promoting Glasgow artists in ways that extended beyond the remit of the city’s existing museum and galleries system, chiefly by showing their work at key commercial art fairs in cities like London, Basel and New York, and forming relationships with curators and collectors outside Scotland in order to secure both exhibitions opportunities and sales of works for their artists.  Bradley later recalled,

Toby Webster, Chas Esche and myself had all been thinking of starting something. Toby and I had been at Transmission, and Chas had left Tramway. It’s partly you get into a habit of doing things and you want to keep doing them – but it came about really from having experience of what’s going on outside Glasgow. Also a lot of artists who were working here were starting to become quite successful – the artists that we knew were starting to get involved, and showing abroad. We got a real sense something like [a commercial gallery] could work in Glasgow, and wanted to give it a try.  We wanted to be everything: a record company, a publishing company, organising exhibitions and representing artists. We’d be all singing, all dancing. We tried to keep the definition of The Modern Institute loose: we called ourselves a research organisation and production company rather than a ‘gallery’.[vii]

The Modern Institute offices were located on the first floor of a decayed red sandstone building on Robertson Street, which also hosted the offices of socialist MSP Tommy Sheridan, a pro-life organisation, a private detective agency, a bookbinder, an ‘invisible mender’ and a maker of masonic regalia. On the top floor, Lucy McKenzie established Flourish Studios, where she and several artists including Keith Farquhar, Alan Michael and Craig Mulholland made work, rehearsed music and staged performances. I remember attending one Flourish Night where Lucy McKenzie played the clarinet while her collaborator, the Polish artist, Paulina Olowska formed the shapes of letters of the alphabet with her body. The evening ended in disarray when one of the guests started an unscheduled fire in a sink in a corner.Several of the artists who worked with The Modern Institute also had studios within the building, including, at the beginning, Martin Boyce, Jim Lambie, Toby Paterson, Jonnie Wilkes and Richard Wright, so the dingy corridors often echoed late into the night with sounds of sawing, hammering and broken electronic filters.

The Modern Institute in those early days hosted a number of three-day exhibitions by artists, both from their own (mainly) local roster[viii] but also artists from other cities that they were interested in working with, such as the Belgrade-born installation artist Bojan Šarčević. That show sticks in my mind especially because Šarčević built a very high shelf around the gallery space and then put all The Modern Institute’s files and paperwork on it, meaning that whenever the gallery staff wanted to refer to any documents they had to climb up a ladder to get it. Those shows were real events because the rest of the landscape had been fairly subdued since Charles Esche had left Tramway and Nicola White had left CCA in 1997. In 1998 and 1999 Tramway and CCA both closedfor Lottery funded renovations. Tramway’snewly appointed Visual Art Officer Alexia Holt organized offsite projects in the interim, but until Tramway re-opened in June 2000 and CCA reopened in 2001, Transmission and The Modern Institute were the two main heat spots in the city. That situation continued for several years, shored up by low budget temporary exhibition projects that artist organisers set up either in empty properties or in their own flats like James Thornhill’s Ready Steady Made (1999) and Marianne Greated and Sorcha Dallas’s Switchspace (1999-2004).

In 2000 I began to write Social Sculpture, my book about the Glasgow art and music scene. I was working during that time for The Modern Institute and went with them to the Chicago art fair in 2001, where we showed the work of Martin Boyce, Richard Wright and Eva Rothschild. I remember meeting the American Fine Arts gallerist Colin de Land at a dinner one night and telling him about my research on Glasgow, and how owing to a comparative lack of support in Scotland, the city’s artists had really come to rely upon opportunities elsewhere, in Europe and America. We were interrupted by a woman on the other side of the table, who opined loudly, ‘Of course, the model for that is jazz.’ It seemed to me then, that there was something particular and special about Glasgow that made it different from everywhere else. It didn’t follow a model; it wasn’t logical. Many of the most interesting artists in the city didn’t even produce a saleable product like a photograph or a recording that could be circulated outside the city.

One such example was Richard Wright, who had worked as a figurative painter in the 1980s but had become disillusioned with painting and destroyed nearly all his early work. In 1990 he made a gradual return to painting after taking a studio in a former cigarette factory, where he made some paintings on board and the first wall paintings. He remembered,

Sometimes I would just go to this old warehouse where I had my little  space and just fiddle around with things. If I didn’t like them I would just turn them to the wall. I very much liked the idea that the work had this very fragile or unstable kind of existence.[ix]

In the early 1990s he had begun to exhibit once more, showing site-specific wall drawings (that would be destroyed after the exhibition) in flat galleries, and artist-led galleries like Transmission and City Racing in London. Wright’s temporary wall drawings used pencil and gouache to chart a geography of response, accentuating the volume, scale, light and the social conditions or atmosphere of a given space. He explained, ‘My work is like a worn step, it is like a smoke detector, it is even like a picture, but it is more like the space between the letters of words.’[x] Another case in point was Christopher Mack, who began performing his emotive fingerstyle acoustic songs under the moniker The James Orr Complex in 1996 but did not release his first recording, the EP Figa on the Glasgow independent label Rock Action until 2001. But when he played, often in the pungent basement of the 13th Note on King Street, the audience knew all the words to his songs, because they had attended all his other gigs. The work being made in Glasgow in the late 90s was made with all manner of materials, but perhaps the central material was time. The scene wasn’t motivated by profit but was rooted in a desired social experience, one that rested upon people investing time in supporting one another.

In the early 2000s, two young galleries opened in Glasgow that had grown out of the flat gallery tradition: Sorcha Dallas, which evolved out of the Switchspace temporary exhibition project run by Dallas and Marianne Greated, and Mary Mary, which had begun life in a tenement flat on Bath Street. One of the first times I saw Glasgow-based artist Karla Black’s work was in 2004, in a solo show at Mary Mary’s first premises. Black had devised her own method of working over a number of years, actively avoiding traditional or learned techniques in order to develop her own language of making, using materials such as clay, paper, cellophane and non-art materials such as Vaseline and make-up. I wrote

Black’s art is not only about the body; it also speaks to and of the surrounding space. This exhibition, for example, reflects and amplifies its setting, in a tenement bedroom that doubles as the artist-run gallery Mary Mary. Walls with painted-over cracks and holes paved with Polyfilla reappear in the texture of Black’s work. In the days she spent in the space the artist created images not only of herself but also of the   atmosphere of the room.[xi]

Since the late 90s the scene in Glasgow has changed as the city has become established as a noted art centre. As the scenehas grown, it has become more elastic, with a variety of different styles and motivations at play, and, it must be said, an increased sense of competition – for audiences, for attention, and for funding. Since 1996, no fewer than 13 artists associated with Glasgow have been nominated for the Turner Prize, including Douglas Gordon (1996), Christine Borland (1997), Martin Creed[xii] (2001), Jim Lambie and Simon Starling (both 2005), Nathan Coley (2007), Cathy Wilkes (2008), Lucy Skaer and Richard Wright (both 2009), Susan Philipsz[xiii] (2010), Martin Boyce and Karla Black (both 2011), Luke Fowler (2012) and David Shrigley (2013). Of these, six won: Gordon, Creed, Starling, Wright, Philipsz and Boyce.[xiv]

Up until the 1980s Glasgow School of Art, where many of the city’s best-known artists studied, attracted a largely local student body. Nowadays the cohort has a much more geographically diverse demographic: 20% are international students and a further 20% are from the rest of the UK. The MFA programme at the school, which had a year group of just 12 mainly UK students during the 90s, now recruits over thirty students, many of whom hail from countries such as Switzerland or Canada but who then post-graduation have been selected to represent Glasgow or Scotland in international exhibitions. The success of The Modern Institute[xv] has led to other changes – in 2006, the organisation took the decision to relinquish the moderate amount of public funding it was receiving, and to channel that into a new non-profit project in Glasgow, The Common Guild, which would be helmed by Katrina Brown (then curator and deputy director of Dundee Contemporary Arts). The Common Guild was originally based in Robertson Street, in premises lent by The Modern Institute, before moving to Douglas Gordon’s town house at Woodlands Terrace in 2008 where it has been based ever since, presenting a programme of projects, events and exhibitions by international artists including Tacita Dean (2010), Wolfgang Tillmans (2012), Carol Bove (2013) and Phil Collins (2014).

In the last decade, The Modern Institute has been followed by other independent galleries in the city, such as Sorcha Dallas (2004-2011), Mary Mary (est. 2006), The Duchy (est. 2009), David Dale Gallery (est. 2009) and Kendall Koppe (est. 2011), which have helped to take the work of the city’s artists out of Glasgow and to collectors and collections elsewhere. It is no longer the case that everyone will turn up to the Transmission opening or the Modern Institute opening because the level and variety of activity in Glasgow has increased so dramatically – both through the young galleries and through the activities of studio and exhibition complexes such as Southside Studios, SWG3 and the Glue Factory which provide vital support for the development and exhibition of work within the city.

Scotland’s participation in the Venice Biennale since 2003[xvi] and the growth of Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art have also helped focus attention on the Glasgow scene. Glasgow International began as a relatively modest undertaking in 2005, led by CCA Director Francis McKee, who grew the budget and ambition of the festival in two further outings in 2006 and 2008. Katrina Brown directed the 2010 and 2012 editions of the festival, which in 2012 showed 130 artists across almost 50 venues, attracted 205,067 visitors and generated £1.7m for Glasgow’s economy and a further £436,878 for the rest of the country.[xvii]

However, Glasgow remains a city in which many artists make work that they do not expect to sell. A survey conducted in 2012 by the Scottish Artist Union (SAU) confirmed that three-quarters of visual artists in Scotland earn less than £5,000 a year, putting them in the lowest socioeconomic group of income earners, alongside pensioners, casual or lowest grade workers, benefit claimants and students. Indeed, many of the artists who live and work in Glasgow continue to work with inexpensive everyday materials, out of which they have formed their own unique language, after years of experimentation. This approach has been defined by Richard Wright as ‘a tactile element to the work, that has to do with a reinstatement of a concern with material and its poetry, still done in a stripped-down way.’[xviii]  Some of the most significant and distinctive artistic work made in Glasgow since that time remains intrinsically bound up with ideas of performativity: the material form is ‘secondary, lightweight, ephemeral, cheap, unpretentious and or dematerialized’.[xix] The scene is dialogic, centring on talks, discussions and live events of all kinds. It is rooted in the body, in song and dance, and concerned not only with style but also with the sound, scent and feel of things.It lives in memory more effectively than in photographs. It’s about empathizing with and being curious about other people. It is an approach that was fostered in the free space of Glasgow’s post-war nightclubs, and that stillinforms the city’s many independent exhibition spaces, music venues, record labels and publishing imprints today.

As you get in the driver regards you through the rear view mirror. ‘A girl like you should be going up the dancing.’ ‘What? Oh, I’m a bit tired tonight.’  He turns right onto Oswald Street and stops at the lights. ‘Mind you – it’s quiet tonight.’ He drives on, up Renfield Street. ‘I’ve been doing this job forty year, and I mind the days when all they street corners would be packed with folk queuing up for the dancing.’ He gestures out the window at the empty corner of West Regent Street.‘Aye, the Locarno, Green’s Playhouse, I mind them all.’You see the queue: the boys in their best suits, with their hair slicked back, smoking and rocking back on their heels. The girls with their eyeliner on, their hair set in waves. The stiff skirts of their dresses, just with a little pocket for their cloakroom ticket and comb.They were the portent.[xx]

Sarah Lowndes

[i]Interview with Bunty Angles, Anna Blair, More Tea at Miss Cranston’s, (Edinburgh: Shepheard-Walwyn Ltd., 1991), p.419.

[ii]Dick Hebdige, Hiding in the Light (London and New York: Routledge, 1988), p.35.

[iii]Nancy Fraser, “Rethinking the Public Sphere: A contribution to the critique of actually existing democracy” (1992), The Cultural Studies Reader (London and New York, Routledge, 2007), p.489

[iv]Hillegonda Rietveld, “The House Sound of Chicago”, The Club Cultures Reader: Readings in Cultural Studies, Steve Redhead, ed., (Oxford: Blackwell, 1997).

[v]Lucy McKenzie, Accelerated Learning, Luke Fowler, ed., (Dundee: Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, 1999).

[vi]In every General Election from 1957 until 1997, Labour did better in Scotland than elsewhere in the United Kingdom, while a third party, the Scottish National Party (SNP), grew in popularity. Following the establishment of a devolved Scottish Parliament under Labour in 1998/1999, SNP continued to grow in influence, and in 2007 SNP formed the first minority government of the Scottish Parliament. At the 2011 election SNP won a majority sufficient to call for a referendum on independence, which has been scheduled for September 18th, 2014.

[vii] Will Bradley, in conversation with the author, April 2001. Note: The Scottish electorate voted against being an independent country by 55% to 45%. The respective ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ campaigns generated much public debate and the high turnout of 84.59% reflected the level of engagement. In the 2015 General Election the Scottish National Party (SNP) won 56 out of 59 seats in Scotland.

[viii]The initial group of 13 artists represented by The Modern Institute were all Glasgow-based, with the exception of Eva Rothschild, who lived in London. The other artists were: Martin Boyce, Jim Lambie, Victoria Morton, Toby Paterson, Mary Redmond, Simon Starling, Hayley Tompkins, Joanne Tatham and Tom O’Sullivan, Cathy Wilkes, Jonnie Wilkes and Richard Wright.

[xi]Sarah Lowndes, “Karla Black”, frieze, Issue 89, March 2005.

[xii]Martin Creed was born in Wakefield, England but moved to Glasgow when he was three. After attending Lenzie Academy, near Glasgow, he trained at the Slade School of Art.

[xiii]SusanPhilipsz was born in Glasgow, but trained in Dundee and Belfast and now lives in Berlin.

[xiv]In 2014, another Glasgow-based artist, Duncan Campbell, won the Turner Prize. The 2015 Turner Prize will be staged at Glasgow’s Tramway, underlining the city’s many associations with the prize.

[xv]In 2014, Toby Webster co-directs The Modern Institute with Andrew Hamilton, and the gallery represents 39 artists, twelve of whom are from his original roster of Glasgow-based artists, and the rest from cities all over the world, including Monika Sosnowska (Warsaw), Chris Johnson (Los Angeles) and Urs Fischer (New York).

[xvi]The artists who have been shown as part of Scotland + Venice are: Claire Barclay, Jim Lambie and Simon Starling (2003), Alex Pollard, Joanne Tatham & Tom O’Sullivan and Cathy Wilkes (2005), Charles Avery, Henry Coombes, Louise Hopkins, Rosalind Nashashibi, Lucy Skaer and Tony Swain (2007), Martin Boyce (2009), Karla Black (2011) and Corin Sworn, Duncan Campbell and Hayley Tompkins (2013). Of these 18 artists, 16 were at the time of the exhibition Glasgow-based.

[xvii]Frieze curator Sarah McCrory was appointed as Director of Glasgow International in 2013, directing the successful 2014 edition and the forthcoming 2016 edition.

[xviii]Richard Wright, in conversation with the author, September 2001.

[xix]Lucy R. Lippard, Six Years, (New York: Praeger, 1973), p.vii.

[xx]Excerpt from work in progress, by Sarah Lowndes (2014).

This is an amended version of my essay “The Key Material is Time” first published in Moira Jeffrey, ed.,  The Generation Reader (Edinburgh: National Galleries of Scotland, 2014).


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My Feet Are Killing Me – 8 page fanzine commissioned for Good Press on Demand (GPOD), Grafixx, Antwerp 2014.

Fraught with contradiction, heels paradoxically inhibit movement in order to increase it, at least in appearance. Standing in heels, a woman presents herself already half-walking while at the same time reducing the length of her step, fostering the illusion of speed while suggesting the promise of an imminent fall.

David Kunzle, Fashion and Fetishism: Corsets, Tight-Lacing, and Other Forms of Body-Sculpting (2006)

Petite Florentine noblewoman Catherine de Médicis started the fashion for high heels back in 1533 when she wore them for her marriage to the Duke de Orléans. High-heeled shoes give the optical illusion of a longer, slimmer leg, a smaller foot, and overall greater height. They alter the wearer’s posture and gait, flexing the calf muscles and making the bust and bottom more prominent. When a woman wears high heels (defined as shoes with a heel two inches or higher) her foot slides forward, forcing the toes into the unnatural shape of the shoe and redistributing her weight incorrectly.

High heels force a woman’s foot into the vertical posture described by Alfred Kinsey in Sexual Behaviour in the Human Female (1953) as typical during female sexual arousal, when “the whole foot may be extended until it falls in line with the rest of the leg.” The increased weight on her toes causes her body to tilt forward, and to compensate; she leans backwards and overarches her back, creating a posture that can strain her knees, hips, and lower back. The change to the position of her spine puts pressure on nerves in the back and can cause sciatica, a condition where nerves become trapped, triggering pain and numbness as far down as the feet.

Despite their impracticality, the popularity of high heels remains undiminished nearly 500 years after Catherine de Médicis first created a stir at the French court.

More than three million British women have had to seek medical attention for injuries caused by their high heels.

One in 10 women wear high heels at least three days a week and a third have fallen while wearing them.

Wearing high heels for prolonged periods can lead to spinal misalignment, shortened calf muscles and osteoarthritis. A 2013 study conducted by the College of Podiatry found that nearly 20 million British women have foot conditions caused by wearing high heels, such as joint pain, hammer toes, bunions, neuroma and ankle injuries.

The study was based on a survey of 2,000 British men and women and 60 podiatrists and chiropodists. More than a third of respondents said their feet had been so sore on a night out that they danced shoeless and walked home barefoot. The study found that the younger the woman, the higher their heels. Roughly 20% of those aged 18-24 own a pair of six-inch high-heels. This compares with 10% of those aged 25-34 and just 3% of 35-44 year olds.

Rupert Evans, an accident and emergency doctor at University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff says he has seen an increase in the number of women being admitted to hospital with high-heel related injuries. Martin Shalley, British Association for Emergency Medicine says that high heel related injuries range from sprained ankles to broken bones and dislocations, and estimates that up to half a dozen women are being admitted to his department with shoe-related injuries on weekend evenings. Consultant podiatrist Mike O’Neill, says ‘Any shoes with a heel higher than two inches are a concern.’ Rupert Evans, agrees, and advises that women should stick to shoes with heels less than 4cm (1.5in) if they want to avoid a trip to hospital.

1n 2010, college student Megan Moore (16) was killed instantly when she slipped in her high heels as she ran along a rail platform and fell under a train in Worthing, West Sussex. Megan had been drinking vodka and Red Bull with her best friend Sara Yos earlier in the evening and was running alongside Sara’s train, waving goodbye to her, when she plunged down the gap between the carriage and the platform. Recording a verdict of accidental death, West Sussex coroner Penelope Schofield said: ‘Nobody could have prevented this type of accident. It shows what happens when young people consume such an amount of alcohol and I hope that other young people can learn from this tragic case.’

In 2012, Georgia Varley (16) was killed instantly when she fell under the wheels of a moving train because the guard gave the order to set off as she leaned, intoxicated against the carriage at Liverpool’s James Street Station. The court heard the sixth form student had earlier been at a house party for a friend’s 18th birthday where she had drunk vodka and was said to be ‘the drunkest person at the party’. The guard who signalled for the train to set off, Christopher McGee (45) appeared in Liverpool Crown Court charged with manslaughter.

In 2013, Antoinette Sackett-Wood (39), a woman who was wearing high heels for ‘the first time in years’ died from a blood clot after falling and breaking her ankle, an inquest heard. Ms Sackett-Wood, from Snodland, Kent, was on a night out when she slipped over and hurt her ankle last December.Neighbour Tony Parris said he saw Ms Sackett-Wood on crutches soon after her fall. When he asked what had happened, she blamed the heels.Ms Sackett-Wood was obese and suffered with brittle bones, the court heard. Assistant deputy coroner Allison Summers recorded a death by natural causes.

In 2014, I carried out an anonymous online survey of 100 British women. I asked,

Have you ever had an accident because of wearing high-heeled shoes?

Yes – 41.67%

No – 58.33%

Women’s visits to the doctor for foot and toe complaints shot up 75% between 2005 and 2009, but although twice as many women as men report suffering from corns, cracked heels and bunions caused by wearing uncomfortable and ill fitting shoes, 20% of the women surveyed by the College of Podiatry did not seek medical help because they believed their foot complaint was not important.

Consultant podiatrist Mike O’Neill, from the College of Podiatry, warns that squeezing feet into smaller shoes can cause long-term damage including arthritis, stress fractures, and trapped nerves, which may even require surgery or steroid injections. O’Neill says, ‘There’s absolutely no doubt women who wear high heels are putting themselves at risk of permanent injury in the name of fashion. Given a choice between a stylish pair of shoes or nice feet, many will go for the stylish shoes.’

I asked [of the 41.67% of my survey group who had had an accident because of wearing high heels],

Did the accident require further medical treatment, i.e. a visit to your GP or hospital?

Yes – 16%

No – 84%

The third question in my survey was optional,

Please describe the shoes and the incident.

The following quotations are the answers I received.

Tripped, fell flat on my face, probably more due to being tipsy, but cobbles and high heels helped just as much. Skinned knees, bruised face.

Vivienne Westwood Melissa platform mary janes, sprained ankle whilst running.

Wooden platforms purchased in Berlin, was wearing at a house party when I stumbled and grabbed hold of the nearest thing to me, which happened to be the record decks, I landed on the floor, with record deck on top of me.

5 inches high. Fell down some stairs and badly injured my ankle.

Beautiful boots, very soft tan colour leather, rubber sole and heel, not terribly high, twisted my ankle on cobbled street, sprained it.

Wobbled on a cobble street, went over my foot.

Brown platforms with high stacked heels and cream piping (like icing). Fell over just about every time I wore then. Once I waved at my date who was standing by the fountain in Kelvingrove, and promptly fell over and skinned both knees. Had to buy cotton wool and a pair of American Tan tights in a shop in Argyle Street.

2 inch high Mary Janes – slipped on leaves coming down steps and sprained both ankles. I’m a very amateur ‘high’ heel wearer.

Fell down flight of stairs

5 inch high stilettos with one inch platform. Lost footing walking down stairs and hit head against wall at the bottom.

I am an infrequent heel wearer, so was only wearing about a 1&1/2 inch heel. I was novelty struck and spinning on the heel at a friends wedding, a few glasses of wine in, but not lots. I spun my way exuberantly across the dance floor, became entangled in the bride’s dress and landed on the floor at her feet. She was very nice about it- but I did tear the dress a bit and had to be unraveled while everyone watched. I still occasionally wear a wee heel but take greater care. I was mortified, but we all see the funny side now. I really hope so anyway.

7 inch platforms, fell down the stairs. Huge bruise and bad ankle for about a year.

There are many incidents, but 30th birthday, very high Vivienne Westwood plastic lobster heels, pink, fell over at least three times due to a) the fact that they are very high and hard to walk in b) drinking an obscene amount of cava.

In rural Spain I walked down a kind of mud road in the dark, in high heels. I stumbled and flew through the air and landed awkwardly and so broke my ankle, I could hear it crack.

High-heeled shiny black stilettos. I was running up some stairs at work (in a theatre) fell forward and smashed my nose. Also had many other various trips and slips over the years…

Low-heeled (1.5 inches), fairly ‘practical’ vintage black shoes. Wore them to work & heel broke outside building sending me flying head first into a puddle. Scratched my cheek, but otherwise was ok.

I sprained my ankle while wearing high ankle strapped sandals

High stiletto, went over on the side, fell over, sprained my ankle!

Shoes: Borrowed from a friend, too high for me! Incident: Sore feet and a twisted ankle.

Cheap wedge sandals plus uneven pavement resulted in a semi-fall. Ego bruised as much as ankle.

Red strappy sandals. Went over on my ankle, ouch.

I sort of don’t know what happened, but I caught the heel of the shoe on a doorframe, and as I tumbled I sort of caught the heel on my other leg and stabbed myself a bit. It was crap.

The fourth question in my survey was also optional,

High heels make me feel…[complete the sentence]

The below quotations are the answers I received.

Sometimes glamorous, sometimes sexy. often vulnerable. taller. Click clack clickity clack! Self conscious and fancy

Confident, sometimes tall like I’m wearing something for the ‘pleasure’ of others. I no longer buy or wear them.

Uncomfortable! Hot, dressed up, like I’ve made an effort, uncomfortable, more exposed, like I’m seeking attention

Taller and more elegant. Also, sore and constrained. I don’t wear them often.

Taller and thinner a bit useless.

Tall at first but tired soon after Self-aware, in every sense…

Like I can kiss my husband without needing a lift! Clumsy, but they I like them too sometimes…they can feel very beautiful. Mostly I feel ridiculous and I’ve never found a comfortable pair. They do help me feel more powerful in terms of my sense of presence especially as a small woman. Taller taller and more important / wobbly and blistered. To me a high heel is 2 inches / 6 cms high – anything over is a dead trap.

Sexy but have a sore back

Uncomfortable, but like a different person Restricted. I used to wear them ALL the time – now I feel they slow me down. Elegant and sexy happy… like a man in drag.

Intimidating ‘dressed’ tall


Powerful, glamorous, confident, referencing other powerful, glamorous women and at other times, overdressed, overly feminised, vulnerable.  More professional and smart (I’m a lecturer), but only if they’re comfy & relatively low-heels (I can only do 2.5 inches max). Higher heels make me feel clumsy, restricted (e.g. I can’t run for a bus in them) and like I’m a kid pretending to be a grown up. I seriously envy those that can walk comfortably in them though.

Slightly taller.

Sheckshy and empowered (in reality; vulnerable and uncomfortable) pain now !! Tall

Taller, prettier, sexier, more feminine. Taller, dangerous, poised, loud.

Like a drunk daddy-long-legs. I really hate them. They make me feel stupid. Taller, slimmer, bit self-conscious, sometimes more attractive, sometimes more ungainly.

A bit taller, sometimes more sophisticated but sometimes a bit silly.

Too tall and slightly unsteady when walking. If I stood still for the duration, I know high heels would compliment my outfit and make my ankles look more elegant.

Clumsy restricted. Achey and uncomfortable.

Grown up and businesslike …dressed up for a special occasion …like I want to take them off after 10 minutes!

Sophisticated, smart and confident! Elegant, strong, and sometimes awkwardly tall. pretty uncomfortable. For a start I have massive feet, so any high heels I own are a little bit small for me. So they get sore quickly. That means that I don’t wear them very often, but when I do I feel a bit odd. High heels are shoes that one shouldn’t wear when you feel odd because you have to be confident and not odd. I therefore have formed the opinion that I shouldn’t wear them.

Taller taller!… and dressed up

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