A Complaint, in Defence of Quiet Study

In the afterword to photographer Richard Dawson’s recent book The Public Library: A Photographic Essay (2014), writer Anne Patchett writes:

Support libraries in your words and deeds. If you are fortunate enough to be  able to buy your books, and you have your own computer with which to conduct research, and you’re not in search of a story hour for your children, then don’t forget about the members of your community who are like you but perhaps lack your resources — the ones who love to read, who long to learn, who need a place to go and sit and think.         Make sure that in your good fortune you remember to support their quest for a better life. That’s what a library promises us, after all: a better life.

Patchett’s words held great resonance for me as they reinforced my motivations in pursuing a complaint against the Mitchell Library in Glasgow, which began in April 2014 when I learnt that following their recent renovations, they had implemented a charge of £5.00 (£2.50 concessions) for the use of quiet study carrels (small cupboard like rooms equipped with a desk, a power point and a light source). Previously these carrels been allocated free of charge on a first come first served basis so those wishing silence in which to work.  I have been a frequent user of these small quiet rooms ever since I moved to Glasgow to study at Glasgow University in 1993. In those days, The Mitchell Library was only a reference library and visitors were required to decant their personal belongings into a clear plastic bag and go through a security check before gaining entrance to the quiet and studious atmosphere within.

Since the early 90s the Mitchell Library has changed quite radically. Perhaps the most significant change came when the library made the transition from reference only to also being a lending library. The cloakroom and security gates were removed and replaced with a colourful general lending and children’s books area, with good stocks of DVDs and CDS available to borrow. The small and old fashioned pine-walled café in the foyer was removed and replaced with an airy open plan café popular with students, young mothers, pensioners and business people alike, due to the free computers and Wi-Fi on offer.  Nowadays the library serves a much wider section of the community, but as it has gotten busier it has also become much noisier.  Baillie’s Reading Room, ostensibly The Mitchell Library’s designated silent study space, is far from quiet, due to users with leaky headphones, or who are using mobile phones, or eating noisily or those with a propensity to chat.  That is why the free provision of study carrels (small silent rooms) is so important for those who in Patchett’s words, ‘need a place to go and sit and think.’

Thomas J. Clapperton, Literature (c.1909), bronze statue adorning the dome of The Mitchell LIbrary, Glasgow.
Thomas J. Clapperton, Literature (c.1909), bronze statue adorning the dome of The Mitchell Library, Glasgow.

My initial complaint, made on 30th April, and the correspondence that followed, is reproduced below.

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing to complain about your decision to implement a charge for the use of quiet study carrels on the 5th Floor of the Mitchell Library.  It seems this charge was introduced in October 2013 but as the 5th floor has been closed for several months for renovations I only became aware of the change when I visited the library on Monday 28th April. 

I have been a frequent user of the Mitchell library and the 5th floor study carrels for many years – since 1993 when I moved to Glasgow to study at Glasgow University.

 Since the early 90s the Mitchell Library has changed quite radically. Nowadays the library serves a much wider section of the community, but as it has gotten busier it has also become much noisier.  That is why the free provision of study carrels (small silent rooms) is so important.  Since I began visiting the library in 1993 these had always been allocated free of charge on a first come first served basis so those wishing silence in which to work were advised to turn up as close to 9am as possible.  A study carrel on the fifth floor was where I elected to write significant portions of both the 2003 and 2010 editions of Social Sculpture: The Rise of The Glasgow Art Scene and my PhD thesis (despite by that time also having access to Glasgow School of Art library and the Glasgow University Library) and my most recent book, All Art is Political: Writings on Performative Art (2014).

Since the two floors where I most often worked, Floors 4 and 5, closed for renovations last autumn, I have mainly worked either at home or at Glasgow University Library or Glasgow School of Art library.  As a lecturer at Glasgow School of Art I am fortunate to have access to both those facilities.  However, the Mitchell Library occupies such a unique place in Glasgow and in my own heart that, once this term’s assessments at Glasgow School of Art were completed at the end of April, I looked forward to renewing my acquaintance with the newly renovated floor five of the library.

On the day of my visit the 5th floor was busy with noisy secondary school students studying for Standard Grades and Highers.  Needing to concentrate, I requested a study carrel at the desk, whereupon I learned that a daily charge of £5.00 (£2.50 concessions) for the use of the study carrels had been introduced.  The librarian said that there had been a marked downturn in the use of the carrels following the introduction of the charge – indeed all six carrels were unoccupied. £2.50 a day is a prohibitive cost for someone on a low income, whether a student, someone claiming benefits or a pensioner. 

At the enquiries desk, a staff member said that the charge was justified to cover the cost of electricity; a bizarre assertion given that electricity in the form of lighting and power points is freely available throughout the building.  I can understand why a charge is levied on the musical practice rooms, given the pianos must be tuned etc. but the study carrels have nothing that requires costly maintenance and indeed their decor hasn’t changed in 20 years. The income stream generated by this charge can only be a maximum of £30 a day for each floor, yet the shift that it represents – towards privatization – goes against all that the library has done to open itself up to the general public in recent years – the shift from wholly reference to also being a lending library, the children’s books area, the reduced security procedures, the free Wi-Fi, the free use of PCs, courses for those researching family history, the larger cafe area and so on. A librarian who spoke to me at the Library said that the study carrels are only a small part of what the library offers – but that is exactly why they need to be preserved, as the other changes have increased the number of users and accompanying noise levels such that anyone really needing quiet to study would not now find it in the Mitchell Library except in a study carrel.

The decision to charge for the use of quiet study facilities has effectively privatized an area of a public library.  Even though I can probably afford the £5 daily cost of renting a study carrel I can’t bring myself to do it on moral grounds. I also don’t think it represents good value for money – it costs £50 to belong to Glasgow University Library (where a silent study policy is strictly enforced) for an entire year – that amount would only buy me 10 days in a study carrel at the Mitchell Library.  I can go back to the University Library (in fact that’s where I am writing this now) but what about those people less privileged than myself, who now are effectively barred from The Mitchell Library’s quiet study facilities?

Students from less advantaged backgrounds would not be able to afford to pay £2.50 a day to access the quiet study facilities.  This is really problematic when viewed alongside the increasingly dwindling rates of progression from state schools to leading universities.  Data published by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in August 2013 showed that the gap in progression rates between private and state schools has widened since 2008, and that almost two-thirds of students from the independent sector went on to Britain’s leading institutions in 2010/11 compared with less than a quarter of those from the state system. And within the state school system, teenagers from the poorest families – those eligible for free school meals – were half as likely to progress on to any higher education course as relatively affluent classmates. 

I am sure you will be aware of the 2013 survey by the charity Booktrust that found that on average, the richer someone’s background, the more likely they are to read.  Meanwhile a higher proportion of people from poorer backgrounds admitted they never read. More than one in four (27%) of adults from the poorest socio-economic backgrounds said they never read books themselves, compared with just 13% of those from the richest socio-economic backgrounds. Almost half of those questioned (45%) said they prefer watching TV and DVDs to reading a novel.  Source: Hannah Richardson, “England divided into readers and watchers”, BBC News, 11th March 2014.

Given those statistics, the decision to place a financial barrier around the possibility of quiet study seems very poorly thought out and I think contradictory to the stated aims of Glasgow Libraries? As your website puts it, “Glasgow Libraries are proud to provide a free library service to everyone living, working or studying in Glasgow.”

I look forward to your response.

Yours faithfully,

Dr. Sarah Lowndes

On the 8th of May I received the following response:

Dear Dr. Lowndes,

Front Line Stage One Complaint re:

I refer to your complaint regarding charges for the use of study carrels in the Mitchell Library

Your complaint has been considered and I can respond as follows:

Glasgow Life reviews its pricing policy on an annual basis. During the 2013 review process it was decided to roll out the hire charge for study carrels, previously charges had only applied to carrels used for music practice. Essentially the use of library and information services within the Mitchell remains free of charge and this can be sustained by the library service charging for non-core services such as hire of DVDs, copying services, room hire etc. While the renovation work in The Mitchell is ongoing, there has been limited access to some spaces and therefore fewer opportunities for visitors to disperse throughout the building. I apologise that this has contributed to making Levels 4 and 5 more crowded but this temporary situation will be remedied when Level 2 reopens, the estimated date for which is the beginning of July.

While the standard daily charge has been set at £5.00, a concessionary rate of £2.50 is available and is offered to all those entitled. Information about concession entitlement is displayed at counters throughout the library. Please contact me if you wish to discuss this further.

Glasgow Life welcomes customer feedback and all complaints are regarded as important for improving our services.  If you are unhappy with this response and wish to escalate your complaint to an Investigation of our complaints procedure, a member of the Senior Management Team will investigate matters further.  Please call 0141 287 8977 and quote the reference at the top of this letter or write to us at Business Support, Admin Hub One, 220 High Street, 4th Floor, Glasgow G4 0GW or e-mail info@glasgowlife.org.uk  Please raise your concerns to us within 20 working days of the date of this email.

Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention.

Yours Sincerely,

Principal Librarian

I decided that I did indeed wish to escalate my complaint and on the 9th of May I re-sent my original letter to info@glasgowlife.org.uk

The same day I received the following response from Glasgow Life:

Hi Sarah,

I am unsure about this email as you have sent your complaint again and this was already responded to by [name of Principal Librarian].

Please advise how you are wishing to proceed with this and I will pass to the Principal Librarian.


Glasgow Life staff member

That afternoon I responded by writing to Glasgow Life:

Dear Glasgow Life staff member

I have sent my complaint again as I don’t feel that the response from the Principal Librarian addressed the points that I raised in my letter, notably that £2.50 is a prohibitive amount for those on low incomes to pay for the use of a silent study carrel.  I don’t accept that use of a study carrel is the same as borrowing a DVD or paying for photocopying and I find the decision to attempt to raise revenue from silent study carrels is morally questionable and discriminates against those on low incomes.

I look forward to your response,

Dr. Sarah Lowndes

On May 15th I received the following response from the Glasgow Life Chief Operating Officer:

Dear Dr. Lowndes


Thank you for bringing to my attention your correspondence with colleagues in the Mitchell Library about the policy for charging for the use of study carrels. It is not unusual for a public library to charge for the use of services and facilities, which are non-core business. The Mitchell has always charged for the use of music study carrels on Level 4 of the Library. During the annual review of charges in 2012/13 the anomaly of charging for some study carrels but not all study carrels was highlighted. This coincided with the planning of the Mitchell Upgrade works and also an exit survey, which is carried out, on annual basis.

As a regular Mitchell Library user you will be aware that the Library provides services to the business community, most of which incur a charge due to the nature of the research involved. The exit survey highlighted a strong use of the Mitchell Library with some users from the business community frequenting the building on a touchdown basis when they are in the Charing Cross area of the City due to the facilities, which were available to them. One of these facilities was the use of the study carrels, which were and are used as a “pop up” office.

Another highlight from the exit survey was the lack of general seating in the Mitchell. While the public areas have a plethora of general study facilities at certain times of the year this is under significant pressure (as you have highlighted in your email) and one consideration was the removal of all the study carrels to increase the floor space on Levels 4 and 5. The Mitchell Library is unique in providing this type of study space within the City and indeed academic libraries have moved away from providing this type of facility in favour of providing spaces for group work activity. Something, which the Mitchell is actively considering at the present time however mindful that the presence of private study space is valued.

So considering the anomaly in the charging policy, the all year round use of the study carrels from the business community and the needs of the learning community it was decided to retain the study carrels but align the charging policy.

Charges were introduced for all study carrels in the Mitchell in April 2013. At the annual review of charges for 2013/14, the implementation of charges for all study carrels was assessed. Feedback was reasonably positive with library staff highlighting that students would come into the Mitchell just after 9.00am when the building opens and hire a carrel at the concessionary rate, frequently students would share the use of a carrel by swapping over the course of the day. Other users pay hire carrels for the day. Due to the ongoing building work and the limited availability of study carrels during this time, it was decided to leave the charges as they stood despite being encouraged to consider raising the charge.

There are quiet study spaces for customers to use free of charge in all areas of the library which is in line with the public library ethos. When levels 2 and 3 of the Mitchell re-open at the end of June, the Baillie’s reading room which is the Mitchell’s main quiet study area will be located on Level 2.

I appreciate the sentiments in your email and the Mitchell Library has indeed tried to reflect the changing times and the aspirations of the way in which the public want to use it. There is the challenging backdrop of the economic climate within which the public sector operates and income generated assists with offsetting the pressures of cutting back in expenditure. While the carrel charges may seem like a small pool of income in the overall Mitchell budget it does support other budget pressures which in turn protect frontline library services to the benefit of the general public.

I trust that this answers the points in your email and that you will continue to enjoy using the facilities within the Mitchell Library.

Your complaint has been investigated at every stage of Glasgow Life’s Complaints Procedure. If you remain unhappy with our response, you can ask the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman to investigate.

They can be contacted via the following methods:

Post: SPSO, 
Freepost EH641,

Edinburgh, EH3 7NS.

Tel: 0800 377 7330 Web: www.spso.org.uk

The SPSO advises that you usually need to contact them within 12 months of first experiencing the problem about which you are complaining.

Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention.

Yours sincerely,

Chief Operating Officer

I have since sent my original complaint to the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman. If you think the Mitchell Library’s change of policy in regard to study carrels is unacceptable, perhaps you will also consider making a complaint, by contacting: libraries@glasgowlife.org.uk



Posted in Essays | Leave a comment

All Art is Political (2014)


The title of Sarah Lowndes’s new collection of essays, All Art is Political refers to George Orwell’s insistence that ‘In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics’. All issues are political issues…’ Orwell exhorted people to become more conscious of the way in which they used words, explaining, ‘the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is the process is reversible.’  Culture, when understood in this way, can be a conscious means of expression rather than a technique for concealing or preventing thought: ‘an instrument which we shape for our own purposes.’


Since the 1990s, performative art has been increasingly accepted into the cultural mainstream, becoming a familiar and popular feature of art galleries and museums, as shown by the Tate Modern’s recent Collecting the Performative project. As art historian Roselee Goldberg notes, The term performative, used to describe the unmediated engagement of viewer and performer in art, has also crossed over into architecture, semiotics, anthropology and gender studies. But what is performative art? What about its radical origins? How does it remain politically engaged? Writer, curator and lecturer at the Glasgow School of Art, Sarah Lowndes takes us through the world of performative art, using five case studies spanning from the 1960s to the present day. A series of essays and conversations, All Art is Political explores the work of artist-musicians Mayo Thompson and Keith Rowe, Berlin-based artist Thea Djordjadze, Glasgow-based Turner Prize winner Richard Wright, American conceptual artist Susan Hiller and German-Swiss artist and writer Dieter Roth.

IBSN: 978-1-9-910021-42-2

Posted in Essays | Leave a comment



Independent arts writer, curator and lecturer on post-war art and design; Research Fellow at Norwich University of the Arts. Lowndes’s research focuses on DIY art, music and publishing, interdisciplinary and performance-related practice, contemporary art, curatorial practice, empirical research, creative cities, interstitial zones and peripheries, subcultures and art writing.

Research and Teaching 

As part of my role as lecturer at Glasgow School of Art (2002-2015) I tutored and supervised both undergraduate and post-graduate students and devised and delivered two specialist undergraduate courses, Do It Yourself: Art/Music/Publishing and Out of Actions: Performance and Participation Art. I also taught empirical research methods and study skills and team taught the undergraduate course Sculpture in the Expanded Field with colleagues from the Sculpture and Environmental Art Department and taught cross-school projects with staff from the Schools of Fine Art, Design and Architecture. In addition to my post at Glasgow School of Art I have, since completing a MLitt in Creative Writing at Glasgow University in 2013, also been a visiting lecturer to Glasgow University, Newcastle University and Central Saint Martin’s, where I have delivered seminars and lectures on creative writing and DIY publishing.  I am currently Research Fellow at Norwich University of the Arts.


2011- 2013 MLitt Creative Writing, Glasgow University

2002-2007 Glasgow School of Art AHRC funded PhD. Thesis title: ‘The Contradiction is Real: Concrete Performance in Southern California, 1967-1975’.

2000-2001 Glasgow School of Art M.Phil. Art and Design in Organisational Contexts. Thesis title: ‘Social Sculpture Glasgow 1979-2002’, analyzing the contemporary art and music scenes in Glasgow.

1993-1997 University of Glasgow M.A. (Hons), English Literature / Film and Television Studies.


1997- Freelance writer, specializing in the arts

2002- 2015 Lecturer, Forum for Critical Inquiry, Glasgow School of Art

2008- Independent curator

2011- 2014 Visiting Lecturer, Glasgow University

2015- Visiting Lecturer, Glasgow School of Art

2017- Research Fellow, Norwich University of the Arts

Selected published writing

Contemporary Artists Working Outside the City: Creative Retreat (London and New York, Routledge, forthcoming 2018).

Actions: The Image of the World Can Be Different, Sarah Lowndes and Andrew Nairne ed.s, (Cambridge: Kettle’s Yard, forthcoming 2018).

New Edition, Sarah Lowndes, ed., (Edinburgh: Edinburgh Printmakers, 2017).

The DIY Movement in Art, Music and Publishing: Subjugated Knowledges (London and New York, Routledge, 2016).

“The Key Material is Time”, Generation Reader (Edinburgh: National Galleries of Scotland, 2014).

All Art is Political: Writings on Performative Art (Edinburgh: Luath Press, 2014).

“Window shopping: Glasgow art and the politics of display”, Function / Dysfunction – Contemporary art from Glasgow, (Nürnberg: Neues Museum, Staatliches Museum für Kunst und Design, 2013).

“Hole Punch: The Late Autobiographical Works of Dieter Roth”, Dieter Roth: Diaries, (Edinburgh: Fruitmarket Gallery / London: Yale University Press, 2012).

Studio 58: Women Artists in Glasgow Since World War II, Sarah Lowndes ed., (Glasgow: Glasgow School of Art Exhibitions Department, 2012).

“Botanical Vaudeville”, Robert Rauschenberg, (New York: Gagosian Gallery, 2011).

Social Sculpture: The Rise of the Glasgow Art Scene (Edinburgh: Luath Press, 2010).

“Learned by Heart: The Paintings of Richard Wright’, Richard Wright (New York: Rizzoli, 2010).

“Aleana Egan: A Grey Luminous Light from the Sea”, Aleana Egan (Basel: Kunsthalle Basel, 2008).

“Straight Letters”, Camilla Low, (Dundee: Dundee Contemporary Arts, 2008).

“The Glasgow Scene”, The History of British Art, Volume III (London: Tate Publishing, 2008).

Curatorial Projects

Curator, Panoramic Sea Happening, re-enactment of Tadeusz Kantor’s 1967 happening, with Henry Layte as The Conductor, Kunsthalle Cromer, East Beach, Cromer, June 2017.

Curator, New Edition, group exhibition by Museums Press, Poster Club and Emer Tumilty (Edinburgh Printmakers / Edinburgh Art Festival, July 2017).

Editor of bi-annual The Burning Sand prose, poetry and art magazine and curator of related live events (2012-), funded by Creative Scotland, distributed by Good Press.

Curator, Valise and co-curator, GLASGOW WEEKEND: art, music and design from Glasgow (Volksbuehne and BQ, Berlin, 18-22 September 2013).

Curator, Studio 58: Women Artists in Glasgow Since WWII (Mackintosh Museum, 2012), exhibition included works by 53 artists including loans from the Hunterian Museum, Glasgow Museums and Glasgow Women’s Library.  Co-organiser (with GSA Exhibitions and AAC, GSA) of Studio 58 symposium, and organiser of related film screening event (2012).

Curator, Dialogue of Hands sculpture park with commissioned works by Chris Johanson, Camilla Low, Mary Redmond and Corin Sworn (Glasgow International, 2012).

Curator and producer, Urlibido, commissioned works by Kim Coleman & Jenny Hogarth, Susie Green, Shelly Nadashi, Kimberley O’Neill, Morag Ross and Cara Tolmie (Glasgow International, 2010).

Curator of Votive exhibition, with works by George Brecht, Nerea Bello, Chris Burden, Abraham Cruzvillegas, Thea Djordjadze, Torsten Lauschmann, Richard Wright and objects loaned from The World Cultures Collection of Glasgow Museums (CCA, Glasgow, 2009).

Chair and co-organiser (with Kathryn Elkin and Louise Shelley) of Subject in Process: Feminism and Art symposium (CCA, Glasgow, 2009).

Curator, Three Blows – all-sound acoustic performance (St. Cecilia’s Hall, Edinburgh, 2008), with Keith Rowe, Mayo Thompson, Sarah Kenchington, Richard Wright and Luke Fowler.

Selected Talks and Lectures

“Public Art Now”, Chair of Study Afternoon, Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts, Norwich, September 2017.

“Self-organize: DIY for a Successful Career”, Professional Practice Seminar, School of Fine Art, Glasgow School of Art, April 2017.

“Contemporary Artist Working Outside the City: Creative Retreat”, Research Seminar, Ideas Factory, Norwich University of the Arts, March 2017.

“The DIY Movement”, The Friday Event, Glasgow School of Art, October 2016.

Public Roundtable, “East or Eden? Contemporary Art in Norwich”, Norwich University of the Arts, September 2016.

“DIY Publishing since 1955”, Visiting Lecturer to Central Saint Martin’s Graphic & Communication Design Foundation course, January 2016.

“The Handshake and the Interface: The Glasgow Art Scene since 1990”, AAH2015, Annual Conference, University of East Anglia, Norwich, 9 – 11 April 2015.

“It’s about the weight (wait)”, Lunch Bytes on Education and Learning, Goethe Institute/CCA Glasgow, December 2014.

“Should artists professionalise?” International Artist Initiated, David Dale Gallery, Glasgow in collaboration with Fillip, Vancouver (Part of Glasgow 2014 Cultural Programme).

“The Key Material is Time”, Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh, October 2014.

“Window shopping: Glasgow art and the politics of display” Nürnberg: Neues Museum, Staatliches Museum für Kunst und Design, December 2013.

Visiting lecturer, School of Arts and Cultures, Newcastle University, October 2013.

“Time, concentration and supermarkets”, The Future Symposium, Jerwood Visual Arts and Film and Video Umbrella/CCA Glasgow, 2013.

In conversation with Bjorn Roth at the opening of the exhibition Dieter Roth: Diaries, Camden Art Centre, London, 2013.

Seminar, “The Two Raymond Carvers”, Modernities Masters Programme, Glasgow University, 2013 and 2014.

Visiting speaker to MLitt Creative Writing, Glasgow University, 2013.

“The Writing Voice of Dieter Roth”, Dieter Roth, Dieter Roth and Art History, seminar at Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, October 2012.

Seminar, “The Personal Is Political: Embodied Protest and the Performance of Masculinity” Modernities Masters Programme, Glasgow University, 2011 and 2012.

Other professional activities

2012 –2013 Member of Editorial Board, GENERATION, 2014 nationwide exhibition.

2006 –2008 Chair of the board of The Common Guild, Glasgow.

2004 –2006 Board member of The Modern Institute, Glasgow.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The point is that the process is reversible (2014)

A few words about love and politics from Jürgen Habermas, Nancy Fraser, George Orwell, Saul Alinsky, Richard Sennett, Alain Badiou, Simone de Beauvoir, Howard Zinn and Harvey Milk.


The liberal model of the public sphere, in which private individuals and interests regulate public authority and in which property owners speak for humanity, has been superseded by mass consumption and publicity. In this transformed public sphere, even arguments are translated into symbols to which again one cannot respond by arguing but only by identifying with them.



We might break the spurious link between our critique of the family wage and flexible capitalism by militating for a form of life that de-centres waged work and valorises unwaged activities, including – but not only – carework.

[Nancy Fraser]


A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible.

[George Orwell]


Community organizer Saul Alinsky once threatened a “piss in” at Chicago O’Hare Airport Alinsky planned to arrange for large numbers of well-dressed African Americans to occupy the urinals and toilets at O’Hare for as long as it took to bring the city to the bargaining table.

Saul Alinsky

According to Alinsky, the threat alone was sufficient to produce results. In Rules for Radicals (1971) he notes that this tactic fell under two of his rules: Rule #3: Wherever possible, go outside the experience of the enemy; and Rule #4: Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.


We might sever the bogus bond between our critique of bureaucracy and free-market fundamentalism by reclaiming the mantle of participatory democracy as a means of strengthening the public powers needed to constrain capital for the sake of justice.

[Nancy Fraser]

drinking girl

Rule number one: Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.

[Saul Alinsky]

Rule number two: Never go outside the expertise of your people.

[Saul Alinsky]


Rule number three: Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.

[Saul Alinsky]

Rule number four: Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.

[Saul Alinsky]

Rule number five: Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.

[Saul Alinsky]

Black Cat, Washington DC

Rule number six: A good tactic is one your people enjoy.

[Saul Alinsky]

Rule number seven: A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.

[Saul Alinsky]

Rule number eight: Keep the pressure on. Never let up.

[Saul Alinsky]

Rule number nine: The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.

[Saul Alinsky]


Rule Number ten: The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.

[Saul Alinsky]

Rule Number eleven: If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.

[Saul Alinsky]

Rule number twelve: The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.

[Saul Alinsky]

Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.

[Saul Alinsky]


Curiosity can hearten us to look beyond ourselves. Looking outwards makes for a better social bond than imagining others are reflected in ourselves.

[Richard Sennett]


Today, the crossed effect of desire for reassuring solidarity and economic insecurity is to render social life brutally simple: us-against-them coupled with you-are-on-your-own. But I’d insist we dwell in the condition of ‘not yet.’

[Richard Sennett]


As social animals we are capable of cooperating more deeply than the existing social order envisions.

[Richard Sennett]


What kind of world does one see when one experiences it from the point of view of two and not one? What is the world like when it is experienced, developed and lived from the point of view of difference and not identity? Love is a construction, a life that is being made, no longer from the perspective of One but from the perspective of two. And that is what I have called a “Two scene”.

[Alain Badiou]


Love is above all a construction that lasts. To give up at the first hurdle, the first serious disagreement, the first quarrel, is only to distort love. Real love is one that triumphs lastingly, sometimes painfully, over the hurdles erected by time, space and the world. [Alain Badiou]


The future is the meaning and the substance of all action; the limits can not be marked out a priori; the goal must be considered as an end; we have to justify it on the basis of our freedom which has projected it, by the ensemble of the movement which ends in its fulfilment.

[Simone de Beauvoir]


The tasks we have set up for ourselves and which, though exceeding the limits of our lives, are ours, must find their meaning in themselves…

[Simone de Beauvoir]


To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.

[Howard Zinn]


What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. [Howard Zinn]


If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act.

[Howard Zinn]


I know you cannot live on hope alone, but without it life is not worth living.

[Harvey Milk]

Posted in Talks and Lectures | Leave a comment

Valise (2013)

Volksbühne Pavilion, 18th-22nd September 2013

Curated by Sarah Lowndes

A modest group exhibition of easily transportable works by ten artists from Glasgow, which took its title from Marcel Duchamp’s portable miniature monograph Boîte-en-valise or box in a suitcase (1935-1940), presented in the glass Pavilion of the Volksbühne.

Valise installation view, left to right: Two works on paper by Richard Wright, oil on canvas by Gregor Wright, acrylic on newsprint by Tony Swain
Valise installation view, left to right: Two works on paper by Richard Wright, oil on canvas by Gregor Wright, acrylic on newsprint by Tony Swain
Sophie Dyer and Maeve Redmond, artwork for The Burning Sand (2013), Valise (2013)
Sophie Dyer and Maeve Redmond, artwork for The Burning Sand (2013), Valise (2013)
Installation view, Valise (2013), works left to right: Andrew Kerr, Hayley Tompkins, Andrew Kerr, Raydale Dower, Tom Varley
Installation view, Valise (2013), works left to right: Tony Swain, Hayley Tompkins, Andrew Kerr, Raydale Dower, Tom Varley


Raydale Dower is an artist and musician, known both for his work with Glasgow bands Uncle John and Whitelock and Tut Vu Vu and for his sculptural interventions and projects. www.raydaledower.com

Sophie Dyer and Maeve Redmond are communication graphic designers. They design art, poetry and prose magazine The Burning Sand, which is edited by Sarah Lowndes. www.sophiedyer.net www.maeveredmond.co.uk

Andrew Kerr makes semi-abstract acrylic paintings and sculptures that are delicate, evocative and modest in scale.

Optimo (Espacio) was a legendary nightclub run by JD Twitch (Keith McIvor) and JG Wilkes (Jonnie Wilkes) at the Sub Club in Glasgow’s Jamaica Street every Sunday night from 1997 until 2010. Twitch and Wilkes continue to tour, promote and release music as Optimo. www.optimo.co.uk

Installation view, Valise (2013)
Installation view, Valise (2013)

Tony Swain is known for paintings depicting complex landscapes, cityscapes, seascapes, interiors and private worlds rendered with acrylic paint on pages taken from The Guardian newspaper.

Hayley Tompkins makes works that bridge the gap between painting and sculpture, which she calls ‘objects’, employing materials such as coloured pencil, watercolour and acrylic paint on newsprint and foolscap, and found objects such as plastic trays or mobile phones.

Tom Varley makes works which explore the relationship between abstraction and language. His film Violence. Silence. is influenced by constrained writing techniques, and playfully explores the associative and poetic possibilities of language.

Richard Wright is best known for making site-specific wall drawings, which are usually painted over at the conclusion of each exhibition, but his oeuvre includes a wide range of works made on paper, from prints on poster paper to complex large-scale works and smaller scale watercolours and collages.

Gregor Wright specializes in drawing, painting, sculpture, words and code. www.gregorwright.com

Opening of Valise exhibition curated by Sarah Lowndes for the Volksbuehne Pavilion.
Opening of Valise (2013)

List of works

Optimo (Espacio), Espacio (Glasgow 1997-2010), neon sign.

Richard Wright, No title (2013), watercolour and collage on paper.

Richard Wright, No title (2013), watercolour and collage on paper.

Gregor Wright, Phone Call From Nowhere (2012), oil on canvas board.

Tony Swain, An ending admitted (2013), acrylic on newsprint.

Hayley Tompkins, Digital Light Pool (2013), acrylic paint on plastic.

Andrew Kerr, One Neck (2013), acrylic on paper.

Raydale Dower, Le Drapeau Noir (Reverse), (2013), steel, black canvas, chalk, cartridge paper – made with Tom Worthington.

Sophie Dyer & Maeve Redmond, artwork for The Burning Sand (2013), print on paper.

On monitor: Tom Varley, Violence. Silence. (2013), 16mm transferred to HD video.

Outside: Raydale Dower, Le Drapeau Noir (2010), steel, black canvas, thread – made with Tom Worthington.

Valise was part of THE GLASGOW WEEKEND: ART, DESIGN AND MUSIC FROM GLASGOW and is sponsored by Creative Scotland, British Council, Volksbühne and BQ Works by Hayley Tompkins, Tony Swain and Gregor Wright appeared courtesy of the artists and The Modern Institute/Toby Webster Ltd. Work by Andrew Kerr appeared courtesy of the artist, BQ, Berlin and The Modern Institute/Toby Webster Ltd. Works by Richard Wright appeared courtesy of the artist, BQ, Berlin, Gagosian Gallery and The Modern Institute/Toby Webster Ltd. All other works courtesy of the artists.

Production credits for Tom Varley, Violence/Silence

Voices: Mhairi McMullan and Hannes Hellstrom

Eyeball: Jack McConville

Sign Language: Sophie Mackfall

Drum: Colin Kearney.

Supported by: Collective Gallery, The Elephant Trust and Glasgow Life.

Posted in Curatorial Projects | Leave a comment