Chapter 9 Enlarge
Illustration: James St Findlay

Reaching into his jacket pocket, Colin’s fingers found the tablets that promised to make it all go away. His head was pounding. The incessant routine of late nights and long flights on the circuit had laid waste to any colour from his cheeks rendering him sepulchral. Still that didn’t stop the invites. Demand for his presence never wavered. 

Colin had always loved Glasgow, loved its grit. He prided himself on being there at the beginning, when weekends had meandered in a haze of smudgy eyeliner and Bucky cocktails had been the ironic drink de jour for smug art students. The next month would be spent jetting between Basel, Berlin and Palermo. Smiling to himself, he was the king of the world. 

Teasing the tablets from the foil, he swigged them down glancing at the woman sitting opposite him. His veneer of malaise was as choreographed as his Instagram—dull pictures of him looking bored, looking at art, different pharms. Thinking about his last post, a rare image of him looking happy, he questioned the likes. 

Lost in thought, they moved through the city pulling up outside a large hangar-like building. Cutting through the throng, he borrowed a lighter and lit his cigarillo, bantering with an old comrade. Reminiscing under a moonlit sky, they gossiped about the fate of some former colleague. Waiting patiently by his side, his assistant pulled gently on his sleeve and reminded him of the artist’s dinner they had promised to attend. 

C Is For Colonial Fantasy Enlarge
C is for Colonial Fantasy. Credit: Alberta Whittle

Colin insisted on pressing his point, “He tried his best you know?”

“Yes, but can you blame them?”

“It’s just not that simple. At the end of the day we all want the same thing.” 

He shrugged, looking up at the moon. He felt like an alien. Everything he knew, felt confident about being him was now being questioned. Exhaustion threatened to overwhelm him; he was everything they no longer wanted. Feeling faint, sadness was accelerating into grief and still his supposed comrade wouldn’t let him just be

“Been inside yet?” 

“No. You saw us get out of a cab. Obviously we just arrived”.

It was his comrade’s turn to shrug her shoulders. 

“Interested in the show tonight?”

He pulled his lips into a smile. “Yes, I just love what she does. She’s really invested in representation and she always makes sure her work is really inclusive”.

“Yeah, yeah. Aren’t we all.”

Turning to his assistant, he squeezed her waist. They mosied into the fray.

Perched singly, reclining or standing erect, the tableau vivant revealed young women arranged in different postures. Amongst the din from the throng, they were silent. Glancing around the room, Colin watched them, admired them reflected in the gaze of others. How decolonial, he thought. Equal representation for these women—all races—it reminded him of a Benetton ad from the 90s. 

He was spotted.

“Darling, it’s been too long”.

Buried in her neck he breathed in the scent of slightly smoky hair and scent. Colin embraced X warmly.

“Wicked show babe. Well done!”

“Do you think so? Really?”

“Absolutely. It looks fantastic”.

“I’m so glad. You know I really had my doubts. It’s been so hard working with the performers. There were times I really felt like they just didn’t want to get my vision”.

Colin nodded sagely. 

“Yeah. They don’t understand that I’m doing it for them. This is a work for women. You know almost half the women are POC. I don’t know what more they want. I’m doing my best to you know, decolonise”.

“Well you can only do your best. They just don’t want to get it. Some people are just ungrateful.” 

I Is For Inclusion Enlarge
I is for Inclusion. Credit: Alberta Whittle

His assistant whispered in his ear and he nodded. Pressing through the crowds, he looked back at X. He admired her youthful insouciance as she sidled up to someone slightly less important than him. She was doing good work and so was he—they were making a difference, together. Order had been restored, all was right with the world.

***

Alberta Whittle’s practice-led research focuses on unraveling concepts of history and memory. She is a Committee member of Transmission Gallery and a Board Member at SCAN (Scottish Visual Arts Network). Alberta has shared her work in various solo and group shows, including at the Johannesburg Pavilion at the 56thVenice Biennale (Venice),The Showroom (London), FRAMER FRAMED (Amsterdam), the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) and David Dale Gallery (Glasgow), BOZAR (Brussels), RAW Material (Dakar), National Art Gallery (Nassau) and at the Apartheid Museum, Goethe On Main and Constitution Hill (Johannesburg). Alberta is the 2018 recipient of The Margaret Tait Award.