Glasgow Women’s Library presents an inspiring exhibition of site-specific and archival responses by Linder to their Landressy Street home. The first in an anticipated series of new commissions by renowned women artists, the interconnected works at GWL continue the Library’s ongoing critical exploration of sectarianism, place, and female presence and history, which have been suggested by the organisation’s location in Bridgeton, in Glasgow’s East End. The new suite of works coalesces around a flag for the façade of the library, and a short film screened in the GWL entranceway.
The flag, a jewel-like collage dominated by disembodied ruby lips and emerald foliage, references Linder’s continuing concerns with the disassociation and visual dismemberment of the female body. Blowing in the wind above the Library’s entrance it is declamatory rather than heraldic, with the open mouths poised at the vocal brink between scream and celebration.
The film is a five minute revel of subtly disconnected scenes shot at the Mary Queen of Scots Bower, Chatsworth, Derbyshire, where Mary was detained by Elizabeth I. Mouths open, close, and extrude pink tongues. Eyes look, and hair pulls over a face. Women clad in elaborate costumes by designer Louise Gray walk, turn, tumble, and improvise tools of sieves and nets, to indeterminate function. Everywhere there is slowed, determinate, motion metered by a measured yet inevitable joy in women’s bodily energy. By turns hypnotic, glamorous, and piecemeal, the work is a collaged dream that demands repeated viewing.
The expansive, open-ended nature of this commission—or sensorium—becomes apparent in the Library’s exhibition space, as a display of curated items from GWL’s nationally recognised archive of womens’ history is shown alongside works in progress by Linder and costumes from the film. The Library’s uniquely warm and welcoming environment provides the perfect space for a passing conversation about the flag’s gloriously offbeat ceremonial delivery, as Glasgow’s Lord Provost Eva Bolander rowed it up the Clyde at 6am on an auspiciously beautiful morning. At the front desk, visitors can purchase a bottle of a cordial specially commissioned from local community drinks company Bottle of Ginger. Here, what could elsewhere appear as an incongruous merchandising opportunity, neatly underscores that the commission exists clearly and indelibly in GWL’s multivarious contributions to the vibrant tapestry of East End culture and history, as well in the flag and film that announce the building’s threshold.
Linder’s Flag & Film. Glasgow Women’s Library, 23 Landressy Street. 20 April - 7 May
Part of Glasgow International 2018’s Director’s Programme, Cellular World at GoMA is billed as a showcase of sorts for curator Richard Parry’s overarching themes for the festival as a whole. With nine artists working largely across sculpture, installation, and video, the exhibition nudges itself into the moment of interface between individuals and the technology that often frames our contemporary world.
Standout moments include E. Jane’s cumulative series of videos ‘E the Avatar’ (2018), with new episodes posted every Friday, and Sam Keogh’s layered installation and performance ‘Kapton Cadaverine’(2018). Keogh gives us a low-fi and haphazard stage-set for a one-off performance in which a bewildered astronaut emerges from cryo-sleep in the chaos of a dilapidated spaceship. Keogh finds both humour and implied concern in the failure of the digital, presenting us with an inevitable collapse back into the grime of physical entropy. E. Jane’s avatar embodies a questioning relationship to web presence and projected identity, in an ongoing series of works that include a clothing range, YouTube channel, and website. The work is nuanced, self-aware, and funny, but its presentation in Cellular World, on a standalone monitor with cordless headphones, right at the exhibition’s door, unhappily reduces its scope.
Elsewhere, works by Mai-Thu Perret, Jamie Crewe, Lynn Hershman-Leeson, and Jesse Darling, struggle to shine in an exhibition that feels somewhat lacking in direction. Cecile B. Evans’ ‘Something Tactical is Coming’ (2018) and Joseph Buckley’s ‘Psychic Armour for Black Northerners’ (2017) both open interesting conversations but the curatorial opportunity for dialogue is not granted, and the moment passes in an awkward silence.
Perhaps the problem is that a show ostensibly about our social and individual relationships to the future of new technology takes a surprisingly old fashioned approach. Artworks are presented as objects for us to ponder passively in a room, and E. Jane’s relational approach (“tweet me”, she says) is undervalued. In an age of social media, hybrid identities, and the bold refashioning of the social sphere, Cellular World does not reflect the scope of bizarre complexity that so vividly surrounds our present state.
Cellular World: Cyborg-Human-Avatar-Horror. Joseph Buckley, Jamie Crewe, Jesse Darling, Cécile B. Evans, Lynn Hershman-Leeson, E. Jane, Sam Keogh, Mai-Thu Perret, John Russell. Gallery of Modern Art, Royal Exchange Square. 20 April - 7 October
Michelle Hannah’s work saturates The Savings Bank’s idiosyncratic gothic atmosphere to create a darkly immersive world; no glimpse of natural light permeates this closed and enveloping environment. The glittering chandeliers are dimmed and the red and gritty ambient light is only just enough to navigate the odd opulence of this private bar – open 12-5 for the duration of GI.
Occupying the existing furniture and fittings of this shadowy space are Hannah’s cleanly rendered and meticulously sourced assemblages. In ‘One Final Measure’ (2018) a grand piano is draped with a velvet photograph of a YouTube screenshot of tumbling flames. Arranged around it are a decanter, some silver sand, chondrite meteors, a selenite crystal, iron meteorite shavings, and an empty Calvin Klein Eternity Moment bottle; the last suggesting the grand emptiness of dapping the scent of eternity onto one’s wrist, again and again, until it is all gone. The installations are striking, but are activated fully by the time-based works in the exhibition; particularly the ten-minute sound loop ‘Barren Bone’(2018) in which we hear manipulated recordings of fire and breath, and the six-minute video ‘Window Icarus’ (2018), playing to a few cabaret-style tables in the centre of the space. In both works we see Hannah’s continuing thematic concerns: the artist’s own body, digitised or alienated within a hauntology of popular culture.
A ‘keener’, Hannah tells us, is a woman hired to sing at a funeral wake, as a vocal form of mourning. At 3pm each day, the artist presents her own lament through the performance ‘Render’ (2018), a lilting and surprisingly fragile song of enacted loss, through which Hannah ceremonially grieves planetary death and the arrival of the Anthropocene. The artist, clad in black, allows her amplified and layered vocals to fill and dominate the space as she incants her formal grieving from a spotlit microphone. The emptiness of her song is the enacted corollary to the application of Eternity Moment in compulsive, futile ritual.
As a post-digital, queered otherworld, Keener offers a dark reading of the futility of human thought and belief systems in the vastness of what lies beyond. In spite of this, the beauty of a single song glitters throughout.
Keener. Michelle Hannah. The Savings Bank, 67 Bridge Street Glasgow. 20 April - 7 May, Thurs - Sun only, 12-5 PM
Ruth Barker is an artist and writer based in Glasgow. Her interests include ideas of myth, psychoanalysis, connectivity and finitude. Ruth has a PhD from Newcastle University, and is represented by the Agency gallery, London