In the basement, a video of braided hair soaked in ink runs on its own time: accelerates, reverses, plays on loop. Pinky Mayeng’s ‘Ditoro’ samples three sequences from a performance; in video, the braids trace and untrace their marks as they dance. It’s a dark room, and we make our way to it last following the rich onslaught of information gathered upstairs. There, a polyvocal directory crowds the wall: reading lists, thinking lists, watching lists; excited arrows in every direction; icons and cut-outs; quotes, thoughts, expressions of respect. An abundance of references, a working bibliography chalked on a sapphire-blue wall.
A concentric circular diagram draws eyes up to the phrase decoloniality, the process of un- and re-learning that connects the active research practices of iQhiya and Transmission. The diagram pictures the inherited binary systems of margin and centre, of blackness and whiteness. The centre is a bastion of frequently templated ‘universal’ knowledge: predominantly white, predominantly Western; predominantly male; predominantly not queer. Decoloniality calls for the dismantling of these centralised, oppressive value systems that continue to reproduce themselves within institutions, law, and through inherited wealth and social privileges which hide the unjust flows of capital.
Two POC student activist movements in South Africa and Scotland are shared as separately poignant moments within this struggle: the ‘RhodesMustFall’ movement, and the Glasgow School of Art POC Society. From their positions within educational systems, these groups are concerned with decolonising the roles their institutions play in reproducing unrepresentative curricula, workforces, and all-too simplified canons. iQhiya’s involvement with the MustFall movement led to the titling of the show; Plenary is the name of the meeting held at the end of the day between all subcommittees and individuals, where every voice contributes to a communally-devised strategy.
In the centre of the room, the sounds of a loud and happy feast bellow from a large table strewn with its leftovers. Many voices (in which some local Glasgow patter can occasionally be heard) share thoughts, concerns, food, poetry and songs, and when in concert form ‘the Global Family’. At 6pm on the day of the preview with a queue growing outside, members of iQhiya invited womxn of colour from the crowd to join the table and access the space first. While the gesture appeared divisive to some, it was generous and appropriate to the kinds of conversation that the exhibition hoped to engender: a genuine exchange between womxn and genderqueer people of colour across international backgrounds.
Crucial to charting this direction was the concept of the ‘imagined exhibition’, seen in screenshots of Whatsapp messages between iQhiya and the Global Family pasted on the gallery’s front window. A perfect quote ‘a mode of working where we can work with artists from yoko ono to beyonce’, expresses the extent of the collective desire to experiment with preconceived expectations and possibilities of exhibition-making. Plenary, as a reflective, celebratory moment and gathering spot, feels like an antidote to the ways in which other shows inhabit the festival-exhibition persona.
Humming from the basement, Mayeng’s ‘Ditoro’ abraids what’s left of the plenary meeting upstairs, singing warm gestures towards the next.
Plenary. iQhiya and the Global Family. Transmission. 20 April - 7 May
Dear Hannah and Jennifer,
My boyfriend and I have recently moved into rented accommodation in Glasgow’s trendy Southside. It’s the first time either of us has lived with a partner, and we’re really excited to be on this journey together. Whilst we were furnishing, we unfortunately ended up getting a lumpy mattress from a friend who was moving to Rotterdam. After countless restless nights, we signed up for a 100-day free trial for ‘Simba’ mattresses, and what a welcome change! We can sleep again!
Everything seemed fine until a few days ago I discovered ads for ‘Eve’, ‘Casper’, and ‘Leesa’– similar free trial schemes. Always one for a bargain, I suggested to my partner that we ‘play’ the system; send the Simba mattress back before we have to pay for it, and sign up for Eve. Essentially we could live off free, plush mattresses indefinitely by switching service providers. The problem is that now he wants us to commit to a monthly payment plan for the ‘Simba’ mattress.
At a fragile time in our relationship where he’s suggesting we upgrade our entertainment packages to family bundles, I’m worried that my fear of committing to new subscriptions might cause deep fissures in our fledgling home life. Please help!
Congratulations on entering this important new phase of your life - cohabitation!
However, let’s be clear: there is an obvious subtext to your message, Gordon. We sense that you are struggling with commitment. You seem young, so this is understandable.
Sharing your home with a loved one while building a future together takes a huge amount of work. Fortunately we have a vast resource of experience to share! We suggest immediately instigating a weekly meeting of a minimum of four hours during which you can share your feelings, frustrations, desires and create action points for the coming week. Emotionally ‘check-in’ with each other throughout the day and instigate as much physical contact as your lover will allow, in order to bring you closer together.
While we’ve established that they are a smokescreen, the mattresses you speak of make us feel uncomfortable, with their frankly infantile or heavily gendered names. Must we remind you of the scale of the misogyny that takes place on a daily basis in order that you not bring ‘Eve’ into your home and sleep on her? Neither of our bodies has touched a mattress for 20 years; we both sleep on Japanese tatami mats. Hard floor sleeping is not only much better for the back, it creates a very humbling and open space for erotic play and experimentation. Be sure to purchase a machine washable cover.
Finally, we are very concerned that you and your partner are not fiscally aligned, which is critical to all relationships. Find a companion with identical financial and material assets as you and the rest - great sex, trust and premium kitchenware, will follow. If this is indeed a problem, we suggest you consider retraining and changing careers. A more convenient option might be to find a new life partner.
Wishing you the very best of luck!
Hannah and Jennifer
This question was submitted by Gordon Douglas to Hannah James and Jennifer Bailey’s online advice service www.hannahandjennyarehere4u.com. You can also submit your problems anonymously to Hannah and Jenny. They will be answered privately via email or via public platforms such as live advice sessions or printed matter. A ‘Live Advice Session’ took place at the Bone Meal Performance Night, Hidden Gardens, 26 April 2018.
Jennifer Bailey is currently living in Manchester, UK, although mostly works in Glasgow. Her work is concerned with the permeability of art production to patriarchal structures, desire, capital and paid work.
Hannah James’ work uses intimacy, ethics and humour as a means of testing relationships. She works with film, language and performance and lives in Glasgow.
We enter through the entrance by the cathedral, a smoky-black, epically-proportioned building in Glasgow’s East End. A frequent host to claddings of mesh and scaffold, a haunting boxy-ness that simplifies the gothic, masonic spires and allows for their cleaning at regular intervals. Between drawn curtains, we watch as the sandy surface is renewed, and the building returned to its pre-industrial, smokeless state.
Shuffling up the hill, we pass by many other monuments adorned in the teals and ochres of the taut scaffold mesh: some pitched in order to adjust the slates, others the mortar. Our eyes dart around hoping to catch one of the performers hiding within these complicated assemblages. The procession passes the stones of famous ironmongers, publishers, theologians, military generals; men who could afford the luxury of entombing themselves in the sky.
At the base of an obelisk, below the carving of four cowering children’s faces, Norma, Kate and Wanda of XSexcentenary perch on stools. They wear white buttoned-up cardigans, black pencil skirts, nude tights, and below-the-ankle black shoes which brush against the damp grass. ‘Beloved Mother’, solemnly spoken in unison. Agnes Strang, the buried woman in question, is introduced: her identity as a wife, and mother to four children exemplifies the risks of childbirth in the 19th Century. The performers kiss the stone, stroke the faces, pay their tributes.
A brief silence as we take it in, and then move again to the memorial of a now unmemorable man whose name barely scratches the surface. The stools are set and performers sat in front of the cubic stone and the audience gather awaiting another series of tributes. Instead, the performers rise and guide us around to the adjoining face of the stone, exactly the same as the front, but blank. Each empty facade of this old trophy is filled with a monument to three Scottish, female novelists who died in the 1800s: Margaret Oliphant, Joanna Baillie, and Mary Brunton. It’s funny to say, but it feels like magic, the way the performers quickly erect monuments within existing ones. Each posed tableau holds just long enough to leave its residue on our retinas: psychic imagery superimposed as an act of maintenance, the upkeep of things, the revision of images.
The image-making continues to our last stop, the plinthed Charles Tennant, a man whose chemical-industrial chimneys claimed swathes of Glasgow sky. A stone representation reclines on an armchair, legs out, knees and toes stretched down to our performers who have rolled up their skirts, manspreading on the cold step. It’s comic and serious, this gendered image-making, this reclaiming. We watch as three small bottles (three little pricks) spout talcum powder. It’s at this point we see the tombstones are no less phallic than the pluming brick cloud-makers, the pointy stone glory-chambers. They’re all monuments to this industry and economy of death, an alphabet of bizarre rituals that we frustratedly parse through our inheritance because we can’t speak the pre-industrial language necessary to truly understand it. It’s in these metaphors that NOT DEAD YET finds a fracture, and wiggles.
NOT DEAD YET. XSexcentenary. Performances at Glasgow Necropolis on 22, 29 April and 6 May, all 2-4PM
Gordon Douglas works in close conversation with organisations and groups towards deconstructing the acts of collaboration and performance. He is a performance artist and curator currently based in Glasgow.