Alex Hetherington is best known for his interactive work ‘glasgowland’ 2003, commissioned by and transmitted on Channel 4. It was originally shown as a video projection in Glasgow, later as an installation in Salina, Kansas and then at screenings in film and new media festivals in Los Angeles, São Paulo, London, Leeds, Bradford, Edinburgh, Hull and recently at Trampoline in Nottingham. Projects in development include a theatre work for the Edinburgh International Festival and a series of web-based digital short films, ‘theantimattersalon’. Future presentations include a group publication in Baltimore, a cell-phone project in Finland and participation in the Sparky Show in New York. Hetherington is currently working with five other artists on a residency in South Lanarkshire.
No resemblance to something functional . . .
‘Goya Vs Yoko Ono’ consists of a still image and text published in Map magazine, as well as an interactive map, two still images, and a text, all published on the web. This cycle of work locates, in different places, contexts and formats, ideas about maps, mapping, directions and geographic activities. How do I get to my nearest discotheque? Where is ‘Zobop’ showing now? Can I have a one-way ticket to Kurt Cobain?
The interactive map, combining video, graphics, texts and animation, uses an altered global graphic with links to several cities. The cities link to a list of visual artists, all of whom have a relationship to Scotland. There is an implied association between the city and the artists named: this is sometimes an absolute connection, but mainly it’s loose and non-defined. The artists’ names generate random texts that create a description of the world and set up tensions between recognition, personal histories and meanings. The graphic elements change depending on the artist and the city; these graphics recode the city and the artist. The graphics are fluid, inconsistent, colourful, craft-led, haphazard, beautiful. Together, the text and the graphics create a part imagined, part real, Scottish art narrative.
This is not a Scottish artists’ Who’s Who . The names are simply artists whose work I know. But I hope to imply a kind of ‘curated’ and relocated dimension to their listing; ‘Crack is Wack’ in Los Angeles; ‘Ideal Standard Summertime’ in Tokyo; ‘My Father is the Wise Man of The Village’ in Krakow; ‘Lovecraft’ in space.
The project is a sort of competition: ‘Goya Vs Yoko Ono’. Central to the competition are representations of the world, mapped into different world/art theories with artists and individuals mapped into these. This is the Ono element, essentially summarised by her statement, ‘Art is a Means for Survival’. The Goya part, summarised by his statement, ‘Because of Having Discovered the Movement of the Earth’, is the desire for navigation and creating a world image.
Further tension emerges by placing the artists’ names alongside ways we move about in the world now. Graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister also links the themes and embodies some of the tensions. He created a poster that was etched onto his skin using a razor blade.
X-rays of my skeleton appear throughout, and include scrimshaw, the carving of whale ivory by sailors killing time while on board ship. Wanting to map inwardly, I looked at the artist Christine Borland’s ‘5 Set Conversation Pieces’, which uses scrimshaw as a reference point.
The still images on the web are: the skeleton of a bat, also featuring scrimshaw and the Goya drawing ‘The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters’, and a drawing of Yoko Ono in a dream, a conceptual depiction and a dream depiction, a psychological world view and subconscious world view. The Goya text highlights the word Disco from within ‘Because of Having Discovered the Movement of the Earth’ because I remember cities from the nightclubs I’ve been to.
The graphic on the interactive map symbolises Glasgow and by extension Scotland and is used as an animation, moving across the screen and representing the movement of artists outward. The graphic is like a collective multi-coloured brain splitting, transforming, navigating, disappearing.
The politics of this map are pixel-induced Tippex; the cities mentioned have political, cultural or wealth enticing systems that permit the emergence of visual arts scenes; they are mentioned specifically for unspecified reasons. Some of these reasons may be because Scottish artists have shown or live there, or maybe because you can purchase Chloé in women’s boutiques, or ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ went to Number One, or Ono is collected by museums, or cheap fake cigarettes are imported/exported, or cities with discotheques burned down for insurance purposes, or ‘East or West, Home is Best’ is immediately understood, or Marc Jacobs owns apartments, or US and UK consulates have been rebuilt with plasticine fencing.