Tag Archives: Scotland


25 Apr



I’m seriously tardy because the event in question was several months ago, but SEVERAL MONTHS AGO I was invited to the artist-run Generator Projects in Dundee to talk about a-n’s Paying Artists campaign, which I have worked on over the past year or so. Generator paid me, by the way. Not very much, but proportionately more than some places have paid me when they could afford to do better. QED. In keeping with my observations about this subject over the course of many years finally, at long last, being on the agenda of artists and the organisations that work with them, the room was completely full and it didn’t take long for almost everybody to have something (often many things) to say on the subject. The conversation also bore out the same things that I and other people advocating for fair pay– or in some cases, any pay at all– have heard repeatedly when it comes to artists describing their experiences of publicly funded or otherwise not short of money institutions forming relationships with them. Generator itself is an example of how much artist-led, mostly volunteer, low-to-no-budget groups do and how important they are to the arts ecosystem in Britain, and with no prompting from me whatsoever conclusion one was:

Exactly… look how much artist-led, low-to-no-budget groups do without funding, FFS. There’s no excuse for larger and better funded galleries, museums or commissioners with full-time employees not to do at least as well in providing opportunities and support for large numbers of artists. Most of them don’t. Alongside this we should also remember, though, that just because most artists don’t do it for the money it doesn’t mean they should do it without any money. There’s a huge value in grassroots peer support (and in fact I’m putting together an experiment along those lines now) but the discussion in Dundee and a-n’s other national consultations have revealed a fairly firm consensus that small, self-organised and artist-led groups should not be held to the same standards as a formal organisation, nor should they be expected to compete with these organisations for funding and other resources. They also shouldn’t be pressured to take up the slack left by locally and nationally funded organisations not facing up to their responsibilities.

On the contrary, a number of people voiced another widely held view among artists: the large flagship institutions that grew up around the UK over the past fifteen years or so– often as Millennium projects, or as part of a regeneration agenda– could and should be acting as umbrellas for smaller organisations (and non-organisations). Self-organised groups of artists, and grassroots projects trying to revive dead buildings or moribund high streets don’t have PR people, administrators or technicians sitting around flicking themselves off in brand new custom-built offices, but the capital and regional flagship galleries do. I know from firsthand experience that people who work for small and barely funded non-building-based arts organisations all work their arses off, just as I also know from firsthand experience that some of their overpaid counterparts in the largest and most prestigious organisations wouldn’t know what hard work was if it hit them in the face. This is particularly galling when some of them offer “free publicity” or something similar as if it’s a fair substitute for not being paid. Why can’t they offer this PR and admin support unconditionally, say one day a week, since everyone knows it’s spare capacity anyway? And why don’t the likes of the Arts Council or Creative Scotland make it a condition of their funding that they do? This is, after all, the ostensible logic behind these big, purpose built arts hubs being built and supported in the first place: that they act as beacons for art going and art making in their vicinity. Again, they mostly don’t. This is especially cogent now, because to get Grants for the Arts funding, individual artists, Community Interest Companies and unincorporated arts groups are all now having to compete (unpaid, of course) not only with libraries and museums but also with huge commissioners or public galleries, all of whom have full-time staff.

At this point we started getting utopian and discussing the notion of artists just fucking it all off and simply seeking their validation and their connections with people outside of all these institutions. Cooperatives, mutuals, free love communes, etc. Actually we didn’t talk about free love communes, but I think we probably would have done if we’d been there longer.

Then we went back to misery a bit when we talked about unions and the remarkable fact that after many years of existence the Scottish Artists Union currently rejoices in having about a thousand members. I was a member when I lived in Scotland, and good for SAU, but that’s a shockingly low number of artists for a nation of 5 million people or so. Obviously they’re not all artists, but it’s still not a great number of members and therefore one major benefit of unionisation– collective bargaining– is hardly a factor. I likewise wish the newly formed artists’ union in England all the best in their endeavours, but it doesn’t bode well that they seem to be having so much trouble with recruitment. I can’t help thinking that old school unions have probably had their day anyway, because we need much more nimble, responsive and unignorable means of organising resistance and change if we really want it. Less Jeremy Corbyn, more Anonymous or Occupy.



7 Aug



  1. Four 22 year olds who graduated from Cambridge and Footlights last year, with Tory hair, brand new iPhones, and tiny, very tight trousers they can only pull about halfway towards their crotches. What’s their show about? Doesn’t matter! They’ll have a series on the BBC and be in every weekend supplement within twelve months anyway. Tough shit, peasant. Just give up now!
  2. A version of a classic play you hated because you were forced to study it at school, that a theatre company tries to trick you into liking by “reinventing” it as funny, contemporary, etc. Failing that, it will be exactly the same as any other production except for no good reason it’s in New Guinea pidgin, Mandarin Chinese, Esperanto, or some other language few people in the audience are likely to understand! None of the actors are being paid but one night the director will buy them all chips and two battered sausages from a chip shop near the shockingly overpriced flat in Wester Hailes they rented from an opportunistic local!
  3. Something shocking and controversial about a shocking, controversial subject that has never been broached in drama or art LIKE EVER, such as war, abortion, and so forth! None of the actors are being paid!
  4. A comedian angling for a seat on a shitty comedy panel TV programme, who doesn’t really give a toss about the audience except for when they give him or her an opportunity to use one of their pre-written putdowns or heckler-stoppers! Or some high concept standup by a still quite young but totally raddled comedian who already has or used to have a TV show on the BBC or Channel 4, but nobody watches it!
  5. Performance artist who is reducing herself or himself to penury before your very eyes just to be there in the hope of getting some kind of big break, even though you don’t know it and wouldn’t care if you did know! She or he is not only not being paid, but also accumulating more debt by the minute! So are 95% of the other performers and directors in Fringe shows!
  6. Clown, acrobatic or mime show with edgy, urban marketing to make you think it isn’t just a circus act! Surprise! It’s a circus act! JokerMimes
  7. Massive production that shouldn’t really be on the fringe but is good for PR and a loss leader for all the other crap that hardly anybody will bother seeing! The actors are being paid slightly less than Equity minimum! One of them has played a hospital patient in Holby City!
  8. Show that only people who work in theatre and/or the media care about or understand. No civilians present or wanted! The performers don’t need to be paid because their partners have proper jobs, most likely proper jobs in theatre or the media!
  9. Recycled touring show from five years ago by a dead-eyed, palpably bored and burnt out theatre company, none of whom are being paid!
  10. One man show about something geeky like Star Wars or Game of Thrones, with a punning title and a poster upon which the one man takes what will probably be his only opportunity to dress up as Princess Leia or whoever! He thinks he’s going to be paid, but he isn’t!


6 Jan

It’s like the BBC when they just want to pack work in for the holidays and go skiing but they’re officially still at work so they do tons of lazy Top 10s and clip compilations, except mine doesn’t have a panda included as one of its “women of the year”. Here are the most read Career Suicide posts from 2011. These will differ a bit from the top posts in the right-hand menu, because those ones update dynamically every day and take into account things that have been published more recently. The top five below have been calculated over the whole year.

Sorry, I don’t know why I told you that. Even I got bored and started to glaze over.

  • #1 THE DEADLY CURATOR  In which I use Peter Brook and William Shakespeare to castigate curators who seem intent on deliberately presenting exhibitions that nobody but a Ph.D. researcher would enjoy. Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with Ph.D. researchers… but most people in the world are not in fact Ph.D. researchers.
  • #2 ENGLISH, MOTHERF- -KER, DO YOU SPEAK IT? In which I mark one of Sorcha Dallas gallery’s press releases for content, grammar and comprehension like an English teacher. Spoiler: F- -, see me after the lesson.
  • #3 FOR WANT OF A NAIL (IN PRAISE OF ARTSWAY) “Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries.”
  • #4 BRITISH ART SHOW 7: IN THE DAYS OF THE COMET Although they mostly did it in secret for fear of being blackballed, a lot of people really hated this exhibition. I hated it in public.
  • #5 TACITA DEAN: FILM This article was really popular. Obviously Tacita Dean is… not so popular.


26 Sep

To be completely frank, although some of my best friends are Welsh and they have such lovely teeth and a natural sense of rhythm and excel at running and everything, their culture is so vibrant etc., Wales’ pavilion is in an out-of-the way and nigh impossible to find cluster consisting of itself, Bangladesh and Iraq. Therefore I couldn’t be bothered to waste my time in tracking it down. Is some big cheese at the Biennale sending a passive-aggressive message by exiling these strife-torn and dysfunctional countries to the Venetian equivalent of Siberia? Only joking, of course: Bangladesh is hardly dysfunctional at all.

I’ll also be honest and say that I walked past Karla Black’s effort for the Scottish pavilion by chance. I went in with an unseemly glee, almost wringing my hands and swishing my cape like a melodrama villain. I fully intended to hate it and knew I would write a load of nasty shit about it because I already know that I loathe her work vehemently. You won’t catch anybody admitting to that in Art Monthly or The Guardian… even though every reviewer, writer or critic does precisely the same thing sometimes. She’s yet another repeat offender from the British Art Show and clearly another flavour of the month, or more accurately “oppressive soapy stink of the month”.

Did you think I was going to announce a dramatic change of heart when confronted with the shattering beauty of Karla Black’s sculptures “rooted in Kleinian analysis”? Sorry, Nimrod. This exhibition was shit and it made me angry. Continue reading


17 Apr

A new nadir of art world bullshit has been achieved. An informant who shall remain nameless sent on this invitation  (quoted below in blue) to the private view of a new exhibition at Glasgow’s Sorcha Dallas gallery. My annotations are in black. The informant sought my guidance and wondered what any of it might mean.  I don’t blame them for being confused and possibly even fearing the onset of some quasi-dyslexic neurological disorder or senile dementia. “Am I losing my mind?” one might think. “Am I losing the ability to read? Will I soon be unable to see any text as anything but an incomprehensible non sequitur jumble full of phrases that are grammatically and  lexically correct yet meaningless?” Fear not, readers, a small chunk of your brain didn’t just die: I don’t understand the majority of what’s written here and the person who wrote it definitely doesn’t. Whether it was the artist or somebody at the gallery, whoever wrote the text below should be ashamed of themselves if English is their first, second, third or fourth language.

“Sorcha Dallas is pleased to announce the second show in the gallery by the Glasgow-based artist Rob Churm. This exhibition brings together new drawings and etchings with Churm’s first wall drawing in situ. The exhibition title, ‘The Exhaustion Hook’, means exactly what the words say, an instance of collapse to an oblique point of fact, a known feeling. Churm explains further, “The hook looks like a lemniscate but it feels like a ball bearing.” It is in the gap between these understandings and their relentless riffing, where Churm’s drawings take shape and its narratives unfold.” Continue reading

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