architecture

A03: Connecting Glasgow

waiting, waiting, checking a timetable, live arrivals, expected departures, finding change, breaking a tenner, contactless if you’re lucky, line suspended, walking, running, slipping, wet from the rain, yellow triangles, beep of the doors, why do we not have an oyster card, the bus driver didn’t see me or did he, envy of lothian bus services, isn’t it nice taking the train home, fault on the line, no alcohol after nine, don’t get the subway on old firm sundays, might as well walk to the west end if you’re south, someone has puked upstairs, wish you would put headphones on, back of the bus mentality, pensioner seats, pensioners unsure of their feet, the bus either waits or it doesn’t, hands reaching out for poles, prams shuffling, can we fit another, wheelchair users politely declining a ride, I’ll wait for the next one, waiting, waiting again, two buses at once, stairs to stations, no lifts, access denied, all trains cancelled, the machine won’t take my coin, rub it on the machine, friction marks every machine, I don’t think the machine likes coins, short hop, long hop, honestly you decide, it’s all about confidence.


If you are a regular user or have ever had to use Glasgow’s public transport system, the chances are that you encountered a hurdle or two when doing so. Seemingly unlogical connections between different modes of transport, physical and/or psychological boundaries obstructing your travel from one part of the city to another or simply missing transport links in particular areas are only a few examples of the distress that comes with travelling through Scotland’s largest city (the population of the City of Glasgow and Greater Glasgow respectively reached just over 600,000 and 1.2 million in 2016). I mean, does anyone even consider travelling from the west end to the north of the city by public transport (just to name an example)? In this visual essay, we will step out of our visual art comfort zone and discuss the quality of Glasgow’s transport system, the impact it has on local communities and the economy and possible solutions to its problems.


Above: Map showing Glasgow’s different railway lines during the Victorian era.

Left: View onto the old Kelvinbridge train station from the south east.

Below: Aerial view onto the old St. Enoch train station.


When looking at train services we have to go back to the 19th century, when various railway corporations each built their own train lines through the Glasgow area, leaving the city with a relatively dense network (although not operated by one single authority) and a legacy of 61 Glasgow stations currently in use by Scotrail. Below we can see an overview of the existing network of railway lines. Despite the network being dense, a few of its aspects draw our attention:

  • There is no easy connection between Glasgow Central Station and Glasgow Queen Street Station and thus no direct link from the south to the north of the city.
  • Some of the new towns such as East Kilbride and Cumbernauld are missing links to neighbouring areas.
  • Glasgow Airport – an international terminal – only has a bus link to the city centre and not a train station and is therefore hard to travel to from the city’s outskirts and beyond.

A list of City of Glasgow train stations:
Alexandra Parade, Anderston, Anniesland, Argyle Street, Ashfield, Baillieston, Barnhill, Bellgrove, Bridgeton, Cambuslang, Cardonald, Carmyle,Carntyne, Cathcart, Charing Cross, Corkerhill, Croftfoot, Crookston, Crosshill,Crossmyloof, Dalmarnock, Drumchapel, Duke Street, Dumbreck, Easterhouse, Exhibition Centre, Garrowhill, Garscadden, Gilshochill, Glasgow Central, Glasgow Queen Street, High Street, Hillington East, Hillington West, Hyndland, Jordanhill, Kelvindale, Kennishead, King’s Park, Langside, Maryhill, Maxwell Park, Mosspark, Mount Florida, Mount Vernon, Muirend, Nitshill, Parkhead, Partick, Pollokshaws East, Pollokshaws West, Pollokshields East, Pollokshields West, Possilpark and Parkhouse, Priesthill & Darnley, Queens Park, Scotstounhill, Shawlands, Shettleston, Springburn, Summerston.

Solutions to some of the aforementioned problems could comprise of the following investments in new lines and line extensions:

  • Realising part of the Glasgow Crossrail proposal (link) by reinstating the eastern route which crosses the river at the Briggait, connecting southern routes to High Street station via Glasgow Cross.
  • A new railway line from Paisley to Jordanhill which includes a Glasgow Airport station, and which together with Crossrail would create new opportunities for several circular routes.
  • Extending the East Kilbride line east, connecting it to Hamilton, the east end of Glasgow and routes into the Scottish Borders.
  • Adding stations to change between different modes of transport more easily, for example a station at West Street subway station and reinstating the old Finnieston station (just north of Exhibition Centre station).

This would create many more options for train routes across the Glasgow area and even the potential for a service from Edinburgh to Glasgow Airport.

Where the train has a cross-regional function, the subway should mainly cover travel between central locations. The circular Glasgow Subway system, opened in 1896 as the world’s third ever underground system after London and Budapest, has unfortunately never been extended, despite numerous plans, suitable occasions, modernisation works and it currently pretty much being the only transport mode to accomodate functional and fast travel in central Glasgow. The line currently only connects the west end and south banks of the Clyde to the city centre.

West Street subway station, 1966

It’s hard to come up with workable extension plans for the subway if you bare in mind that the track width is uncommon, making it impossible to create branches coming directly off the existing line. Leaving the circular subway line aside, stepping back and objectively looking at what connections the city needs is a much better way of approaching the idea of what subway connections central Glasgow needs. One should be able to travel from south to north, e.g. from Queens Park to Maryhill, right across the city. Theoretically this would take the shape of a diamond when also taking travelling from north to west and-so-on into consideration. It would ideally look like this:

When taking the need for transfer stations and geographical locations of certain areas into account though, the diamond shape would end up looking more like this:

And when splitting the system into individual lines, suddenly the potential to connect a wide range of areas becomes clear.


“Cities are the powerhouses of the economy, concentrating 80% of world economic output and more than 50% of the world’s inhabitants. Whilst the social advantages of public transport are well known, the economic benefits, particularly for cities, are less well documented.

Efficient mobility in cities creates economic opportunities, enables trade, facilitates access to markets and services and makes efficient use of resources. As public transport forms the backbone of any efficient urban mobility system, adequate public transport provision helps make cities more dynamic and competitive as well as create more jobs.

Public transport is a major contributor to both national and local city economies through the diverse range of skilled, high-tech jobs that it offers directly. Public transport operators alone employ some 7.3 million people worldwide with authorities accounting for another 300,000 internationally. In many European cities, such as Brussels, Amsterdam, Barcelona and Paris, public transport operators are in fact the largest city employers.”

The International Association of Public Transport, 8 January 2015 (link)


Interview: Becca Thomas
Becca is a trained architect and Creative Director at Pidgin Perfect, a creative consultancy working internationally on a wide range of creative events, development programmes and placemaking projects.

As an architect, what is your general impression of Glasgow’s public transport system and the impact it has on the city’s dynamic?

“Public transport in Glasgow feels quite fragmented. Parts of the city are quite unreachable and psychological barriers are created even when there is a connection – e.g. when travelling east to west changing from the subway to a train. Different operators aren’t making it any easier, it’s more expensive to change from bus to train instead of consistently using the same mode of transport. I have seen, when working in particular areas in North and East Glasgow, people are genuinely concerned about being able to afford to travel. The city has massively different systems, each built for a different time and/or user. One major issue is the missing link between Queen St and Central Station, which is a typically Victorian legacy in terms of having different hubs and operators.
The main solution to some of these problems would be to integrate systems and have one ticket for different modes of transport. Improvements to the current networks should also facilitate less switching between modes.”

Do you see direct links between the local economy and public transport connections?

“Yes, in terms of both access to work and bringing people to the city (destinations). The subway is a positive example, but the only example of transport that serves a destination. The subway takes you to the west end and is useful for both people spending money and working.
A different kind of example are areas such as Mount Florida and Strathbungo. They don’t have great transport services but the community they have created is situated close by. This doesn’t work in many places though. Generally, people and businesses who don’t have good transport links won’t have people coming to them.”

What is your general impression of space and land use in Glasgow with regards to the built environment?

“Glasgow still has the highest percentage of vacant and derelict land in the UK. I believe 41% of Glasgow’s land still lies empty. Glasgow isn’t a dense city but that doesn’t mean it necessarily needs be filled up. The issue is more about architectural typologies. Victorian and Edwardian architecture have never been followed up by anything equally functional. Even chopped off tenements such as the ones dominating the Barras Market also count vacant space as the building doesn’t go up. Glasgow is fond of tearing down buildings and it has been for a long time. In the past, the M8 and M74 projects were quite damaging severances. The East End Regeneration Route will also create barriers and simply encompasses a link between 2 motorways instead of a functional service for the communities dissects. It doesn’t support footfall so doesn’t bring visitors and/or business.”

Would social cohesian between communities in Glasgow improve if the urban built environment would be structured differently?

“Yes it would, but these things are hard to test as only other cities can be watched to get ideas and every city works differently in terms of its history, context and location. The connection to industry, which is typical for Scotland, means in the past situations have been created in which areas of empty land – with no people using them – are separating communities. Tradeston is an example of this. In some areas like the Gorbals and Govan the focus has shifted to the local community so empty land and buildings are being repurposed there. The danger is that this cements the idea of the village, an isolated community. All communities should have the same spaces but should also be able to be accessed by other communities, for example being able to got to a library in a different area to find a book. These spaces are for meeting people from various communities, to learn and to spend time.”

If you would have to imagine your most improved version of Glasgow, what would it look like?

“A city that doesn’t rely on private vehicles and is much more connected. Glasgow is not a huge city and there is no need for car ownership to be at the level it sits now. I would love to see interesting use of the spaces we have and where things are planned on a human scale. Maintenance of green spaces and clarity about what is dead space and what isn’t are also things I would like to see. And finally mixed use transport – e.g. taking your bike on the train – and independent travel across all ages, abilities and age ranges.”

Is there an existing city which you think reflects the future of Glasgow?

“Bits of different cities can be found in Glasgow – which is also what points out the potential the city has. It contains elements from different cities in terms of being connected. London (same Victorian history) and Berlin (a variety of rail systems for different users such as U-bahn and S-bahn) are cities which currently have what Glasgow could have.”


S-bahn in Berlin

Taking bicycles on the train


Interview: Nick Wright
Nick Wright is a town planner, mediator and facilitator and is the founder of Nick Wright Planning.

As a planner, what is your general impression of Glasgow’s public transport system and the impact it has on the city’s dynamic?

“Glasgow has an excellent heavy rail facilities compared to other British cities outside London, although the tram/light rail systems developed in Manchester and Newcastle since the 1970s are good too. The network is mostly good, has excellent services and is relatively cheap compared to elsewhere in the UK. But inevitably certain bits of the city and conurbation miss out on rail connectivity – particularly 20th century expansion areas like Easterhouse, Castlemilk, Drumchapel, Pollok and Newton Mearns.”

“Many people rely on buses, but the privatised networks, lack of co-ordination and underinvestment mean that there are gaps in services and local networks (predominantly in the evenings), congestion in the city centre and sometimes poor quality hardware. SPT don’t seem to have the power, resources or desire (frankly I don’t know which) to get to grips with the problems. It means that buses are the cinderella of public transport: stigmatised, and not an attractive alternative to the car.”

“The subway is great if you happen to live near it. I guess generally, good public transport will be one factor amongst many in attracting investment (e.g. good connectivity will attract residents and businesses) whilst poor areas with poor public transport won’t receive that boost. Rich areas with poor public transport such as Newton Mearns don’t seem to suffer as much, because there’s higher car ownership.
Of course poor public transport means that it’s harder to get people out of their cars onto more sustainable modes of transport.”

What would you suggest should change to improve the situation?

“Generally, investment in better public transport will help to make places more accessible, particularly areas that suffer from poverty and multiple deprivation and where car ownership is too expensive for many. So better public transport will help people in those places (like the peripheral estates) access more opportunities provided it is affordable.”

What is your general Impression of space and land use in Glasgow with regards to the built environment?

“Huge question! Some parts of the city are very densely built up and it’s hard to find any spare land to do anything with (e.g. the West End), other parts have huge amounts of spare land (e.g. parts of the East End, Govan, Easterhouse). Spare land generally equates to an unattractive environment, which is not good for health, wellbeing, community life and economic development.”

Would social cohesian between communities in Glasgow improve if the urban built environment would be structured differently?

“Possibly. It depends how it was structured differently. Social cohesion could be worse if communities are inward looking and divided, but could be better if there are more connections between communities and reasons to travel between them. I completely agree with the need to do something with tracts of vacant and derelict land to close gaps (physically and socially) between communities. I don’t think that ‘doing something’ needs to be housing though. Allow me to explain why. For me, these areas of vacant and derelict land, like Tradeston, or chunks of the East End, or Ibrox, or many other examples, are really areas of underused land. They form barriers between communities. The key for me is to get them back into active or productive use. That might be lots of things such as community growing, allotments, greenspace or buildings for housing, community facilities or business use. I guess a good example is the skateboard park underneath the M74 viaduct between the South Side and the city centre: a piece of inactive, underused land that acts is a barrier to communities but could be a shared resource for them.”

“All this links to work that has been done on the ‘shrinking cities’ concept in US cities like Detroit and Youngstown, and East German cities – places that have too much land for their now reduced population. If you google around, there are lots of interesting examples of how underused/derelict land can be put into more active or productive use. Glasgow has started to do this with the Stalled Spaces scheme in recent years, but we could do a lot more with (a) more community capacity and (b) access to land.”

If you would have to imagine your most improved version of Glasgow, what would it look like?

“Less inequality, less derelict and vacant land, good access to education, jobs, recreation and opportunity wherever you live in the city. I would also like to see lots of people out and about on the street and in public spaces doing things.”

Is there an existing city which you think reflects the future of Glasgow?

“I can’t think of one actually. Glasgow’s unique!”

Writing

A02: Introductions

‘introductions’ was a text collaboratively written between artist Tako Taal and curator Seán Elder, on the occasion of “Habits of the Coexistent (1)” a project undertaken by Gordon Douglas with various institutions including: The NewBridge Project, Newcastle; Edinburgh College, Granton Campus; and Platform, Glasgow.

Taal and Elder’s contribution utilised a previous project undertaken collaboratively as a point of departure for discussing the intersections between friendship and collaborative practice in a creative context. Ideas of boundary, threshold and support are examined through the dual voices present.


I

INTRODUCTIONS

documenta introduced to kassel with garden
plants introduced to continents
artists introduced to each other
introduction as a means of understanding the curator ‘making someone known to another’ – Naming A point of reference – introduction – Societal coming out // the débutantes.


1st phone call February 2016
“Tako, I thought I’d introduce you via-cyberspace (rather than a crowded
living room on Hogmanay) to Gordon.” It began with an intentional introduction. Not of Tako to Gordon, or vice versa, but Tako to the ideas and thoughts on the projects in the very beginning of its naissance. A phone call following a brief period of research. Seán remarking on similarities and a vein of thought that reminded him of Tako’s previous work – speaking of language, dual- cultures, and the third. I remember speaking about picturesque space in gardens, the ability of landscape to frame views. With an introduction of knowledge to more knowledge, there becomes an array of possibilities and potential ways of relating to one another. Re-inscribing, superseding, disavowing, intersecting, expanding or marrying are a few verbs that might provide an understanding of what this introduction might result in. During the phone-call with Tako, there became a folding of knowledge. Creases and interiors and exteriors met one another in our conversation.

The untainted space of a formal introduction became necessary. This necessity itself we can thank the Academic InstitutionTM for. The first, previous, informal introduction had taken place in a room with flashing lights, spilt drinks and chewed gums. It was an introduction of two persons but this, second, official, formal introduction took place in the bright lights of a backlit computer screen in a group email. This second introduction was for means of understanding the working methods of these two persons. Their backgrounds. Their thoughts. Now formally introduced, contact details exchanged, we artists were free to communicate amongst
one another. Two became three, one retreats, creating a third.


II

🙂 thats good! shall we talk about it?

The entrance points to working were often audibly and visibly “signposted.” There was a definite split between friend-chat and work- chat. Points in conversation became clear as boundary markers. Walls and fences, once passed meant the discussion of something else. The transformation of the conversation from social to professional. Or at least friendly to creative.

EXITS

I might ask Tako for some fashion advice though.

The initial site of the project took place within emails. The distances between curator, artist and artist meant that a series of google docs, conversations, facebook messages and eventually whatsapp archives became the initial points of contact between the three collaborators on the project. Points of interaction between Aberdeen, Glasgow, Berlin, Newcastle and New York took place throughout the project. The project itself expanded from visits to Botanic gardens in these cities, and news of what was happening in each place during individuals’ visits.

The relationships between artist and curator, so often written on, were less important during this, than the relationship between friends acting as colleagues. The relations between each individual within the project became subject to flexibility, stretching, expansion. Official emails were accompanied by simultaneous messages in alternative platforms that were not for the eyes of the Academic Institution™.

Intentional introductions have been motivated by individuals or groups who either;

(1) believe that the newly introduced species will be in some way beneficial to humans in its new location.

(2) species are introduced intentionally but with no regard to the potential impact.
.


III

“I’m not supposed to tell you this (lol) but techNICALLY [redacted] dont need details till next weekend

Perhaps the actual work and how it is structured, between friends and between colleagues is inherently the same. It is a leaking of information that permeates the friend-colleague boundary that alters the relationship and thus the labour dynamic. Without both friendship and colleague relationships existing between the members of the project there would nothave been such a bizarre event taking place in the Botanic Gardens. A group of participants, documenting the garden through whatsapp. Encountering digital works on their mobile phones as they passed under
bridges and through arboretum, trees above, vaping from purple pens that lit when they met your mouth, with a deep intake of air. Sweet sickly smells of synthetic fruits and juice coming in great plumes from the group.

It might not have worked out that way if we hadn’t the excitement and fervour that can only come from being within a network of friendship.

From the beginning friendship was at the centre of the project. Our communication and the mediums through which we spoke formed the work made through our interactions. These initial communiqués were self-aware. Aware of and reaching towards a public beyond us three.

Go go Tako (Context: an infamous playlist on Tako’s itunes, Gordon)

In-jokes are an occurrence between friends. The between-ness is of central importance to understanding how language operates in this way. Within a micro-social setting of friendship, and in this essay, regarding the context of the art-project a rich bed of source material, references and context begin to form. There becomes allowances for the ways that language, word and phrase can be used by the participants within these conversations. This occurs in both formal and informal settings. The use of ‘Go go Tako’ (referring to a self-motivation playlist made by Tako and encountered by Seán whilst they were living together) sits in contrast to other examples we might see in academic discussions, such as the notion of the ‘Other’d’ an odd meme used in social theory to discuss race, class, gender and sexual bias.

Within an academic setting these words and phrases make themselves known through repetition, and this also happens within a group of friends. A project co-ordinated between friends makes it likely for several of these occurrences to take place across both informal and formal settings. Utilising the existing friendship as a point of departure, the additional labour and production associated with creative pursuits will emulate and recreate the forms, quirks, and patterns of the aforementioned existing friendship.


IV

The curatorial, as a set of specific processes, procedures and etiquettes still remains largely undefined. The notion of the curatorial as a philosophical or research-based extension or appendage to the act of exhibition-making having only emerged in the early 90s. An invitation such as this, described as a ‘research-based curatorial project’ allows itself to be malleable and moulded, through its self-recognition of its form, structure and ontology. Negotiating the terms of an artist/curator relationship is already something very much open to interpretation, but with the added thread of friendship running through, this territory becomes more fluid.

…although would be good coming from you seeing as we’re friends and all I’m biased xx

The relationship of friendship between two people does not detract from the exterior pressures of organisation, collectivisation and administration. The role of the curator in this exchange is often one seen as one of mediation and impartiality, and so the weight and difficulties of emotion in exchanges so common in friendship-processes take a back seat to stoicism.

Forms of regulating emotion in the workplace have been termed emotional labour. In the service industry workers are expected to appear happy regardless of their actual emotional state. This is for the benefit of strangers (the customer.) Amongst friends working together, emotions are managed or removed for the benefit of the project. This relationship between the individual and collectivism exists in the space of the production of their shared labour – the project, it being a new third existing from this process. What are the other unintended results of collaboration? Collaborations result in products (exhibition, performance, making) but the fall out, or ‘Angel’s Share’ of processes like these are rarely examined.


V

Friendship becomes an obstacle to working. In some-cases being too close to something renders a perceived inability to be impartial or critical. Negotiating the terms of criticism amongst friends is difficult at the best of times. Within the structure of a project with some intended artistic or creative outcome, it becomes about more than just a criticism. In an ongoing process of re-ascribing boundaries (one way to think of friendship), the possibility of creative potentiality further complicates these already-moving borders.

Friendships functioning outwith this creative mode often serve a number of functions with no recognised concrete output – consolation, support and understanding – despite their familiarities as hallmarks of such relationships. In the space of the art-project, these friendships become a partnership with a necessity for output. A creation of the new. The strain of this necessity (whether self-imposed or otherwise) leaks back to the processes unfolding within a friendship. Leaking back and forth, this strain can be both beneficial and detrimental, dependent on several factors including, but not limited to:

the success of these creative pursuits
the labour invested by individual parties for collective production
the temperaments of each party within social settings

This osmosis will repeat itself back and forth again between the colleague- processes and the friendship-processes.

Did we manage to remain good (as in supportive) whilst we were working together?

Was our long and layered friendship conducive to the
development of the project, or a hindrance

Would we have been as flexible with each other if we were not partaking in the project from the established seat of
friendship we share?


VI

AN INTRODUCTION, LEADS TO THE
CREATION OF A STRUCTURE; THE
CREATION OF A STRUCTURE ALLOWS
REGULATION SURROUNDING STRANGERS.

Tako Taal & Sean Elder, March 2017

Exhibition

A01: On John Samson at GoMA, Glasgow

Following a visit to the recent show of John Samson films at Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art, two members of Arkiv discussed their thoughts on the exhibition.

For the purposes of this article they will be known as A and B.
The conversation took place on Sunday, 5 February 2017 12:42.

A
For me, it was revolutionary in terms of GoMA programming.
I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall during the meetings of the curator showing – or perhaps not – articulating the content of the films to the Glasgow Life board.

B
Yes. From the moment I walked through those clandestine PVC strip curtains it felt like a very different show for GoMA.
I really want to know how those negotiations went.

A
Absolutely. At first I felt I was entering a fetish butchers and I was not far off.

B
It was so clandestine, pushing through the weight of those PVC curtains and then being faced with this purple-lit room dominated by these giant screens and monoliths. The first impression was a big one.

A
The low purple light made me feel at ease.
Sort of like you could easily slip in and out… like a sex shop? We went round the back of the shop a.k.a. the gallery.
In other respects, on entry it felt very ‘British’ – even though through much of the texts and material it’s very focused on the fact that he is a Scottish filmmaker working in London.
[Note: British – the accents through all films were varied dialects of English and the presence of manufacturing was reminiscent of an imagined feel of a British (Colonial) Industrial Revolution.]

B
You’re so right, it was so British. I found particularly in Dressing for Pleasure (1977) everyone talked so politely and properly. In Tattoo (1975) as well there was a real cordiality. The arrangement of the screens afforded us that opportunity too, to weave in and out. I guess like a sex shop, yes.

A
Yeah, the contrast between this Queen’s English or very well spoken Northerners that were so heavily featured versus the rubber and the leather was really something.
I felt very anonymous in there, which was nice, sometimes viewing film in a gallery is like viewing people viewing the film. Here you could do it secretly.

B
Like voyeurism? But not just of the films, of the space the films were shown in too. It’s that point of entry that’s difficult with places like sex shops. Or even my first few steps into a Gay bar. Once you make it in though, you’re back in this open space, with like-minded people. The anxiety of entering the space lifts.

A
Yeah totally, and conversely, moving out of the space through the rubber zapped you of all the energy from the space in a way, back to ‘Glasgow Life’-life.

B
Yes! And it was so interesting to see all the different people watching these films. I think the diversity of subject matter Samson tackled meant there was a lot for people to gauge within one show. There was a lot of emotions – titillation and excitement but relief, which was mentioned a lot in The Skin Horse and then, just genuine interest.

A
Yes, The Skin Horse (1983) for me is the stand out piece from Samson.
Which I guess popular culture agrees with too, it’s probably his most well-known and critically well-received piece?
That scene where the narrator talks about Tony Gerrard, the comedian in the wheelchair and talks about the audience’s laughing and how it is a laugh of relief…that goes deep.

B
His reflections on where the laughs were coming from – it wasn’t laughs at him, or disabilities, but the fact a disabled man in a wheelchair was joking about leaving tire marks on his girlfriend’s thighs. It was funny. But I was laughing out of relief too.
I also really was impressed by Samson’s sensitivity – all the members of The Outsiders Club represented themselves. Which even now is rare when you have people like Eddie Redmayne playing Stephen Hawking. 1
[Note: That club featured in the film offered chronically disabled people the opportunity to meet, socialise with and date other disabled people became the subject of a tabloid shame campaign.]

A
Which also makes me think of the disastrous film The Danish Girl. 2
The woman in the film who writes the letter and chooses to have a “proper” voice over…

B
Her choice to represent herself that way was … I don’t know.

A
It also does sort of relate to Hawking, that idea that someone has a whole life inside their head that can’t be expressed properly through their body. She had a letter, Hawking has a computer. She was wonderful, I hope she found love.

B
It sounded like she was dating a guy from that party fairly regularly. But that reliance on others for that to happen – I hope it worked out for her. Those alternative forms of expressions seemed to speak of similar things to the other films, the wider programme.

A
Yeah completely, the rubber, the tattoos…
All social signifiers of an identity.

B
Yes.

A
The 3 sexes was also something we touched on briefly on Friday.
How does that relate to the present day notions of ‘other’? How would you classify the 3rd sex now if you couldn’t use the word disabled? That question is maybe a bit unclear…I was thinking that everything that doesn’t apply into a neat category is now ‘other’ or ‘prefer not to say’.

B
Yes, the notion that the Narrator brought up – there is male, female and disabled.
But I guess within the disabled community, there’s this diversity of people and abilities, and instead of they themselves creating that group, it’s able-bodied people that have always done that.

A
Yeah, the outwardly able/privileged classify everything in sight to be able to stand apart and maintain said privileges, as with all forms of oppression.

B
I found when he was speaking about them not being in control of their own bodies, and them being either fetishised or infantilised spoke of a whole lots of struggles – the women’s rights movement, access to abortion etc, and then the never-ending obsession with Trans peoples genitalia by Cisgendered people. But in this instance it was a disabled person representing disabled people, so it’s important not to detract from that.

A
Yeah, absolutely. I wonder what he asked John Samson about in relation to him wanting to make this work.

B
Even now I’m wondering what he’d think of two able-bodied people writing about the film. He’d probably ask us some very difficult questions. And I think boiling the film down to it being amazing and interesting is part of the problematics of it all (even though that’s how I felt). For the people in this film- their living with disability isn’t an amazing interesting thing, it’s a lived reality.
And yet they were all so incredibly impressive.

A
Yeah the viewing itself makes us complicit and they were, anyone able to give themselves over with such vulnerability and strength on film should be applauded.
For me, with The Skin Horse it was a shame that the main (big) piece Dressing for Pleasure was encroaching audibly on it. I love the piece of music at the end of Dressing for Pleasure – my dad would call it prog rock probably – but yeah, it ruined the audio/transfixing state you achieve in The Skin Horse.

B
Yes, every now and then you’d here some Londoner talking about their rubber gimp mask in between shots.

A
[Laughs] Yes.

B
I think that was a shame, but having all the films with headphones would have made the gallery space a bit eerily silent. That prog rock soundtrack really gave the room some life. Although every time I’ve been in to see this show it’s been busy with people – there’s an energy in the space.

A
It’s definitely a tough spot in terms of curating and yes, I’ve been 3 times now and I’ve never been alone, which I can’t say for other GoMA shows I have visited previously. I do think the way the space was laid out meant none of the films interacted/interrupted (depending how you see it) with each other, each one was given the space it needed.
I also liked the banners, but then again was a bit confused to the aim of them? – on a side note: I would have liked to buy a print of them though.

B
Yeah, I think they were another spectacle – I liked them a lot and their placement along the blacked-out windows was great. They seemed to serve a similar function to the text and interviews along the back of the big chipboard monoliths.

A
Yeah it tied together a lot of Samson’s materials in a more abstract way, layers of his interests.
The smiley, I wonder though, where did it come from?

B
I’m not sure, it just reminded me of ecstasy and the 90s.

A
Yes absolutely and reminded me of [redacted], he would have leggings with them.
Speaking of the 90s, I can totally imagine the Trainspotting cast going to see this and being like “art is alright eh?”

B
Yes.
If I saw Ewan McGregor’s Renton watching Dressing For Pleasure I’d probably find a good spot where I could see both the film and him.
[laughs]

A
[laughs]

B
Dressing for Pleasure had a great host of characters though – I think the two old women talking about making the outfits, and the requests they get were really reassuring in their response to the crowd they found themselves catering for.

A
The fashion show of the different coloured rubber clothing. It made me want rubber, the creaking sound from bending/moving…so ASMR. 3

B
It made me wish I could afford rubber.
Yes, every stretch and turn. And I think the women discussing being on the train in her gear was Jordan Mooney. It wasn’t until I was watching Derek Jarman’s Sebastiane (1976) that I realised the woman in the background was the same one. She was a kind of poster girl for Punk and whenever she wasn’t in London she was hanging out with Warhol at the factory. 4

A
Also interesting… in the context of the 50 Shades of Grey books…5
I wonder if any fans of the book also came to see this, which kind of goes back to our discussion of the politeness of everyone in the film…tip toeing around the exhibition. I heard no creaking of rubber amongst the GoMA audience.

B
I feel like people who read 50 Shades of Grey are very ignorant of leather and fetish culture.

A
Yes.
But they have fantasies that are perhaps impeded by this idea it’s wrong? And so the fantasy is not explored well, to its full potential? Stifled by badly written erotica, as opposed to this accessible normalisation of that fetish world.

B
The politeness is often disarming. I’ve found that myself when being in fetish club nights – it’s not the Christian Greys of the world waiting to tug your inner Goddess’ pubic hair or whatever.
There’s a real etiquette within the fetish scene and in the film the etiquette went beyond the people wearing the rubber and all the way to the people making it. They spoke of it with such respect and no judgement on their customers.

A
Yeah there was a real bond and understanding.

B
Bond…[laughs]

A
A real bondage.

B
When they were talking about the agoraphobic girl and how wearing rubber made her feel safe it was really jarring to think of rubber NOT as a sexual thing but as something practical and nourishing.

A
That felt bizarre to me at first and then I thought; darkness, warmth, sweat, – a womb – another skin, another body around you, safety.

B
I find the whole discussion around S&M so interesting – and I guess in a way I’m very lucky that it can just be ‘interesting’ to me. But Radical Feminism denounces it – which I disagree with, whereas Liberal feminism thinks whatever a woman chooses to do is 10/10 great – which I also disagree with because the way society influences your opinions and development can change the way you make choices. I know that as a Queer person. But I find that to discuss S&M’s problems within a male/female dynamic just tends to erase the fact that it emerged from Queer communities.

A
Yeah, for me, it’s hard to know whether anything I decide to do for myself is for men (read: society) or really for myself…in a way the water is so muddied now and I haven’t made up my mind. I definitely feel that I dress less feminine (in the normative sense) to push away anything that might resemble a play towards attracting that version of a hetero man because that really makes me feel uncomfortable…on a very daily basis. I like to think I dress for myself but inherently by being a woman, I never feel I have full ownership of my body. And if I wanted to dress in rubber it would be for myself as well.

B
It is difficult – a lot of them time I find myself trying to work out what situation calls for more or less makeup, really I shouldn’t give a shit though, but then the captivating thing about the people in this film was that it was a pretty solitary thing even if it operates within this community.

A
Yeah that internal conversation about what to/not to wear is hard, because it gets us/you/me into trouble.

B
In relation to the rubber, perhaps it might become something that you would invite a loved one into seeing – although of course there is the sexual aspect – but I think i was more interested in the emotional aspect of it.

A
Yeah, but maybe not, maybe I’ll masturbate and wear a rubber stocking one day.

B
Maybe you will. And hear the creaking of the rubber.

A
In a way sex drifted in and out of the film, but the human connection was always present, be it to themselves or to each other.
Also interesting to see the assimilation of rubber into popular culture, for example Katy Perry, Beyonce, Nicki Minaj, Lady Gaga amongst others.
“First come the gays, then the girls, then…the industry” 6

B
Yeah, and I wonder how many of these women have gay men dressing them?
It’s part of why female models tend to be so skinny and boyish. It’s gay men that have monopolized the fashion industry, which is a problem in itself – gay men and old women.

A
Here are Katy’s many, many, many rubber dresses in the same silhouette. 7
Also, question, why do they call it latex rather than rubber? – Is that to minimise the ‘fetish’ element?

B
I’m not sure I’d never thought of it.
Is one the brand name? Does it being a brand name maybe make it less sexy? Americans do that with everything though – they don’t have tissues, they have Kleenex and so on.

A
I think it’s a pretty general term, used in Drag as well.
It might be a slight difference in thickness? But I’m no expert, latex is perhaps a different formulation to rubber?

B
I am so clueless about Drag Culture from the 90s onwards. You and [redacted] might have to educate me.

A
We might have to, although, it’s not without its own problems in terms of transphobic and misogynistic behaviours.
Although I think the new season [of RuPaul’s Drag Race] has a trans woman in the cast, it will be interesting to see how the producers handle that…8

 

1) Hawking (film)
http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/features/eddie-redmayne-on-the-theory-of-everything-stephen-hawking-and-disability-in-film-9948955.html
2) Problems with The Danish Girl
http://www.indiewire.com/2015/12/regressive-reductive-and-harmful-a-trans-womans-take-on-tom-hoopers-embarrassing-danish-girl-213499/
3) What is ASMR?
https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/12/how-to-have-a-brain-orgasm/282356/
4) Jordan Mooney
http://www.dazeddigital.com/fashion/article/32470/1/a-rare-interview-with-jordan-punk-s-enigmatic-frontwoman
5) 50 shades of hmmm
http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/fifty-shades-grey-a-dominatrixs-773577
6) Sex And The City season 6, episode 6
Samantha Jones’ peptalk to her Absolut Hunk
7) Katy Perry in rubber
https://www.google.com/search?q=katy+perry+rubber+dresses
8) RuPaul is still problematic
http://www.pride.com/firstperson/2016/4/07/no-matter-how-much-you-rupauls-drag-race-its-still-problematic