Wednesday, 17 April 2013

The 1990 TSWA Four Cities Projects in Glasgow and the proposals that never materialised

It's been a while since I randomly picked out a box to pour through its contents and so this entry will be devoted to box TE/102 which includes the last content of the archives in 1990.

The box contains logistics and correspondence for proposals for the Glasgow side of the TSWA Four Cities Project, which is an apt subject for those students who are vying for spaces for a final degree show, and both the Glasgow International Festival and the Commonwealth Games are on many people's minds.

The archives provide a look at the volume of preparation and bureaucracy that goes into getting everything ready which rely on the proposals as a form of proof that the artist will be able to deliver, especially with a lot of money on the line and the declaration that the effort is meant to redefine public art as we know it.

The mockup for signs that would have been placed around works being installed.
(Images courtesy of the CCA and the Third Eye Centre Archives)


In a letter from Euan McArthur (the Glasgow Organizer) to Mr. McInnes (The Scottish Development Dept.)

"Before describing the proposals, however, I should explain that the TSWA Four Cities Project is a visual art project involving international and British artists, the largest of its kind held to date in the U.K., which wil be staged during September and October of this year. The four cities in question are Glasgow, Derry, Newcastle, and Plymouth. In each of these cities, several artists will make temporary works for specific non-gallery places, in response to social, cultural and historical factors as well as to the formal qualities of each..."
"The proposal for John St., has been received from the artist, Cildo Meireles. He wishes to construct a 'council house' within the precinct formed by the arches, essentially to bring 'the periphery' into the centre and to articulate the complex interconnections of poverty, wealth, power and responsibility, specifically focussed on issues of housing and planning in the city. The proposal does not involve touching the fabric of the buildings, but clearly, because in part the meaning of the work lies in the contrast between the architecture of the site and of the 'house', for the period of its installation it will affect how the listed buildings are seen."

(This work ended up being blocked and Cildo Meireles' response was then published as part of the catalog)


1. Invited to make a project in Glasgow by TSWA, I made a proposal for the space between the two arches on John Street between the City Chambers and the Burgh Court. I proposed to build a council house in this space. The project was concerned with the idea of centre and periphery, and with the idea of the model and multiplicity 
2. A few weeks before the project was due to be constructed, I was informed that Glasgow District Council had refused permission for its realisation. They did not explain why. 
3. As I knew their refusal was not motivated by aesthetic reasons, I then proposed a revised project. 
A very small model of the council house was to be suspended on a golden string. Its installation would cause no damage to the adjacent buildings. It would cause no obstruction to traffic or pedestrians. It presented no technical problems. At the same time, I suggested another site for the original project. The District Council refused both proposals. Again they did not explain why. 
4. So - 
It was not refused for aesthetic reasons.
It was not refused for budgetary reasons.
It was not refused for technical reasons.
It was refused for some other "obscure" reason. 
5. The function of a work of art is to cast some light on this kind of obscurity, to try and talk through this conspiracy of silence. 
I myself consider that censuring the word censorship is the strange way that Glasgow District Council found to celebrate the freedom of expression in the Cultural Capital of Europe 1990. 
- from Cildo Meireles, Sept 7th 1990 
This is a page listing all of the spaces that the Third Eye Centre had compiled to consider and gauge the plausibility of artists working with that site.
(Images courtesy of the CCA and the Third Eye Centre Archives)


Euan McArthur's original introductory letter continues

"In the case of the Kibble Palace, the artist Richard Wilson has made a proposal which involves constructing a metal and glass framework, similar in form to the structure of the Kibble Palace itself. It will be slightly curved, to play against the curve of the Palace itself and will span the space between the ground and the ceiling. It will be approximately 10ft. across at the base and about 12 to 18 inches deep, enclosing a hollow space. Where it touches the ceiling, the existing glass will be removed and new class, cut to fit the curve, will be fitted, the top remaining open to the outside atmosphere. The glazing bars of the Palace will not be touched. At ground level, it will penetrate the soil for about three feet. This will also be glazed and any pipes etc exposed will be enclosed within glass tubes. Thus, the structure will bring 'the outside', in the form of rain, condensation and perhaps lichen growth, into the controlled interior environment of the Palace, but without any contact between the two. Neither the building nor the collection will be exposed in any way. The structure will not rely on the Palace for support, but will be made self-supporting. The artist, who has long experience of similar projects, will reinstate the interior when the Project is finished."
Richard Wilson's project also was not realised:
"The location was on a pathway inside the Kibble Palace set between two plinthed sculptures called 'Australia' and 'New Zealand'... By resting onto and digging into the architecture and its foundations, where the building's industrial roots are exposed, the work would enlist the building as an active support rather than passive container. It was this aspect that perturbed representatives of the Conservation Section of GDC Planning Dept. Although the Curator of the gardens was keen to see the project proceed, and although technical drawings had been drawn up to the satisfaction of structural engineers, on 3 July 1990 the proposal was refused permission." - Richard Wilson 
Just the top page of Richard Wilson's proposal.
(Images courtesy of the CCA and the Third Eye Centre Archives)

The other artists whose works were realised include Stuart Brisley, Fischli and Weiss, Judith Barry, Rosemary Trockel, Kevin Rowbottom and JanetteEmery, whose work can all be found beautifully documented in the book New Works for Different Places, TSWA Four Cities Project: Derry, Glasgow, Newcastle, Plymouth produced after the project. This effort took place between the Glasgow Garden Festival and the City of Culture designation at a time where public art was being solicited to bring more attention to the city, but also being critiqued as needing to stake out it's own advancement beyond community art or activist art. It is particularly interesting how many of these proposals were formed compared to Ian Hamilton's  work. All of the artists were invited, they were proposed to fit the criteria of being temporary, they were submitted on time, with budgets, an initial explanation of why that particular site and various sketches.

To see how little information was sent by Finlay it is documented here: http://www.anewpath.org.uk/existing-artworks/3/details
(That site like many others, mistakenly says that the Third Eye Centre was renamed to be the CCA)

Other reactions were written at the time by Malcolm Dickson and Andrew Dixon:
http://archive.org/stream/VariantIssue81990/V8_All_djvu.txt
http://www.andrewgrahamdixon.com/archive/readArticle/714

As the tradition of submitting proposals continues, tip-toeing and crossing-fingers is still required for involving particularly unusual locations for conceptual works because there is no recourse if anyone in charge of a particular site doesn't find the work appropriate. The archives prove to be an interesting resource for reading unfiltered artist proposals, especially in the realm of experimental public work, and why they were selected or not. However, the actual matter of how to make every work a reality in its ultimate form would seem to be beyond the organisers, so too, it is beyond the archive.


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