Thursday, 20 December 2012

Visit to Nitshill - Glasgow Museums Resource Centre (GMRC)

Hello again,

Within the last couple of weeks before the coming festive holiday I have been continuing with the cataloguing of Cordelia and George Oliver's articles and photographs, along with some personal research into the period. Besides this the volunteers of the project had, and took, the opportunity to go on a field trip!

Within the past week both the volunteer archive assistants and researchers paid a visit to the Glasgow Museums Resource Centre (GMRC) at Nitshill. I can honestly say, I was astonished by the scale of the available resources and goals of this facility. To give you a little background; the GMRC is a purpose-built facility that stores materials and artefacts owned by Glasgow when they are not on display in any of the City's museums or galleries. As we were repeatedly informed by our lovely tour guide, that is a million-or-so objects conveniently stored in one space, ranging from: an armoury of medieval weapons, paintings, animals suffering from taxidermy, stone monuments, to fish-shaped coffins. Impressively, this facility is not only built to store these artefacts but to make them publicly accessible; providing eager support to researchers and to anyone showing an interest in any of the materials or their backgrounds.

Photo courtesy of the Glasgow Museums Resource Centre

( please follow this link for more information on the GMRC, including the learning opportunities for children and schools, its collection and how to get in touch if you wish to pursue this further).

This made viewing the materials particularly interesting on the tour as we could see how the storage was designed to facilite this with the best example probably being how the paintings were stored. If you imagine a shelf of CDs and how you might pull out each one to find the correct artist, and then replace those CDs with several warehouse sized walls which can be pulled out, and on which several paintings are hung, you will have some idea of what I mean. It is truly impressive how the facility is looking to accomodate public access to these materials, and is well worth a look if you have the time.

Besides this, the GMRC is currently in the process of cataloguing their own library, as well as the library materials of other museums in Glasgow (The Burrell, Transport Museum and Kelvingrove), which can be used to provide background into many of the objects stored there. Again this is open to the public, and you will find the head librarian incredibly helpful in providing information if there is anything you are particularly interested in.

I was also made aware of some of the attempts of the centre to digitise their materials. In particular, the tour guide highlighted the creation of an online resource which is attempting to photograph every painting in the GMRC's possession (an incredible undertaking). If you follow this link, you will be able to see some of their vast collection (3000 uploaded so far and counting).

Overall I found this an exceptionally interesting visit, and was delighted by how engaging the GMRC staff were. Their enthusiastic response to questions made them very approachable and a pleasure to deal with. If you have the time and inclination it is well worth a visit.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

My first time exploring an archive

Hello, this is Cedric Tai, one of the project research assistants and also I’m currently in the GSA’s Masters of Fine Arts program. I thought it would be nice to go into a little bit of why I’m volunteering as well as to show some of the items that popped out from my immersion in the Third Eye Centre archive. 

Image credit: Rowan Gallery, London 1971, John Web Photography, Surrey c. 1971
Image is courtesy of the Third Eye Centre/CCA
This photo for example is an interesting example of what tends to catch your eye, actual works of art hidden between expense reports and correspondence letters. In this case, darkroom developed photographs used to serve as promotional material; this is documentation of the piece “On the Shelf”, 1970. Glass, metal, water by Michael Craig-Martin.

Originally from Detroit, I committed myself to a heavy involvement within the arts community there. Perhaps it was in a reciprocal way to thank all the people that have supported my own artistic development. One of the first reasons I am interested in this archival project is to possibly follow the idea of Glasgow as a good case study for Detroit’s art scene noting the strategic development and grassroots efforts.

Sarah Lowndes mentions Detroit in her book Social Sculpture: The Rise of the Glasgow Art Scene a couple times. She quotes John Sinclair, manager of the MC5, as well as Kevin Saunderson lamenting an unsupported cultural scene in their times. In 2010, the directors of two of the largest spaces for contemporary art, MOCAD in Detroit and Tramway in Glasgow, came together to chat about similarities between the community-driven art scenes. David Byrne also notes the connection on his blog too.

The early days of the Third Eye Centre and Blythswood square reveal a search for a model as well, and the various brainstorming maps and doodles put one into the mind-set of a fresh endeavour with diversified ambitions. Perhaps this is also why within the small organization that certain people are covering so many different roles. 

The image is courtesy of the Third Eye Centre/CCA

I’ve also become involved because I want to develop research skills, and what better way than through real world, hands on involvement that has embedded within it implications for future researchers? 

So far I have been coming in every Wednesday and thinking about how both the Third Eye Centre and the archives within the school both provide a dynamic kind of accessibility. This can be understood in how the staff here are open to various interpretations and uses of the archive by the GSA students. Within the Third Eye archive it can be read in their reports of exhibitions such as The Garnett Hill Exhibition, Unemployment, and Art on the Dole. They provided a range of programming in which participation could inform their development from seminars to symposiums, workshops and even international trips to research community and public art.

The archive of the Third Eye Centre will impact the legacy of the art scene here in Glasgow, and it has already spurred some debates. What made it so accessible? Will this bring up any differences between the artist-led institution, the non-artist-led institutions and even in contrast to purposely not trying to create an institution in the first place?  

Considering that this archive like many others is just a skeleton, it’s apparent that perhaps rather than trying to produce research entirely within the archive itself, I will need to embark upon my own interviews to better fill in the references contained (or not) in the archive. I plan on posting musings and to highlight findings and perhaps this archive will seem in some way more accessible, where someone could feel quite comfortable perusing down a list of contents, and picking up where we leave off.


Actual Screenshot from my computer of the Third Eye Box List courtesy of the Third Eye Centre/CCA
 This is an image of what we look through right before we select a box. It can be a little disappointing if one just goes through the Timeline of the Third Eye Centre that Carrie Skinner has developed, because although it speaks to the richness of the programming over the years, that doesn’t necessarily mean the archive contains anything other than a reference that it happened, and even that is debatable.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Introducing Cordelia and George Oliver

Going through the articles by Cordelia Oliver, and photographs taken by George Oliver is proving to be a fascinating and enlightening experience. At the moment I am working through the articles by Cordelia that review exhibitions, performances, events etc. and I am beginning to get a feel for the person behind them. I can tell you, she does not pull her punches. The brilliant thing about them is the simple frank appraisal given without any kind of pandering or bias, seemingly to either friend or foe. It has already been mentioned that Cordelia played a key role in the set up of the Third Eye Centre and although I have not yet reached the year when the Centre opened (I am currently still in 1970), I am looking forward to seeing whether her reviews begin to reflect its approach.

For those interested, a good obituary for Cordelia can be found on The Guardian website here,
and on the Scotsman website here,

Some of the boxes I will be working my way through.
It is only recently that I have started looking at the photographs taken by George Oliver and there is much work to be done judging by these boxes. Fabulous hairstyles aside, these photos have already given me an insight into the unusual and diverse activities that took place at the Third Eye Centre. Below you will see one of the first photos I came across, the ribbon cutting at the opening of the Third Eye. Stay posted for more updates.

'The George and Cordelia Oliver Collection'

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Much has been done, but there is still much more to do

Things have been quite recently on the blog due to fervid activity on other outputs of the project, but today as I finished the indexing on box one hundred and three out of one hundred and three it felt like the right moment to reflect on some of the projects milestones and developments as we approach its halfway point in September.

What We Have Done, WhatWe are About to Do, opened just two weeks ago to a busy and curious crowd many of whom have been able to identify characters and events in the archive footage currently on display, helping us build on our research and understanding of the Third Eye Centre’s history.  While we make plans for a series of workshop days on various aspects of the archive as it relates to contemporary art to follow the exhibition, the artists occupying the Project Gallery are continuing to develop and add to their works in the space and we’re looking forward to some contributions to the blog from some of them soon.

September and October will bring a new team of helpful hands to assist the indexing of the George and Cordelia Oliver Collection at the Glasgow School of Art as well as the administrative, audio and visual archive material produced from 1990 onwards when the Third Eye Centre became the Centre for Contemporary Arts.

Much has been done, but there is still much more to do.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Visual Identity

Preparations continue this week for the forthcoming CCA exhibition ‘What We Have Done, What We Are about to Do’ with items being drawn out and earmarked as possible pieces for public display.  The aim of the exhibition is to provide a progress report on our research and the archival process rather than document a linear narrative of the activity at the Third Eye Centre in the 1970s.  We are therefore attempting to select items that may be agents for activating discussion around significant events and individuals and have a potential to deepen understandings of the background and motivations behind the setting up of the Third Eye Centre.

It is proving a challenge to consider which items will visually ‘work’ in a gallery context, whilst also providing interest and purpose beyond their aesthetic.  From the first Third Eye Centre logo and headed paper, hand drawn posters for poetry readings towards a new logo and rebranding in the late 1980s the development of the Third Eye Centre’s aesthetic language is illustrated through posters and ephemera. These items reflect not only the changing social tastes but the development of the Centre’s artistic direction, policies and staffing.

This poster from one of the Third Eye Centre’s first major project exhibitions with local community is an early example of this varied visual identity.

Image Credit: Third Eye/CCA archive

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Cordelia Oliver

Newspaper cuttings compiled by art citric and commentator Cordelia Oliver from her time writing for Manchester Guardian are proving an insightful source for our current research on the Third Eye Centre as well as providing useful background colour on the atmosphere of contemporary art culture spanning from the 1960’s to the 1980’s.

Image Credit: The George & Cordelia Oliver Collection at the Glasgow School of Art

Oliver played a key role in the set up and running of the Third Eye Centre as a member of the Directors Committee and active participant serving on the Third Eye Visual Arts Sub-Committee.  As a supporter of the centre she frequently wrote reviews of its programme, however not all necessarily full of praise as it seems she did not allow her proximity to cloud her judgement.  An extract here from an interview with founding Director Tom McGrath on his ambitions for the newly opened centre in 1975 is one particular prize for our research from this fastidiously complete yet personal collection of writing.

“When it set out on its new venture neither [Scottish Arts] Council nor Glasgow committee had any clear idea of how to shape the thing [Glasgow Art Centre].  So Tom McGrath has enjoyed the widest possible brief simply to make it work.  What does he have in mind for Third Eye, as it is now called?...’You ask what I mean to do at Third Eye? Everything I see that seems valid, ‘Put into Place and let it happen’: I think I’ll have that quotation put above the door.  The interesting thing is the coexistence of different cultures, even different approaches to the same culture.  At Blysthwood Square [previous site of Scottish Arts Council Glasgow Gallery and offices] we had art shows, concerts of baroque music, poetry readings, jazz, folk, and they all had completely different audiences.  I’d like to see some cross-fertilisation.  Third Eye may well settle in with one particular audience, but not till after I’ve left it...Let’s say I’m interested in a breakdown between compartments in the arts.  I’m interested in an international present and a local situation.  I can’t see the outcome – that’s what makes it so exciting.’”

By Cordelia Oliver from Arts Guardian, Manchester Guardian, February 1975.