Wednesday, 30 January 2013

"as much as they can take..."

         Here are some images and documents to further illustrate how the Third Eye Centre saw itself as a source of education and a place to consider social and contemporary issues but this was balanced with keeping itself accessible. Below is a "not-yet-letter" (a.k.a. rejected proposal) from Tom McGrath and below I put in as a reference an image of Colin Cina's work from his catalog published by the Third Eye Centre.

(The image is courtesy of the Third Eye Centre/CCA)

(Image of "Equinox" by Colin Cina. The image is courtesy of the Third Eye Centre/CCA)

"The opening of the COLIN CINA exhibition of paintings and drawings on Tuesday, October 21st market he beginning of a "contemporary" period at the Third Eye Centre, when we will show that modern or abstract art is not necessarily unintelligible, and in fact can be very entertaining. Colin Cina' Paintings are large and colourful, tending towards the abstract, but still attractive to the uneducated eye." -  Alison Clark, The Programs Relations Officer

This pamphlet from London was distributed to everyone in the Visual Arts Committee in 1976 (and it still serves as a nice guide even today) in order to serve as a model for keeping artists in Scotland. There are correspondence letters clipped together of organisations from Dundee to Edinburgh and Glasgow all keeping each other updated on developing studio spaces.

(This is an image of a publication between Acme, SPACE and the Arts Council of Great Britain, The image is courtesy of the Third Eye Centre/CCA)

(This is an image of a publication between Acme, SPACE and the Arts Council of Great Britain, The image is courtesy of the Third Eye Centre/CCA)

         To pull a quote from the Arts Guardian on May 10th (The opening of the Third Eye) Tom McGrath said "At this point though, it's all practicality. There isn't time for ideas till we've got it open and functioning. 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."

Monday, 28 January 2013

Tai Chi Oak Tree

One of the marked differences between the Third Eye Centre at its inception and contemporary arts centres such as the CCA is the relationship that the former had with spirituality. Tom McGrath (the Centre's first director) and many others involved with the Third Eye were followers of the teachings of Sri Chinmoy, a Bengali-American advocate of meditation, vegetarianism and exercise. Chinmoy's influence pervades the documents of McGrath's stewardship of the arts centre, from giving the enterprise its name (Third Eye was his second choice, after Beauty's Bounty was rejected); to the cafe, which was founded as a vegetarian co-op; to the scripts of McGrath's plays, one of which, The Hardman, includes a stage direction for the eponymous lead to go into a Yoga position, complete with the instructions 'Please see I. S. Iyengar's Light on Yoga for further details.'

It is interesting to speculate what kind of relationship the art of the day had with teachings such as Chinmoy's, especially considering the coincidence of the founding of the Third Eye Centre with the emergence of video and conceptual art in the UK in the late '60s and early '70s. There are seemingly certain similarities between these strands including an economy of means (often, especially in the case of video, dictated by scant resources); a contemplative aesthetic; an investigation into the nature of being and a self-reflexive, philosophical approach. Whether or not there is any direct correlation is difficult to assert, although these cultural tracts, along with various others, seem to have coalesced around the nascent arts centre, playing a significant role in its identity.

I have posted 3 videos from the archive below; the first is from a Tai Chi demonstration that took place in the Third Eye in 1977, the second is an extract from a Michael Craig-Martin artist talk of the same year in which he reads the text from his [in]famous An Oak Tree piece, the third footage of Chinmoy in 1975, meditating with the help of what looks to be a casio keyboard. Craig-Martin was mentor for many of the YBAs and an inspiration for the Scottish neo-conceptualists, and so has been more influential than most in the development of visual art in the UK. In this piece he plays with ideas of semiotics and idealist philosophy, providing an interesting counterpoint to the minimalist humming of the spiritual leader Chinmoy and the slow, performative actions of the Tai Chi demonstrators.

Start all of the extracts at the same time and you get a 3-channel video conflating conceptual art, Tai Chi and meditation in a small portrait of the Third Eye Centre in the mid '70s.

Tai Chi demo from The Glasgow Miracle on Vimeo.

Oak Tree from The Glasgow Miracle on Vimeo.

Chinmoy from The Glasgow Miracle on Vimeo.

For any who might be interested, Adam Curtis has another, more sinister take on the influence of eastern spiritualism on western culture in this extensive and fascinating blog post:

Monday, 21 January 2013

How did the Third Eye Centre decide on exhibitions?

In my last post I was looking at the box that contained documents organizing travelling shows either to or from the Third Eye Centre. Naturally I was curious about how they decided what should be shown and my curiosity peaked when I found that this box includes for comparison a draft for the official policy statement of the Third Eye Centre describing it's first nine months as well as a draft of a lecture Michael Tooby gave in 1983 at the Demarco Conference describing the history of the Third Eye and its current priorities.

I thought that it would be interesting to pose the two draft documents as a conversation, almost a debate between two periods of time. They both capture a moment where they are aware of their successes and what they imagine the future may hold.

"The exhibition programme at Third Eye over the first nine months has displayed a wide range of work, varying in style and achievement from Sir Stanley Spencer's Port Glasgow paintings to a display of schoolchildren's art in the cafe space." – Presumably written by Tom McGrath with support of the Third Eye staff.
"Third Eye Centre was opened eight years ago. It is Glasgow's centre for the contemporary arts, with public funding predominantly from Scottish Arts Council but also from local authorities, with income from its own activities, particularly its bookshop and cafe." – Michael Tooby, the exhibitions organiser writing in 1983.

I’ve started by listing the first opening sentence of each document, but from here on out they will be given signifier names to denote the period of time as if these were the characters. Some sentences are slightly rearranged topically, but not to the extent that they are taken completely out of context.

---- --- --- --- ---

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Third Eye Centre archives of travelling shows that may have been considered

I thought that it would be fun to produce a blog entry for every time I come into the archives. At times it’s quite funny because I imagine that I’m working like a secret shopper, performing  random tasks for the sake of testing the system. As librarians and archivists know, you can’t tell what’s missing until someone is searching for it. They also talk about the importance of having images to use as a reference, so here are plenty of images to entice you. I'm still wondering if there is a way to make this information more accessible, more meaningful. If anything has struck me, it's that everything seems important, especially when I imagine that it's useful for someone else's practice.

For example, I just came across this rare booklet on Ken Gray's Electro Sculptures that I know some friends of mine would love to see. It was one of many proposed travelling exhibitions that never came to the Third Eye Centre, but someone hung onto it; so now it’s here.

A spread from Ken Gray’s handout titled Electrosculpture, On the left is an image of Music Box No. 2 from 1970. Besides memorializing those events which occurred within the walls of the Third Eye, the archive contains even those who may have been considered to compare to their programming. There’s sparse information about him online, but surprisingly there’s actually a well-written biography on his life listed within the online version of Artists in Britain since 1945. Page 109.

 (Photographer: Mr. E. Phillippe. The image is courtesy of the Third Eye Centre/CCA)
The image on the left is the control system for ‘Static Dancer’ by Ken Gray and to the right is an acrylic box with sensors that light neons responding to a ball that would swing above it. Although I mentioned that there isn’t much about him online, there is also a Youtube video that was uploaded rather recently.

(Photographer: Peter Fowler. The image is courtesy of the Third Eye Centre/CCA)
Last photo I’m uploading is of the artist himself operating Yellow Column, which was designed for Aberdeen Art Gallery. I have added his name to the Third Eye Box List so that now his self-published hidden gem can be found.

(Photographer: David McDowell. The image is courtesy of the Third Eye Centre/CCA)

I also came across a nice photograph that really highlights Alexander 'Greek' Thomson's facade with the Third Eye Center below to give an idea of how much this corner on Sauchiehall has changed. There isn't a credited photographer or a date, but it is along with information about an exhibition in 1984 featuring Thomson that was put on in conjunction with the Glasgow School of Art.

(The image is courtesy of the Third Eye Centre/CCA)

These images are from a box that mostly includes information both about exhibiting ready-made travelling shows (usually photography) as well as papers describing attempts to diversify income by touring Third Eye Centre exhibitions, large and small.