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Anthropological fieldwork

The BBC reports:

Arts body Creative Scotland has defended giving an artist £15,000 to spend a year without leaving Glasgow.

Ellie Harrison’s project is called the Glasgow Effect – a term relating to poor health in parts of the city.
The artist said she wanted to explore sustainability by travelling less and focusing more on local opportunities.
Critics on social media have described it as a waste of money but Creative Scotland said Harrison’s strong proposal had qualified for funding.

On a web page explaining the project, Harrison states: “The Glasgow Effect is year long action research project / durational performance, for which artist Ellie Harrison will not travel outside Greater Glasgow for a whole year (except in the event of the ill-heath / death of close relative or friend).

“By setting this one simple restriction to her current lifestyle, she intends to test the limits of a ‘sustainable practice’ and to challenge the demand-to-travel placed upon the ‘successful’ artist / academic.”

The Independent tells us that,

“The experiment will enable her to cut her carbon footprint and increase her sense of belonging, by encouraging her to seek out and create ‘local opportunities’ – testing what becomes possible when she invests all her ideas, time and energy within the city where she lives.”

Responses to the artwork have been mixed. Some Glaswegians have been offended at the idea that their city is evidently considered to be what the Diplomatic Service calls a “hardship posting”, a place that one must be paid extra to endure. Unkind residents of Edinburgh have said that for a year in Glesca, £15,000 isn’t nearly enough. I do think that the extra fifteen grand will make the restriction of Ms Harrison’s current lifestyle a little easier to bear. Unlike the majority of those citizens of Glasgow paid by the State simply for existing within its boundaries, Ms Harrison is free to augment her dole by continuing to work as “‘successful’ artist/academic”, and no need for the scare quotes round “successful”, either. She has done better than most artists in that she has been successful in getting someone to pay handsomely for her stuff (albeit not with their own money), namely the Scottish Government. Of course her finding a patron was probably made easier by the fact that, like herself, those who approved her grant application were part of the famously close-knit Scottish arts community. There is a rather different class of Glaswegian who has to work forty hours a week for a total level of remuneration often not that much different than the top-up Ms Harrison gets to fight off the people simply demanding that she come and bestow her art upon them. According to the Scotsman and the International Business Times, some of these benighted Weegies have been kicking up a fuss at having to pay for all this. You’d think they would be grateful that someone was taking an interest in them. Philistines.

By the way, you all knew that David Thompson would be making his own artistic response to this, didn’t you?

Finally, here are some of Ms Harrison’s own words from her grant application which she has kindly posted online:

Since then, I have developed an actively self-reflexive practice, which is as much concerned with analysing and exposing the motivations, processes and ethics of making art, as it is with the individual projects that I produce (see examples in attached Supporting Material). Whilst studying, I began to notice the environmental impact of my practice, becoming the first individual artist to launch an Environmental Policy. Published on my website in 2010, the policy summarises the action I currently take to reduce my carbon footprint and holds future decisions to account.

34 comments to Anthropological fieldwork

  • Laird

    How many jokes can we find in this?

    Of course, bad as Glasgow is, to be meaningful performance art she really should have been consigned to the Outer Hebrides or some such remote place. It might be worth £15,000 to banish her thus, even if only for a year.

    I enjoyed the comments on David Thompson’s blog. One of the better ones:

    Mel Gibson stars in Braveheart, a 13th-century story of a Scottish warrior who led the Scots in the First War of Scottish Independence against King Edward I of England.

    Ellie Harrison stars in BraveArt, a 21st-century story of an English poverty safarist leading the Scots to total Scottish Dependence on the government of Scotland.

    More seriously, this is what inevitably comes of government funding of the arts (and the “arts”). And even more seriously, perhaps we should be celebrating (and emulating) her chutzpah. This is the Cloward-Piven strategy in action. The greater strains we can place on the state the sooner it will collapse under its own unsustainable weight.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    To sum up this application, Because Me.

  • Vinegar Joe

    God, I love the Kinks.

    Ordinary People

    It’s like another world, being here with you,
    It’s quite a trip for me, so this is reality.
    I’m studying every movement, I’m trying to learn the part,
    Now I want you to be natural, just relax and be as you are,
    ‘Cos it’s all for art, I want to observe the ordinary people

    Tomorrow I shall become Norman,
    I shall go to his office,
    Mix with his workmates.
    And if they ask any questions
    I shall say I’m doing research for one of my songs.
    Norman and I are changing places
    And I’m going to make him a star,
    So I’m throwing away my stage suit and I’m packing away my guitar,
    For the sake of art I’m gonna mix with the ordinary people.

    The things I’ve done for music,
    The things I’ve done for art.
    So I’ll make these sacrifices and I’ll take it like a star
    For the sake of art I will mix with the ordinary people.


  • Julie near Chicago

    “There’s a sucker born every minute.”*


    I wondered how many suckers were born to support this project, but I didn’t see the size of the governing body, let alone of the entire staff, at Creative Scotland.

    Their site does, however, state this:

    We distribute funding from the Scottish Government and The National Lottery.

    Somehow funding by The National Lottery seems apt.

    . . .

    Also, for some reason a broken statue leapt into my mind:

    “Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!”

    The situation of the Arts in Scotland certainly sounds desperate.

    . . .

    Were I to limit myself to the confines of Rockford for an entire year, I wonder if the NEA (National Endowment for the Arts) would be willing to grant to me $ 22,777?

    . . .

    *The Foot states attribution to P.T. Barnum is likely incorrect.


  • Julie near Chicago

    Oh dear. Socks on again. Unable to distinguish between 15 and 19. NEA due refund of $ 5,807.20.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Scratch that last. Unsuccessful translation from read word to typed number. Overpayment only $ 1000. £ 15,000 = 21,777.00 per XE Calculator. (I think.)

  • “Unkind residents of Edinburgh have said that for a year in Glescay, £15,000 isn’t nearly enough.”

    FYI, these are quite ordinary residents of Edinburgh, not ‘unkind’ ones, unless you mean it’s the unkind ones who verbalise the idea in public. I grew up in Edinburgh. We had relatives who lived in Bearsden and I recall as a child being assured that “Bearsden’s no really Glasgow, ye ken” and accepting this uncomprehendingly as somehow an important distinction, the way a child does. I was highly amused when, visiting recently, I had occasion to glance at a Bearsden council’s welcome-to-Bearsden-style leaflet and see that it started by explaining – rather emphatically – that Bearsden was not part of Glasgow, however it might appear to anyone who entered it from the abutting region to its south. 🙂

    So the really important question is: does Ellie Harrison’s grant allow her to enter Bearsden or not? Native Glaswegians may think it does. Inhabitants of Bearsden may have another view. And as it appears Ellie Harrison was born in London, she may not have a perfect grasp of the issue.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Heck, £15,000 isn’t all that much money, especially when it’s not mine, even at second hand as a British rate-payer. You might as well wait and see what she produces, maybe she’ll surprise you. As she grows in her art, Harris, St. Kilda and Rockall may beckon.

  • Paul Marks

    Ah Glasgow…..

    Red Glasgow.

    Some people think they understand socialism – say a lady I know who was born in Leningrad. However, most people even in Soviet times were employed in Leningrad – the state owned their employers, but at least in theory they worked and they were paid in return for their work.

    In Glasgow people “receive according to their needs” – not in return for their work, as actual productive workers are a minority of the population (quite a small minority).

    According to Marxism the minority of “capitalists” exploit the majority of “workers” – this is nonsense (in is based on the Labour Theory of Value of David Ricardo and James and J.S. Mill – yes without Ricardo and the Mills there could not really be a Karl Marx), but now we have a society where the majority (yes the majority) exploit a minority of productive workers.

    I can understand how, in theory, a minority can live off the majority – but a majority live off a minority? How this society has lasted for decades now baffles me.

    Still it is just a couple of steps further down the road that the rest of Britain is on.

    Just as Puerto Rico is logical development of the rest of the United States – government dependents massively outnumbering everyone else.

    Forbes was pointing out that 11 States in the United States have more government dependents than people who actually support the government (and, someone, try to support themselves and their families). I was surprised it was “only” 11 States.

    Although it contained two of the biggest population States – New Yor and California.

    California – Scotland, but with sunshine.

  • ArtsProf

    Your article makes no sense. The process of approving an application at Creative Scotland involves multiple people. If you think they choose who to fund based on their own or the applicants politics then you’re havering nonsense. Sir James Macmillan, CBE, and vocal NO voter, got £15k for his festival! It may come as a shock to you, as you know so little about Scotland, but the referendum isn’t the default lens through which everything is seen. Yes voters & no voters get along just fine. And your politics are not taken into account when funding decision are made!

  • Jerry

    Sweet whistling Geronimo !!!
    If you build an idiot-proof system and someone will come up with a better idiot and break your new toy.

    I used to wonder where the ‘better idiots’ come from.
    Now I know.
    Government !!!

  • Laird

    California – Scotland, but with sunshine.

    That’s just cruel, Paul!

  • Mr Ed


    Paul can be cruel, he omitted the earthquakes, and wine.

  • Phil B


    That’s the problem – coming up with any old idiot is not really a good idea as the applications need to be tested in a consistent manner.

    What is needed is a British Standard Idiot – a BSI – that can be properly calibrated to ensure consistency.

    I believe that there is a Standards Institute thet can help with drawing up a document to ensure this …

  • Frank S

    Hi Jimmy?
    Why are you sae pissed?
    Can ye no thole a solipsist?
    She fairly maks ye want to drink
    As her wee brain seems to want to think
    But let her buy us lots of rounds
    Until she’s used up a’ thae pounds
    Whiles we can mak up tales exciting
    To liven up her pompous writing
    Let’s have a bet to see whose big yins
    Can feature most in the lassie’s sermons
    Eh Jimmy?

  • Molly Millions

    Yes voters & no voters get along just fine

    Eh? We obviously live in parallel universe versions of Scotland, you and I!

  • pete

    The creative bit about Creative Scotland is to create an income for some middle class people at the expense of everyone else.

    It’s the same with many modern organisations these days, including many quangos, charities, theatres, opera houses, universities, councils and the BBC.

    These places are staffed either partially or entirely with people doing jobs which don’t need doing.

  • The creative bit about Creative Scotland is to create an income for some middle class people at the expense of everyone else.

    That, as the kids say. Though I’d swap the word “create” for the word “extort.”

    Last year I saw some tweets by an artist acquaintance, a Guardian reader, who was upset by the prospect of reductions in public subsidy for the unviable arts, not least to his own projects. He denounced as “idiots” those who think that artists should consider earning their money – say, by producing things the public wishes to pay for directly, voluntarily, rather than just taking it via the state through coercion and cronyism. Passions were high and there were vague rumblings of militancy and retribution.

    This struck me as a bit rich, given that the chap in question, along with his associates, has managed to screw from the taxpayer around £200,000 a year for several years. Such that the total funds extracted from the public – a public almost totally uninterested in what he and his associates do – is well in excess of a million pounds. A cosy gig by any measure. But despite years of being handed vast sums of money that other people had to earn by doing things of market value, there was no trace of gratitude, none whatsoever. Just an expectation of more, stretching indefinitely into the future.

    This sense of limitless entitlement is in no way unusual. It’s a default mindset of our artistic Brahmins. Most of whom affect socialist airs while believing that carpet-fitters in Doncaster should be forced to subsidise the recreational activities and assorted vanity projects of middle-class lefties like themselves. Because they deserve that carpet-fitter’s earnings more than he does, apparently.

  • Your article makes no sense. The process of approving an application at Creative Scotland involves multiple people. If you think they choose who to fund based on their own or the applicants politics then you’re havering nonsense.

    Unless those multiple people all share the same politics. How many Thatcherites are on the panel, I wonder?

  • Sam Duncan

    And the prize for totally missing the point goes to… ArtsProf! This is a libertarian blog: we don’t give a flying toss how many people take part in the process. Or who gets the loot. What should be obvious from the other comments is that it’s the act itself, of taking money from people under duress and dishing it out to the select – regardless of who they are or what they’re given it for – that we object to.

    The point here is that Ms. Harrison is not “a successful artist”. Nor is Sir James. Successful people can support themselves.

    And incidentally, methinks the Prof doth protest a little too much. While someone on David’s blog mentioned Harrison’s (probable) political affiliations quite early in the comments, nobody here did. A little insight into the political atmosphere in Scotland right now, I think…

    “We obviously live in parallel universe versions of Scotland, you and I!”

    Yep. To be fair, some “Yes” and “No” voters have buried the hatchet. But if the Prof can’t see the tensions that still remain, 18 months on, then he or she is either very lucky or blind as a bat.

    “How many Thatcherites are on the panel, I wonder?”

    I could hazard a guess. Tolerance and Diversity!

  • Laird

    “The process of approving an application at Creative Scotland involves multiple people.”

    The fact this a “project” as pointless, arrogant and clearly devoid of artistic merit as this one proves that the Creative Scotland “process” is inherently flawed. Indeed, I would posit that it proves that its selection committee is collectively (and probably individually) stupid.

  • John in cheshire

    The word dilettante springs to mind. I’ve seen this kind of so-called art in the flesh and it’s crap and deserves nothing less than ridicule and definitely no taxpayers money. If she wants to study sociology, then let her apply for a course at a college or university and pay the tuition fees. Otherwise, she should get a proper job.

  • Cristina

    David Thomson, very true.
    Sam Duncan, I don’t know about this Ms Harrison person, but Sir James MacMillan is a successful musician. I like his music very much.

  • Paul Marks

    Yes I am cruel – and not just in joking.

    Perhaps it is just as well that I have no power.

  • staghounds

    Self-reflexive- what, she hits her own knee with a little rubber mallet?

  • JohnK

    I don’t so much mind the doling out of fifteen large to some piece of shit art project, but I do object to the strange linguistic mangling which these worthless public bodies indulge in.

    What would once have been the “Scottish Arts Council” becomes “Creative Scotland”. The eight merged police forces which form the SNP stasi are not the “Scottish Police Service” but “Police Scotland”.

    I hate these people for so many reasons, but one which really boils my piss is their NuSpeak attack on the English language.

  • Nicholas (Andy.royd) Gray

    So that’s why some Scots voted to stay in Britain- they’re arts lovers! Scotland- the arts-hole of the U.K. If Scotland had been independent, could they have afforded even this minimal contribution to the arts?
    Artists who pay their own way? Rubbish! are you trying to tell me that the Beatles were self-made men? They must have had a govmint grant, surely?

  • Veryretired

    First, destroy the very concept of art, as has been done very comprehensively over the last century by the above commenter and his/her cronies who infest all these “self-referential” art councils and awards groups.

    Second, declare that anything and everything imaginable is art if the correct academic/political gibberish can be formulated to justify its support by public subsidy.

    Thirdly, and very importantly, deride any art or artists who actually find a willing audience among the general public as being “commercial”, as if receiving money taken from one’s fellow citizens by force is superior to attracting it voluntarily from those people who actually value what has been created.

    End result? Utterly meaningless, freeloading twats like the one described in the article proliferating about society, cheered on by the prick up thread who probably taught her how to apply for the grant, but precious little about art and it’s true meaning.

    Of course, to be fair, you can’t teach something you have no clue about in the first place.

  • JulieFC, I don’t know about a grant, but staying in Rockford for an entire year might qualify you for danger pay.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Kim, you got a point there!

  • Sam Duncan

    “I don’t know about this Ms Harrison person, but Sir James MacMillan is a successful musician. I like his music very much.”

    He may be a very good musician, but successful ones don’t need £15,000 handouts from the taxpayer. I’m sorry, but they don’t.

  • Cristina

    Sam Duncan, you’re right about the commercial success, or lack thereof. I was referring to artistic success; which Sir James MacMillan has in spades. Did he need a handout from taxpayers to create? Weird.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Regarding Sir James MacMillan, everyone but a few visionaries and lunatics operates according to the system in which they find themselves. Just as we should not judge the people of the past too harshly for obeying customs of their era which we nowadays condemn, so should we not judge people of the present too harshly for responding to the immoral incentives of the current system.

  • Paul Marks

    Veryretired – agreed.