But is it Art?

 

See modern art?  See Glasgow?

 

An empty gallery has been unveiled as the latest work by an artist who “cancelled” her exhibition at one of Glasgow’s leading venues.  Marlie Mul asked for no exhibition be held in the city’s Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) on Royal Exchange Square. Instead, Gallery 1 at GoMA will lie empty. 

 

The massive billboards outside the gallery advertising the exhibition states “Cancelled” – and the sign has caused much infuriation for the staff at the GoMA, who since the banner went up, have had to patiently explain to the public that the show is indeed going ahead, and unfortunately for the staff, it is called “Cancelled”.

 

The show opened on Friday and runs through until the end of October.  People are being invited to “visit and interact with the space – and suggest alternative uses for the gallery during the five months set aside for the show. Apparently, the Dutch artists’ “conceptual gesture” was to act as an “implicit critique of what is displayed within museums and galleries”. 

 

GoMA curator Will Cooper adds: “By removing what would traditionally be considered an art object we are instead presenting the gallery as an empty space, giving us a moment to question the value in turning over exhibition after exhibition after exhibition.”

 

Yes, but is it art?

 

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There are homeless bad-news stories, such as the previous blog entry – but sometimes, just sometimes, there comes along hope for our society with a homeless good-news story.  And one such can be found right here in Scotland, with a new venture that was created back in late 2012 – and already it has piqued the interest of two legendary Hollywood A-listers.

 

Josh Littlewood is an entrepreneur who was so upset and concerned with seeing the rising level of homelessness on the streets that he came up with the brainwave of being the creator and co-founder of Social Bite, a successful sandwich chain with five stores in Scotland – two in Edinburgh, two in Glasgow and one in Aberdeen – that’s now set to expand nationally and possibly internationally.  

 

The mission of Social Bite – whose food costs about the same as Pret a Manger and Eat – is to be more than an upmarket soup kitchen. Apart from 100% of the profits going to helping the homeless, a quarter of its staff have experienced homelessness and paid a living wage; and now subsequently fully trained to work in a cafe/kitchen environment.  The chain also offers “suspended coffee and food”, which means customers can pay in advance for a coffee or any item of food from the menu and a local homeless person can go into the shop to claim it.

 

And all of this has attracted much interest and many plaudits. In the last 18 months, Hollywood superstars George Clooney and Leonardo DiCaprio have both made high-profile visits to the two Edinburgh Social Bite stores that originally started the revolution – and there’s mounting speculation that the A-listers could well be looking to help expand the chain into America.

 

And like the store on Glasgow’s St. Vincent Street in today’s blog photo, each Social Bite store frontage comes with a donated reworking of a piece by the renowned Australian street artist, Meek, in Banksy’s “Keep Your Coins. I Want Change”, seen as a damning reminder of the unsympathetic march of economic progress.    

 

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Damning figures revealed this week that four homeless people are dying every month in the streets of Glasgow – that’s one death each week.  And for me, that’s one death a week too many in my own hometown.

 

Figures obtained by the Sunday Herald newspaper from Glasgow City Council via a Freedom of Information request showed the shocking statistic that at least 39 homeless people have died in Glasgow in the space of just 10 months. The deaths occurred between May 2016 and March 2017 with, alarmingly, the council admitting that these numbers more than likely underestimate the full scale of the scandal on our streets. 

 

This is nothing short of shameful for a society in the 21st-century – and, regretfully, I can only see this epidemic of rough sleepers dying getting worse.  As I walk around this beloved city, it haunts me that a large number of closed stores in fabled shopping arteries, such as Sauchiehall Street – where this recent photo was taken – have now been taken over by the homeless, who have more or less taken up permanent residency in those locked-up high-street doorways that once regularly swung open-and-shut with bustling shoppers.

 

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It’s impossible to swing a guitar in the Glasgow streets without knocking over a busker or two! Buskers have become as much a staple of the High Street on a Saturday as over-spending with performers of all shapes, sizes and styles delighting shopping crowds with their own acoustic efforts or their unique take on classic pop and rock songs.

 

And perhaps paying homage to the city’s busking scene, there now comes “The Glasgow Busker”, one of the latest top-notch permanent murals located on Sauchiehall Lane from Rogue One, the Glasgow-based aerosol artist who’s forever brightening the streets of our city with his wonderful work, and features in today’s photo.

 

In recent years, though, there’s a trend for even famous singers going undercover as buskers and performing to the public. And I can tell you where this trend is first thought to have originated from – right here in Glasgow, back in 1976, and by no less a figure than the fabled Canadian singer/songwriter that is Neil Percival Young!

 

Young and his backing group Crazy Horse were playing the last gig of their European tour at the Glasgow Apollo – never forgotten, but alas sadly now long, long gone – and his record company had hired a local camera crew to film his arrival in Glasgow from London and to cover the last gig of their hugely successful tour.  But with hours to kill before the gig, and not to mention being ever so heavily stoned out of his mind (Hey man, it was the ’70s…), Young came up with the wheeze of going incognito onto the streets with a long scarf and a deerstalker with the intention of just flopping down outside the entrance to Glasgow’s Central Station to strum away with his banjo and harmonica, just to see if anyone would recognise him.

 

Understandably, David Peat’s footage and his story behind Neil Young surreptitiously busking in Glasgow has since gone into rock folklore; and it also became something of a sensation when the footage resurfaced for the first time a few years back, as it went viral after it was posted on YouTube.

 

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The latest commercial advertisement campaign from the trendy folks at Diesel on the hustle and bustle of Glasgow’s Buchanan Street took a distinctly political slant recently by encouraging consumers to “Make Love Not Walls”, as it promoted its new Spring/Summer 2017 collection by taking a pop at President Trump’s plans to erect a border wall with Mexico.

 

It strikes me as never a good sign for any politician when a High Street fashion outlet has a go at you that proves popular – and it comes at a timely moment just as Trump approached his JFK milestone mark of 100 days in office. And this wasn’t the only Glasgow outlet I noticed having a pop at “The Donald”. 

 

This week the momentous occasion was also commemorated at the Ubiquitous Chip’s wee bar in Ashton Lane – off Byers Road in the city’s west end – with an update to its revered cocktail list of a new drink called “Letter to America”.  Below the title came the very Glaswegian explanation: “Yer Maw Was An Immigrant, Ya Absolute Roaster”.

 

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Yet another year has spun around since the last Record Store Day, but last weekend stores, labels, and enthusiasts around the globe geared up for a milestone 10th celebration of the collision of music and vinyl. And today’s photo, taken at the somewhat overcrowded FOPP store in trendy Byres Road on Saturday, was one of the many RSD venues from around the globe that took part in the occasion. 

 

Although the digital revolution certainly has stymied the survival of record stores worldwide, it never managed to completely eradicate their influence. In fact, vinyl sales are storming up the charts for the tenth year in a row, according to industry reports. That’s not too much of a shocker, given that vinyl’s skyward trend has been accompanied by the ten-year run of RSD that allows us to pick up limited and special edition LPs.

 

It’s nice, though, seeing a resurgence in something that we all once took for granted before the rise of MP3 — but vinyl records are far, far more sexy. Unlike an MP3, with vinyl you can rush home holding it tenderly under your arm, and then begin the seduction of undressing it out of its jacket – and perhaps underneath, if you are lucky, you’ll find another white hidden layer before you get to hold it naked in your hands.

 

While this may seem perverse to some 21st-century listeners, that’s how most of us started our intimate, groovy kind of love with music, through vinyl. Do you remember your first time? My first trip to a record shop was in 1971 – Sound Developments’ in Kirkintilloch – to spend my hard-earned pocket money on the 7” No.1 hit by Sally Carr with Middle of the Road, Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep (we’ve all got to start somewhere).

 

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Glasgow has always had a reputation as a city of buskers. A healthy folk music scene has provided the streets with a steady supply of acoustic musicians, and the city has never been short of drunk men with tin whistles, chancing their luck in shop doorways.

 

But one of my favourites is Alec Johnstone, Glasgow’s answer to Acker Bilk, the solo jazz clarinetist who can be found in his usual pitch in Exchange Place – just off the hustle and bustle of Buchanan Street – nearby the city’s famed Rogano Restaurant, where he once used to work.

 

Govan-born Alec has played his fair share of jazz clubs throughout the country and would easily pass as the doppelgänger of another Glasgow jazz legend, George Chisholm, though sans trombone and instead his trusty clarinet. And influenced by a lifetime performing in the smokey atmosphere of those jazz clubs, he’s a chain-smoker, and between songs, he’ll stop for a quick drag and will often rest his half-smoked fag on his clarinet, almost as if the instrument has also picked up the habit!

 

He always starts and ends each busking day with “Stranger on the Shore“, Acker Bilk’s iconic signature tune – originally called “Jenny”, and named for his young daughter – that became the second No.1 hit single by a British artist in the United States on the Billboard Hot 100 when it was released in 1962.

 

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According to a new research study, it seems that the traditional fish and chip shop is taking a veritable “battering” and could make a shock disappearance from British streets – and all because those pesky, dietary-savvy millennials are shunning deep fried food in favour of more exotic takeaways.

 

Fish and chips are now deemed “out of touch” with modern times (but no doubt Nigel Farago and Ukip will somehow blame all this on the EU), and burger bars – even high-end, boutique burgers for the hipster clientele, such as Meathammer Ltd., located in oh-so-trendy Byres Road in Glasgow’s West End – are cashing in on this market with lighter takeaway menus that come replete with salads for those that like to adhere to the strict five-a-day regime.

 

Growing up in early 1970s Kirkintilloch, it was the ‘Chippies’ that ruled supreme in an era when “five-a-day” would often amount to your daily fried food intake, not forgetting to include a tasty dessert of the Scottish invention of a deep fried Mars Bar. And in those innocent artery-clogging times, we even had dear old departed Bert Schiavone’s mobile fish and chip van – a fire hazard on wheels, as he often called it – that toured the scheme, just like an ice-cream van.

 

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It’s been a week since British PM Theresa May officially triggered article 50 to leave the bosom of the EU, and here’s what the last 7-days has seen: an outbreak of jingoistic, Union Jack flag-waving in certain sectors of the English press; the threat of going to war with Spain over Gibraltar; the spending announcement of £500 million on a new, very patriotic dark blue passport (instead of funds going to the NHS, as it said on the bus); and to cap it all, a bunch of right-wing fundamentalists’ now calling for the return of imperial measures.

 

Honestly, the idea that voting to leave the EU was a vote for an exciting new world of 21st-century British sovereignty, rather than a desire for a nostalgic, rose-tinted vision of a Jerusalem-infused green and pleasant Land of 1950s and 60s Britain, is really becoming harder to sustain with each passing day. I look forward any day now for the excited call from Jacob Rees-Mogg and his like-minded ilk for the re-introduction of rationing.

 

Imperial Linear Measure, ie. miles, yards and inches etc are still used in the U.K. despite metric measures, meters, kilograms etc, becoming more prevalent. The plaque and the standard imperial measures of length have been a permanent fixture on the front entrance to the wall of Glasgow City Chambers since 1882 (along with another larger one painted on the pavement beside it), and many – like moi – have walked past it without even giving it a second glance.

 

Good job it’s still there, though – because the way things are going, at least we’ll all have something to help refresh our memories of what’s coming to go with the next round of harsh austerity measures that’s on the horizon. 

 

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From one music legend to another, as we neatly segue from recently-departed Chuck Berry to long-gone Bob Marley, who came to fame with a juxtaposing rivalry during the rise of punk in the mid-1970s here in the UK. And Top of the Pops often took on a surreal feeling on a Thursday evening during this period as Marley, with his poetic words and rhythmic melodies, was often pitted against the mayhem, nihilism, and constantly gobbing Sex Pistols.

 

And last week, the reggae legend’s life was set to his own soundtrack, as ‘One Love: The Bob Marley Musical‘, written and directed by Kwame Kwei-Armah, opened to good reviews at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, and now looks set for a London West End run and talks of it being turned into a movie.  This is the first musical of Marley’s life and features his greatest songs, including No Woman No Cry, Exodus, One Love, Jamming etc. 

 

The musical tells the story of a man propelled from rising reggae star to global icon, and is mostly set around the time when Marley’s beloved homeland of Jamaica is on the brink of civil war, and he’s called to unite his people as only he can with his music and his message of love and peace – and, as you do, he almost ends up being assassinated in the process!

 

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