Scottish Independence Referendum

posted by on 2014.09.01, under Scotland
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Alex Salmond - 2008

From the start let me be honest, and admit that I don’t have a vote in the referendum. I moved to London last summer, and made the choice to register to vote there. I felt it was important to participate in elections in the place I was living. I think it is right that I don’t have a vote. If someone chooses to move away then it only seems correct and fair that they can’t vote. I’m also uncomfortable with the idea of ‘Scottish’ people outside Scotland being able to vote, as at present I’m not aware of any reliable way to determine Scottishness. I wasn’t born in Scotland, and if the eligibility was based on length of residence in Scotland (let’s say 10 years for example) then you’d still have people complaining who had lived in Scotland for 9 years and so on. It also pleases me that there are non-Scots living in Scotland through choice or circumstance who will have a say in the future of the country they live in.

That said, I, like you, are entitled to an opinion, and this is mine.

When a young person leaves school and considers the options ahead of them, be they university, employment, the dole, moving away from home etc, it is usually the first major step in their maturation, their decision making, and their ability to take responsibility for themselves. No more relying on parents, time to grow up. Our lives as adults are initially shaped by these decisions, and how we react to the new circumstances that come our way. We take responsibility for ourselves. We may struggle financially, personally and socially. We may enter periods of depression, isolation and discontent. But ultimately, life on the whole is ours to shape. Our character is formed, we create new relationships, experience new and exciting places and people. Hopefully, we find love and happiness.

I cannot for the life of me see the development of a nation as being different to this. I truly believe that the people of Scotland (not just ‘Scots’) should seize the opportunity to take responsibility for themselves. Not for outdated historical reasons but for practical reasons. Smaller government is an opportunity to keep a closer eye on those who govern us, to feel more engaged with the decisions that are made on our behalf, to be able to press those who make the choice to be responsible for decisions to actually take responsibility.

I have always thought that Scotland should be independent, when younger it was for more romantic reasons. But I have tried to remain as objective as I can during the campaign. I am not a supporter of any political party, indeed think that party politics is outdated – ideally I’d like to live in a country where we know and trust (or don’t) the politicians we elect, and elect them on the basis of their ability to listen to their constituents and to attempt to provide the things they need. Anyway, as objective as I have tried to be, it has been truly depressing watching the ‘No (thanks)’ campaign. There has been nothing presented other than fear and the comfort of stasis. They have of course asked relevant questions, that remain to be fully answered, but the impression is that we would not be able to answer these questions for ourselves. Like a parent asking ‘but how are you going to survive?’ when you choose to leave home.

“Complacency is the worst enemy. If you grow complacent, you cease to think. If you cease to think, you cease to live” (attributed to Christopher Grieve (Hugh MacDairmid) in James Robertson’s “And the Land Lay Still”)

The ‘Yes’ campaign has been mostly a source of hope. There are parallels with the slightly vague hopefulness of the Obama campaign (which has disappointed), but hope is a vital element in achieving happiness. The debates and discussions I have seen and heard from those willing to hope are exciting, intelligent, contemporary and life affirming. The No campaign has been chiefly about telling us to be happy as we are. Where is the ambition? There is none. I don’t think there are many parents who would advise their children to settle for what they have, and not to hope and aspire for improvement. And by improvement I am not talking about economic concerns. I am not interested in that. The talk of oil is slightly worrying to me, as I haven’t heard enough about the desire to push towards becoming leaders in wind and sea power. Anyway, we don’t make life decisions based purely on economics. I, ultimately, want to be happier, and I think that’s what we should aim at as a nation. IT’S EXCITING!

Down in London what is clear from the coverage is that people are unaware of the depth of the debate in Scotland, the breadth of it, how people from all walks of life are considering many different aspects of life when coming to make their decision. From here, it seems like all we are thinking is of romance and old battles. I could talk about ‘getting the government we vote for’ (or I don’t vote for at present). With no Tories etc etc, but the truthfully exciting thing for me is what happens after a ‘Yes’ vote. The SNP would disintegrate surely, and new parties would be formed – maybe a stronger Green party, definitely new forms of conservatives, labour groups, socialists, and no doubt an anti European group. All of which are entitled to seek representation, and it would be real, proportional representation.

What’s going to happen to the currency, the Army, Trident, pensions, the NHS etc etc? I don’t know, but we’ll sort it out, surely? Why couldn’t we? What is stopping us? Things will not all be rosey, easy or an oil-fed tartan paradise – but, as with any other country, we have to trust ourselves to deal with any issues that arise. We have the intelligence, the experience, the humanity, the resources to deal with them. We can take responsibility for ourselves

 

Here is a less thought out list of things that have been on my mind.

 

-       we are ‘drifting’ ‘leaving’ ‘separating’ – no we aren’t, we are becoming an independent nation. We’ll still be part of the British Isles, most of us will still speak English, and the border will not be closed. The way some people talk about it you’d think that no countries that share borders get on.

-       The Royal family – unfortunately for me, we’ll still share a Royal family. I hope that one day we’ll make a democratic decision to become a Republic.

-       The EU. I think we should stay in the E.U. and I cannot see how they would not allow us to join. It strikes me as strange that we are being asked to simultaneously not break up the Union, while large parts of the English populace are keen to remove themselves from the European Union.

-       The Empire. It’s dead, its irrelevant, Britain is not as important as it thinks it is, it continues to act like it rules the waves and it reminds me of Madonna striding around in her 50’s desperate for us to think its still 1985.

-       Trident. I don’t think we’ll be able to get rid of it as easily as we think, but I imagine a deal can be struck so that it stays for a while, and we make some money from it. Its pointless anyway, who is it deterring? Russia? We have a couple of stones in our hands, and they (and USA/Israel probably China) have big heaps of rubble ready to throw if they want. It’s pointless.

-       Oil – if its still flowing, if there’s more to be found or not, please let’s use it sensibly, to help establish a strong base for the research and development of new, cleaner technology.

-       Self satisfaction – there is a sense during this debate sometimes, that anyone voting differently to oneself is somehow a traitor, or an idiot. Let’s not fool ourselves; there are people voting yes and no for good reasons. There are also people voting yes and no for what I would consider the wrong reasons. Whatever the result, let us try to continue to have debates in a mature and considered manner.

-       That guy on Question time

-       Alex Salmond – he’s not why I’d vote yes. A yes vote isn’t a vote for the SNP, it’s a vote for Independence. A No vote isn’t a vote for David Cameron. I met Salmond in the street once in 1998, he said he’d abolish tuition fees, and when I shook his hand it reminded me of sausages. Let’s not forget either how happy he was to get to know Donald Trump.

-       That ‘patronising BT Lady’ – I feel for the actress, but it’s a horrible example of the kind of politics that Westminster wants us to engage in – thoughtless. Don’t think, don’t research, don’t hope, don’t question, don’t engage.

-       Taxation – taxes will go up, or down, or stay around the same. It all depends on the government we vote for after independence – its theoretically possible that the new government will continue to be on the side of the rich, but if that’s the case, it’s the government Scotland will have voted for.

-       THE CHIP ON THE SHOULDER – imagine, we’d be able to brush it off! No more blaming anyone else (though I imagine we’ll still look for scape goats…) We’d be….taking responsibility for our own actions….

-       Lies – we’ve been lied to many times, big lies sometimes, MacCrone, WMD, tuition fees. We’ll probably continue to be lied to by politicians, but they will be under a greater spotlight with greater responsibility. Smaller government should make it easier to place greater scrutiny of those people who choose to become politicians.

-       Land reform and housing. I don’t know much about the proposals for these, anyone got an opinion? Why can’t we build more housing like Fittie in Aberdeen?

-       People who say they’ll leave if we become Independent – fine, go. What kind of unhelpful, childish threat is that?

-       UKIP – seriously, the amount of exposure they get is bewildering to me. They have 1? 2 MP’s? The news in London is more interested in UKIP than the debate in Scotland. I don’t want to admit it, but it seems to me that the south of England is just seriously not interested in Scotland (or much of the rest of the UK). Why should the views of so many people in the south of England affect how we run our country? And vice versa, why should Scottish MP’s continue to be able to affect non-Scottish issues? It’s illogical.

-       People who say things like ‘nowadays we shouldn’t be creating more borders between people’ and ‘its time’s like this when we should stick together’. And also “we will have less influence on the world stage” .What do either of those things mean? By becoming independent, we aren’t removing ourselves from the world, we are joining it. We’ll be able to make decisions to side with those we agree with, and oppose those we disagree with. To hopefully engage in discussions with both of those groups, as an independent voice. A nation that takes responsibility for its decisions and actions.

Anyway, like I said, I can’t vote. I hope you vote ‘Yes’. I hope to be able to return to a Scotland which has matured, and found comfort with it’s own personality and is happy.

Morocco 2014 – part 4

posted by on 2014.08.29, under Architecture, Art, Travel
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Morocco 2014 – part 3

posted by on 2014.08.29, under Architecture, Art, Travel
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Morocco 2014 – part 2

posted by on 2014.08.25, under Architecture, Art, Travel
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Morocco 2014 part 1

posted by on 2014.08.24, under Architecture, Art, Photography, Travel
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Explaining Art

posted by on 2014.08.11, under Art, Scotland
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I have been thinking recently about how, if and when an artist should ‘explain’ their work. I was reading a letter online complaining about Tatham & O’Sullivan’s work “Are You Locationalized” in the West Highland Free Press. The letter writer said

“I am not qualified to comment on the complexity of the artwork, but, provocation of its viewers there has certainly been. Most particularly in relation to its situation. The overwhelming reactions I have witnessed have been hostility, outrage and incredulity that this thing will dominate the Portree skyline instead of the landmark everyone recognises.”

"Are You Locationalized" Tatham & O'Sullivan

“Are You Locationalized” Tatham & O’Sullivan

The work, part of Generation 2014 has been commissioned by the excellent Atlas Arts, based on the Isle of Skye. About ten years ago, I invigilated an exhibition of Tatham & O’Sullivan’s at the Venice Bienalle. I found it hard to understand the work, and I wanted some form of explanation from the artists, to give me more confidence when talking about the work to the public. This new work, looks particularly interesting (in photos, I haven’t seen it in Skye) one of the sculptures seems to turn the side of a building into a sounding post for mystical messages from space. At least, that’s how I’m reading it for now. It has taken a long time for me to reach the point where I can look at an artwork and not feel like I am being deliberately intimidated, this is probably down in part to my lack of exposure to art when younger, and a certain lack of confidence at art school.

Not being ‘qualified to comment on the complexity of the artwork’ is something that many people outside of the art world often think. I have been conscious of this, particularly when making Forest Pitch, and attempting to communicate with locals, councillors, contractors etc etc. I would wrestle with how much I wanted to tell people and why. I knew that the work was not highly conceptual or intellectual, and if people were given an ‘in’, then hopefully they would if not appreciate it, at least feel in a better position to make a judgement on it. I also felt a responsibility due to the public nature, and funding, of the project to communicate the idea as succinctly and clearly as I could, whether in public or private meetings, interviews, press things. I became concerned that I may end up talking the work away, removing a certain amount of mystery from it. I also find that if I analyse my own motivations too much, then work loses interest for me, and I lose desire to complete things. So I began to try and devise ways to talk around the ideas that originally motivated Forest Pitch, in the hope that that would be enough for people who didn’t feel ‘qualified’ to start thinking for themselves. I don’t know how well I managed it, but it was an attempt at a solution to the difficulty in maintaining some mystery.

I do think that artists have a responsibility to attempt to make art interesting and vital to people who feel intimidated or fearful of it. Personally, I do think artists talking about their own work in an open environment is a good way to achieve this. I recently took part in a talk about my new film “The Drummer & the Drone” (Edinburgh Art Festival, on til the end of August, 10-6pm everyday, make sure you catch it while you can etc etc) with Brigadeer David Allfrey MBE, who is the director of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Although there weren’t loads of people there, there were enough to feel comfortable, and I felt I was able to talk around the work again, with making explicit the exact motivations behind the film or any underlying ‘meaning’. I am still not sure what some of the film is ‘about’, or what I’m ‘trying to say’, and I think most artists if pushed would admit there is more than a little uncertainty about what they do in their own minds, and I think this is a positive thing. I don’t know if that is clear to the unqualified public, and perhaps it would make things easier if a certain amount of the artistic inspiration myth is picked apart. But how to square that with the desire not to over simplify and take away all of the mystery I’m not sure.

band playing

So, back to explaining. Jonathan Jones is not my favourite critic (I’m not his favourite artist either) but he has written in the past that “explanations are the traitor of art’ and;

“It is a vice of second-rate art to come with its own eloquent explanation attached. If an artist can translate the meaning and purpose of a work into easily understandable words, it means one of two things. Either the artist is lying, in order to ease the way with patrons and funders; or the artist is a fool. And if dishonesty is the reason, that too is something that vitiates art. No serious art is easy to interpret. Nor is there ever a single valid interpretation of art. If art is good, there are many things to be said about it and much that will remain unsayable.”

Now, there’s plenty to pick apart here, not least what ‘serious art’ is. But he is right there is no one explanation of an art work. Even during the short time “The Drummer & the Drone” has been on, at least 4 people have offered me their insight into elements of the film which I had never thought about. Sometimes these views are offered in a way as if to say “is this right?”. There is no right. If you could write it all down you’d be a writer not a visual artist. Explanations neutralise the potential for individual interpretation. But there has to be a way to engage people in the things they find outrageous and incredulous, a way which doesn’t further alienate or humiliate.

One of the obvious ways is to encourage people to do some research, about the artists, the context, the commission etc. But so many people are used to viewing art in a gallery, with a little explanatory caption, that they may not have the patience or desire to do any working out for themselves. There has to be a way to allow people in, without holding their hand through the door. I am thinking along the lines of a television programme. Anyway, that’s for me to work out. I am sure there are already lots of attempts to get people not normally interested in art to approach it with confidence. There’s another interesting article in the Independent about artists explaining their art here.

I would love to be able to not ever say anything about the work I do, but I fear its unrealistic at this stage. I also fear that people will just not go near art for the reason that it just seems too alien to them without some explanation. The solution has to be giving people confidence to look, and draw their own conclusions. How do we instil that confidence so that art can become if not an ‘everyday’ experience for everyone, then ‘everyweek’ ‘everymonth’ or at least ‘everyyear’? Perhaps it needs to begin at school and continue into secondary school. The skills of observation, consideration, interpretation, analysis, understanding emotional and intellectual stimuli are vital, not just to those studying art.

I read somewhere else that an artist should not write about their own work, and if they need something written, to get someone else to do it. That is a little naive to me, particularly when almost every single art student has gone through their course writing about their work in statement after statement. However, if anyone wants to write something on my behalf, please get in touch.

Book Review – “King Jesus” Robert Graves (1946)

posted by on 2014.05.19, under Books, Gospel, Religion
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King jesus

Yes. Bit hard to follow with all the prophets and different tribes and sects and laws. But yes.

Sardinia 2014

posted by on 2014.04.25, under Archaeology, Art, Italy, Photography
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Max Beckmann

posted by on 2014.04.11, under Art, Germany, Painting
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Picasso Ceramics

posted by on 2014.04.11, under Art, Ceramics
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Picasso Pottery Vallauris.

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