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Dundee Matters: I don’t know about art but I know what I like…

Ellie Harrison
Ellie Harrison

Last week saw the return of the The KLF, the notorious dance act/art pranksters who once burned £1 million on a remote Scottish island as part of an unfathomable performance art project.

Even more hilariously, in 1994, under the nomme de guerre The K Foundaton, they set up a £40,000 prize for the worst British artist of the year which they awarded to Rachel Whiteread, who had just won the £20,000 Turner Prize awarded to the country’s best contemporary artist.

Ah well, at least it was their money.

It was public cash, however, which backed Ellie Harrison’s ludicrous Glasgow Effect project.

Creative Scotland awarded the part-time Duncan of Jordanstone lecturer £15,000 to see how living within Glasgow’s city boundaries for a year would affect her art career while shunning public transport in favour of her bike.

The arts funding body has now said that Ms Harrison achieved her aims during the year-long project and took part in a number of events.

For those keeping count, she managed to take part in 14 lectures or talks and write one essay on higher education. That works out at a grand a pop.

As for those aims, they remain harder to fathom. Ms Harrison has described the project as a “boycott” of the oil industry and privatised public transport, which is dreary sixth form posture politics of the worst sort.

She may have reduced her own carbon footprint to zero, but it’s likely she still ate food delivered to stores by road and heated her home in the leafy West End of Glasgow with gas and electricity.

Also, the difficulties of using only a bike for transport are somewhat lessened when you live in a city like Glasgow where everything is relatively close at hand.

Had Ms Harrison taken herself to Stromness for a year, then the challenges to her career and relying on a bike would have been more interesting.

Creative Scotland also said the Glasgow Effect had attracted an “unprecedented amount of media attention” and made people question the role of artists in public life”.

Except it really didn’t. All it did was make people wonder whether public money should be given to artists to doss around for a year.

It’s art in the same way an MP claiming expenses for a duck pond is art.

Art can take many forms and the situationist  stunts of the KLF 23 years ago do still make us ask what art actually is and our reactions to it.

The Glasgow Effect just seems pointless.


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