by Mark Bloch
After the 1989 Festival of Plagiarismin Glasgow, Scotland I published my Panmag Magazine Number 28 as The Last Word: Art Strike, Word Strike, Plagiarism and Originality. In it, among other things, I outlined some real world art experiences that did wonders for illuminating the flip side of that all too theoretical time:
For me, the best pieces of art I saw were, as usual, not art at all. I'm not sure what Stewart means when he puts down "aestheticizing daily life." All I can do is describe some things I saw in Glasgow that for me, were much more interesting than any manifesto could be:
Ben Alien* s motorcycle sat in the gallery for the entire week of the festival. He simply didn't want it to get ripped off (no Plagiarist statement intended) so he parked it in Transmission. (Giving new meaning to the name of the gallery, I might add.)
Probably the most facinating piece of culture I experienced in Glasgow was the "bridge to nowhere** at Charring Cross that was pointed out by Pierre on our memorable cab ride home the first night It appears some city worker made a mistake and no one bothered to point it out so a bridge was actually built in the wrong place! It crossed over a highway (intersection of North and Sauchiehall Streets?) a couple of blocks from where it should have been built, resulting in quite an embarrasing situation for the local politicians. To cover their mistake a business complex is being constructed on top of it.
One night in Blackfriar's Pub I was proudly describing mat I went to high school in Akron, Ohio with a member of the band Devo. Several of the most vehement Plagiarists, who of course abhor the cult of genius, sat glued to their chairs, mesmerized by my tales of fame and glory. They were practically drooling in their beer when Wendy pointed out the contradiction. Everyone had a good laugh at that one.
Speaking of pubs, I particularly enjoyed the way people yell at closing time to get the customers out of the bar and into the streets. In addition to Blackfriar's, we also experienced this at the Mitre Bar, The Bridge and several other places I don't recall the names of... but 1*11 never forget those bellowing bartenders.
Being a working class town, Glasgow boasts an incredible place called the People's Palace Museum. Some of my favorite exhibits there included: Votes For Women and the 24 February 1960 Women for Equal Wages exhibit. The Clydeside Apprentices Committee, The Abercromby Street Lodging House model. The story about a local paper called The Clincher by Alexander Wylie Petrie, who had some sort of magical metal plate in his head, the info on Bridge Gate ("Briggite") and on John McLean who said "Make Glasgow a Petrograd.'*
The museum lies on Glasgow Green, itself a fascinating piece of history. Among other things in includes a porcelin fountain of Queen Victoria that has been admirably smashed up over the years. It is now adorned by headless torsoes and trunkless legs. Most afternoons a football (soccer) match took place on the Green among members of the Plagiarist contingency. I didn't participate but those who did seemed to enjoy it more than any ol' art show. I usually hung out at admiring the fountain during these unexpected sporting interludes.
Billy dark told me not to mention his name (I think it was Moe something...) or I might get punched in the jaw, so I promptly forgot the details but I was thoroughly amazed by the rivalry between the Catholics and Protestants embodied in a single professional footlball player who was hated by both factions for being of one faith and playing on the team of the other. It's really not a laughing matter but to an outsider such as myself it's hard to understand the conflict.
One Glaswegian who said he was a "Ranger Fan" literally gave me the shirt off his back one night after he struck up a conversation with Wendy, Lloyd and I as we waited for a pizza. He exemplified the many friendly local people who made the entire Glasgow experience an incredible one.
Any description of "real life" in Glasgow would be incomplete without a mention of Paddy's Market, a local flea market-type place where second hand items are bought and sold daily.
Throughout the week of the Festival, there were several illegal pilgrimmages made to the Necropolis, a decaying graveyard where former residents of Glasgow are immortalized by huge monuments that once must have been quite splendid. Now the place is impressive only in its absurdity. Not only are the graves maniacal in their egotism, but the whole site, littered with beer cans and condoms, is closed to the public because it is a crumbling ruin. It sits on a hill overlooking Glasgow. In one direction one sees the heart of "Europe's 1990 Cultural Capital" and toward the other one can admire the grotesque public housing that was hurriedly thrown up in the Sixties to accomodate the area's lower class residents. I went there at sundown with Douglas The Sound Editor on my last night in town. It was a memorable evening. The next morning I drank Chloroxynol for breakfast by mistake and almost ended up buried in the Necropolis myself. But that's another story. (Florian called it the greatest Plagiarist performance of them all.)
In the category of pieces of art that were more or less intended as art were the following:
Damian Abbot's Guided City Walk led the victim (via a flyer) down a few streets, under a railway bridge, across a parking lot (in the UK they call it a "car park") and into an abandoned building. After following the directions through the rubble, I found myself facing a wall on which Damian (or perhaps someone else) had had scrawled a poem. I would have liked it even more if it had been some anonymous poet rather than Damian who had written the piece, but I thoroughly enjoyed following the route anyway. I never got a chance to tell Damian that on the way back I had the added exciiemem of seeing a window shattered when a ladder fell against it.
Finally, some participant of the festival went all over Glasgow with small pieces of white paper and brown plastic tape and identified everyday items around town like "a yellow litter bin" or "a reflective piece of glass" or "a traffic sign." It was brilliant I found the action very effective for disorienting (through orienting)(!) the viewer. I couldn't help myself and tore up one of the signifiers from its signified location for inclusion here.
Excerpted from The Last Word:
Art Strike, Word Strike, Plagiarism
August 1989-February 1990
Published by Panman Productions
This is Panmag International Magazine Number 28
PO Box 1500 New York, NY 10009 USA