Glasgow International round-up: ‘art in flats, art in shops, art in a car’

This year’s GI explores a range of connections across the world, writes Susan Mansfield

If the programme for this year’s Glasgow International feels a bit slimmer than in previous years, it doesn’t mean there’s less happening. As usual, the festival is woven into the fabric of the city, springing up not only in galleries but in disused buildings, people’s flats, old shops and even a car: the Opel Corsa from Germany, parked in the King Street Car Park, is broadcasting sound works on short wave radio in a project led by Susan Philipsz featuring students from Dresden and Glasgow.

There’s also plenty of work around which isn’t in the programme, giving the festival a fringe, from Ross Sinclair reflecting on his time as a founding member of The Soup Dragons in Original Line Up at Stallan Brand Architects, to the strangely affecting paintings of little known American artist David Byrd at 42 Carlton Place.

Hide Ad

The “international” part of GI this year is less a line-up of big name international artists than work which reaches out and explores a deep range of connections across the world. At GoMA in Offerings for Escalante (****), collaborators Enzo Camacho (USA) and Amy Lien (Philippines) look at the island of Negros in the Philippines, colonised in the 19th century to produce sugar, which was the site of a massacre when Government troops fired on protesting workers in 1986.

Kim Bohie at Modern Institute PIC: Eoin CareyKim Bohie at Modern Institute PIC: Eoin Carey
Kim Bohie at Modern Institute PIC: Eoin Carey

At the centre of the show is a moving and thoughtful hour-long documentary film, Langit Lupa (Heaven and Earth), which explains the background, features eye-witness accounts and animates the heart of the story with a group of children making their own ritual to commemorate the dead.

At Glasgow Print Studio, in Each body wakes up on a wave (***), Rudy Kanhye and Lauren La Rose and their collaborators look at Mauritius, chosen in 1834 by the British for “the great experiment” to replace enslaved people with indentured labour. In the decades that followed, almost half a million people arrived there from India – some going on to indentured labour in other countries – in one of the biggest migrations in human history.

The show, taking as its central premise Edouard Glissant’s idea of the creole garden, seems to shift around the edges of this bigger story. The emphasis is on multi-sensory work, such as prints made with thermochromatic ink which changes with touch. Viewers can make their own rubbing of a coin or play a game of ping-pong, but the lightness seems somewhat at odds with the seriousness of the background.

Meanwhile, at CCA, Glasgow artist Thomas Abercromby guest-curates You Have Not Yet Been Defeated (****) working with The School of Mutants, a group of collaborators formed in Dakar, Senegal. Glissant features here too, alongside Senegalese writer Ousmane Sembène and Egyptian-British blogger Alaa Abd El-Fattah, in an ongoing participatory research project featuring sound and film, prints, a textile banner and a mobile library.

Installation view of You Have Not Been Defeated PIC: DotgainInstallation view of You Have Not Been Defeated PIC: Dotgain
Installation view of You Have Not Been Defeated PIC: Dotgain

A strike by workers on the colonial Dakar-Niger railway in the 1940s forms a central thread. While it doesn’t offer conclusions, the work has the gravity which comes from being anchored in real life, and the liveliness of ideas which are being subjected to the lens of the imagination. The central perspective is West African, but the show also includes a poem by Palestinian writer Hiba Abu Nada, killed in Gaza by an Israeli airstrike in October 2023.

Hide Ad

Traces of Glasgow’s colonial past drives [mouthfeel] (***) by Camara Taylorin Tramway 5, also research-based and collaborative. Central to the show is the impressive Falls of Clyde, built in collaboration with Sharif Elsabagh and the feminist welding collective Slaghammers, over which cascades not water but dark rum. Its sweet, musky smell permeates the gallery, as does Aí Túng’s bewitching soundtrack. Taylor’s work seems to prefer to evade any direct interpretation, with photographs which decay in their frames and text which is redacted.

Other artists grapple with more personal histories. At 138 Niddrie Road, Mina Heydari-Waite’s film Farang (****) traces a semi-fictional trip across Iran following the British-built Indo-European Telegraph Line. Hi-8 footage shot by her British father of her Iranian mother and her family in the 1990s is combined with archive material about the telegraph line to make an evocative portrait of past and present, connection and disconnection.

Hide Ad

Korean artist Sooun Kim, who has been based in Glasgow since he graduated from Glasgow School of Art’s MFA course, negotiates his two countries in Echoes (****) at the Patricia Fleming Gallery (not in the GI programme). He works between painting and filmmaking, with a high level of competence at both, combining fantasy and realism, traditional skills and contemporary digital ones. His new film, part funded by Creative Scotland, explores his relationship to the history of the Jeju Uprising in the late 1940s on the Korean island where he was born.

Sooun Kim at the Patricia Fleming Gallery PIC: Courtesy of the artist / Patricia Fleming GallerySooun Kim at the Patricia Fleming Gallery PIC: Courtesy of the artist / Patricia Fleming Gallery
Sooun Kim at the Patricia Fleming Gallery PIC: Courtesy of the artist / Patricia Fleming Gallery

There is more fine experimental film in a deconsecrated church at 83 Portman Street with the first feature by Alexis Kyle Mitchell in Anticipate, Sublimate (****) a two-person show with Ima-Abasi Okon. The spine of Mitchell’s moving hour-long film, The Treasury of Human Inheritance, is a personal reflection on the genetic muscular condition which affects members of her family, including her mother and sister. She draws parallels between the failing human body and beautiful decaying buildings around Glasgow, and the film has a powerful soundtrack developed with Luke Fowler and Richey Carey. Another Glasgow artist, Duncan Marquiss, gets a camera credit.

The surprise of the festival is the work of Sandra George (****) at 5 Florence Street, a community worker and documentary photographer in Edinburgh’s Craigmillar in the 1980s and 1990s. After her death in 2013, her partner gave her archive to community arts organisation Craigmillar Now, and this show is beautifully curated by GSA’s Jenny Brownrigg.

One room celebrates her strong documentary work, recording the day-to-day of organisations such as Shakti Women’s Aid, the Royal Blind School, the Victoria Hostel Women’s Refuge, as well as everyday lives on Edinburgh’s housing schemes and of people of colour in the city. A second space explores more personal work, including portraits of herself and her son Tyler, and jewellery and textiles she made as an art student.

And there’s another surprise at Modern Institute with another Korean artist, Kim Bohie (***), a generation older than Sooun Kim, but also a native of Jeju. Here, there is no political unrest, only a kind of meditative tranquility: sea meets sky in a calm, blue horizon; a black labrador dozes under garden palms. Even the surfaces are smooth. It feels unusual work for Modern Institute and for GI, but at the end of a long, footsore day on the trail, is exactly what the soul needs.

Enzo Camacho and Amy Lien until 1 September; Rudy Kanhye and Lauren La Rose until 27 July; You Have Not Yet Been Defeated until 31 August; Camara Taylor until 18 August; Sooun Kim until 6 July; Kim Bohie until 5 September; all other shows until 23 June.

Related topics: