Arts body defends funding as artist comes under fire for “patronising” project

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Harrison uses a bag of chip shop chips to illustrate her project​

Dundee-based and English born, Ellie Harrison says she'll stay in Glasgow for a year. But critics say the project is nothing original or new

6th January 2016 by Robert Armour 2 Comments

An artist has been ridiculed and mocked on social media for being awarded a £15,000 grant to stay in Glasgow for a year as part of an artistic project.

Creative Scotland, the arts body and registered charity, is backing artist and lecturer Ellie Harrison in her quest to not leave the city for a year as part of an experiment she calls The Glasgow Effect.  

The artist calls the project "provocative artwork" and that it would “operate on many levels at once” questioning, among other things, ideas about community.

Explaining the year-long experiment Harrison said: “The Glasgow Effect is year-long action research project / durational performance, for which artist Ellie Harrison will not travel outside Greater Glasgow for a whole year (except in the event of the ill-heath / death of close relative or friend).

"By setting this one simple restriction to her current lifestyle, she intends to test the limits of a 'sustainable practice' and to challenge the demand-to-travel placed upon the 'successful' artist / academic."

The grant will go to the Duncan of Jordanstone art college in Dundee, where she works, in exchange for paid research leave.

Part of the outrage has centred on Harrison’s use of negative imagery and language to illustrate the art project’s Facebook page where an image of greasy chips – an apparent reference to the city’s unhealthy diet – has been used. 

And the project’s name - The Glasgow Effect – is seen by many as a particularly loaded term which is often used to describe the poorer health and lower life expectancy of Glaswegians compared to other parts of the UK. 

Laura Walsh, pointed out that being forced to stay in the city permanently was simply a fact of life for many people. “I haven’t left Glasgow in nearly four years, living on benefits and raising a child at the same time can do that to you. There have even been times I couldn’t even afford the bus to travel to the next town,” she wrote on Facebook.

Alex William McRobbie, posted: "The funding of such a project both patronises and insults the poorest living within the city of Glasgow.

"I know of several young artists who haven't left the city in the past year as a result of financial pressures."

And Amanda Cameron said: "Why not go in and around the city and ask people who actually do live, work and have generated an existence for themselves - not in the name of art, but as their actual lives?!

"It's a complete waste of money... and a slap on the face to the people living and working in Glasgow!"

Creative Scotland defended awarding funding for the widely derided project.

A spokesperson added: "Ellie's project is based on the premise that if society wishes to achieve global change, then individuals have to be more active within their communities at a local level.

"In restricting herself to staying within the city boundaries she is keen to explore what impact this will have her on her life and on her work as an artist with national and international commitments."

6th January 2016 by Helena

Utterly insulting, very very negative and, why is this being funded by Creative Scotland?Scotland is very often derided for being, 'too perochial'. I knew someone working as a curator of arts for the Commonwealth games and when I asked why she was travelling the world looking for artists to become involved in her projects, I was told that Scottish art and artists are 'too parochial'.As has been pointed out, many many people, including artists, like myself, cannot afford to leave their city and/or communities due to huge financial restraints!I am working on an artwork about a female farmer in Peru, can't remember last time I was able to leave the city I live in. Not parochial.This funding angers me so much. It is a disgrace in fact as well as a narrow minded, blinded project with little to offer the people of Glasgow, if anything. Shame on Creative Scotland, there are thousands of struggling artists who could be funded to engage in much more enlightening and positive work which could enhance the community and the city of Glasgow.I can't see any English arts funding body doing the same, funding a Scottish artist to 'stay' in an English city without leaving, only to be making an apparent negative statement about that city, and indeed England. It just would not happen.I think it's time to officially complain to Creative Scotland.

7th January 2016 by manager

What has her being English got anything to do with this (shame on SNPCVO for pointing this out as a charity your place is not to make issues instantly divisive - You should apologise for this). On a separate note it is an interesting project that highlights poor diet amongst other things and heck who knows maybe she will prove there isn't a Glasgow effect. Good on Creative Scotland for being willing to be controversial