Aquistion Partnership: Commissioning Phase 2
Informed by our Floating Head project, we wanted to delve deeper into the art commissioning process and its impact on sustainable practices in the visual arts. The epistemology of the art-world is often based on a constant linear cycle of producing more and more new things. Floating Head was evidence of this, a discarded sculpture that’s material and embodied energy was yet another one on the waste pile created by these practices. The second phase of our commissioning research was aimed at tackling this and was situated in the present. We wanted to collaborate with an artist and artwork that was being produced, and an art festival about to happen.
Jacqueline Donachie is an award-winning Scottish artist and a long time collaborator and supporter of SPG. Based in Glasgow, she has forged an international reputation for a socially-engaged art practice that is rooted in an exploration of individual, family and collective identity and the structures, platforms and spaces (both actual and conceptual) through which it is constructed and supported. Donachie’s work often traverses public and gallery spaces, different iterations and material translations are explored and often activated by social or performative happenings.
STEP was an artwork created by artist Jacqueline Donachie for Glasgow International 2021. In this work, Donachie explores Glasgow’s architectural heritage, much of which was designed and built in the Victorian era. It examines the relationship between these built environments and how they can restrict different types of bodies accessing them. Probing at who is excluded, and what the implications
Donachie undertook an audit of the access points for many of Glasgow’s arts and cultural venues as well as temporary sites used for the GI festival; this research formed the basis of STEP. The form of the artwork was bound to the simple structure of a step and how it both limits and provides access, exercising an overlay of the temporary solutions we often see when adapting old buildings for public use. It considers how we might get to them, both physically and conceptually.
STEP itself is a modular work cast from pigmented concrete covering 20 square m, sited at Govan Graving Docks. The location situates you at the edge of Glasgow city centre, which is visible to the east looking across the vast and vacant contested space that itself is weighed down by the demands of heritage, the restrictions of civic funds and the need for restoration and development. The piece is based on imaginary and unfeasible overlay ramps for two of the buildings originally surveyed – Civic House (built 1920’s) and The Royal Faculty of Procurators building (built 1850’s). The concrete access ramps combined act as a visualisation of something awkward and cumbersome that is the standard response where steps make an entrance inaccessible; broken up, they create a place to commune and begin a much needed discussion about new ways for everyone to access their city.
The works sited at Govan Project Space are made in response to the borderline absurd idea, due to the number of steps, of producing a ramp for the low-level Queens Park railway station, a place which is also home to the cherished arts space Queens Park Railway Club. Like many older railway stations in Scotland including most of the Glasgow subway system, Queens Park was built with many stairs and no lifts. Our ambitious Victorian infrastructure, designed by ambitious Victorian men, yet again catching out every pram, limp, stick or wheel that approaches it.
The sculpture was created to make a vibrant place to commune and begin new discussions; however, COVID interrupted these plans and the project had to pivot from the initial plans which included a symposium called Step To, which was organised in collaboration with Glasgow City Heritage Trust to discuss the issues of accessible urban space in our changing cities. An iteration of this event happened online and the activation of the artwork was a performance by poet San Alland.
Govan Project Space
Govan Project Space is an artist led artist studio and exhibition space that’s been running for 5 years, in that time the founders Matt and Andy have worked with many different of artists – the majority of which are based in the central belt of Scotland. STEP was the first project they had worked on that had so many stakeholders involved, pushing them into new organisational and funding situations.
GPS was self-funded in its first couple of year, and 2020 was the first time they applied to Creative Scotland for support. The successful application was only able to cover a small part of the large scale public work that Jacqueline Donachie had planned. Thanks to SPG’s acquisition partnership the funds were secured, and the artwork was able to be manufactured, produced and exhibited at GPS and the external neighbouring site of Gravings Dock.
SPG facilitated an Acquisition Partnership between the artist and SWG3, an arts and events venue based in Glasgow. The Acquisition Partnership formed for STEP enabled SWG3 to co-fund production of the STEP public work in exchange for taking ownership of it afterwards. Employing this model will enable Donachie to create an ambitious new work which would not otherwise have been possible and also allows the sculpture to continue to have a life beyond the festival.
As this project is not yet complete, our findings are still being processed. However, the process has so far been very positive and the next phase of our Commissioning research is underway, this time with SPG in the role as one of the curators and commissioners.
To be continued ...
STEP is currently waiting to be installed at SWG3 in the rooftop terrace as modular seating units. We will speak to SWG3 about this process and document the installation once it’s complete.