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‘The Glasgow Effect’ is based on false assumptions

ByAmanda-Jane McCann

Jan 19, 2016

Defining her study as a ‘durational project’ 36-year-old Ellie Harrison has come under harsh criticism on social media after announcing her state funded project, ‘The Glasgow Effect’. Endeavouring to sustain an art career limited to the confines of Glasgow’s city limits, she declared her, ‘action research project’ on social media, allocating a picture of greasy chips as the project’s symbol.
There are two main issues which have been highlighted in Ms Harrison’s project; firstly, and arguably most obviously, it is an incredibly insulting endeavour. From the very offset she has established her ignorance of the reality of many people lives. Not only of those who live in Glasgow, but also to any person who, in their life, has been limited to a city or particular regional area. Most commonly due to the fact that they simply have no other option, due to lack of funds or limiting family situations.

Labelling her project ‘a durational performance’ is not only highly insensitive, but also seems to severely lack perspective. Not only is she appropriating, in the name of art, what is a source of genuine pain and struggle for many, she is insulting anyone who has chosen to stay within an area out of love of their city, to sustain or accelerate an art career.

Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, it seems that her project is one established in error. She has been allocated £15,000 to finance her project in the form of a grant issued by Creative Scotland. Under the presumption that her art career will demand, if she is to be successful, that she travel outside of Glasgow. However, this is realistically very unlikely to be the case. With 23 graduate courses available in the Glasgow School of Art, various volunteer opportunities for both students and non-students and the Glasgow Life site listing endless varied art opportunities within the city limits, it seems that besides any insult she may have caused with her project, it rests on a flawed assumption.

Many students and other artists flock from all over the country to study in Glasgow both as postgraduate and undergraduate students every year. With students coming from over 55 countries, the Glasgow School of Art is currently one of the leading art schools in the UK. With many alumni going on to win the Turner Prize, celebrating new developments in contemporary art, awarded each year to a British artist.

In reality Glasgow holds a bustling arts scene, and to suggest that staying within the city limits for a year may stunt or damage her art career is not only insulting to many, but also realistically false. If motivated any hopeful artist will find themselves not only in good company, but in a city which thrives on the rapidly increasing popularity of the cities art opportunities. Ms Harrison has named her project, the ‘Glasgow effect’, in reference to the phrase which is used to describe the poor health and short life expectancy of those who live in Glasgow. Perhaps attempting to reflect the idea that, if limited to the city’s confines, her art career will suffer a poor and come to an end before its time.

This project is one which is realistically based on a false assumption of what the city has to offer. However given the negative response of so many, it seems like Ms Harrison’s art career may suffer a loss after all, despite being based in such a thriving and desirable art scene.

Image: John Mason

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