13 February 2015
BBC Radio Scotland


Hayley Millar: It’s twenty-four minutes to 9am. This is Good Morning Scotland. Now if there was a climate change induced apocalypse, your first port of call probably wouldn’t be a museum. But one hundred individuals are preparing to set-up camp in the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow overnight as an experiment to test how we might live together in the future. Alicia Queiro went to find out more.

Alicia Queiro: I’m in the great hall at Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art and you can probably hear that it’s very echoey and that’s partially because it’s completely empty today. It’s all to prepare for tonight when one hundred people have been invited to participate in a sleepover artwork. They’ll be exploring communal living by spending the night in the great hall. And the person behind the idea is artist Ellie Harrison and I’m sitting with her now. What gave you the idea?

Ellie Harrison: Yeah, well I’ve been working with GoMA for over a year now. And I guess I was brought in to work with the gallery… looking at issues to do with sustainability and how public buildings might have to evolve over the course of the next few decades in response to climate change. So it was really from thinking about those ideas, that I started to think about ways in which big municipal buildings, like this, might have to be re-used and re-imagined in the future if we have an increased influx of ‘climate refugees’, or whatever might happen over the course of the next hundred years or so.

Alicia Queiro: And have you had a lot of interest, a lot of applications?

Ellie Harrison: Yeah, it’s been really overwhelming actually. So despite this kind of slightly apocalyptic concept that I’m working with, people have been really enthusiastic about taking part. And… I’ve had more than 800 people respond.

Alicia Queiro: So how did you pick the one hundred participants?

Ellie Harrison: Well that’s a good question. So I did read all of these 880 applications. I’d asked everybody to write a sentence about why they wanted to participate. And it was amazing how well people engaged with the themes and the ideas that I was hoping to explore. Like these ideas of wanting to see what happens when you get that many people sharing a room together and spending the night together and how you begin to negotiate so that everybody can have their say within that environment. So people are really up for it.

Alicia Queiro: So you’re here from 6pm tonight to 10am on Saturday. How are you going to fill the time?

Ellie Harrison: Well we’ve been preparing Camp Manual and a jam-packed schedule. And I’ve actually… employed a specialist facilitation team to come in and run lots of exercises with the groups to get them to think about how you can begin to make decisions collectively. So they’ll be running consensus decision-making workshops and giving people the skills to be able to negotiate this shared space.

Alicia Queiro: People will be in groups so you don’t see a kind of Lord of the Flies-style situation coming out of the night do you?

Ellie Harrison: Well [laughs], there is not going to be any alcohol involved. So hopefully things won’t get too out of hand. But I guess one of the things I’m interested in as an artist, is there’s only so many things you can control when you work with a group of one hundred different personalities. So, you know, all my work’s been done really: making the Camp Manual and planning all these details. And then when we get a hundred people in the room, it’s really just a huge experiment to see what happens. So I’m looking forward to it.

Alicia Queiro: OK, well good luck! Thanks very much for speaking to me today.

Ellie Harrison: Thanks.

Alicia Queiro: The one hundred chosen participant will surely be looking forward to tonight, when they’ll be laying down their sleeping bags in GoMA’s great hall for a real-life night at the museum.

Hayley Millar: That was Alicia Queiro reporting there.