6 January 2016
The Herald

The controversy stirred by a grant given to an artist so she can live in Glasgow, only, for a year has led to Scotland’s arts funding body to defend the award.

Artist Ellie Harrison – whose previous projects have included a confetti cannon to fire if there had been a Yes vote in the referendum, and a campaign to Bring Back British Rail, among many others – is to launch The Glasgow Effect later this month.

Funded by Creative Scotland with a grant of £15,000, Ms Harrison, who studied at Glasgow School of Art, will not leave the city for a year.

She is calling it a “action research project/durational performance”.

Ms Harrison, whose project has drawn a mixture of responses on social media, from scorn to amusement, says that “by setting this 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’.

Last night she said in a new post online: “Like any provocative artwork, The Glasgow Effect has been devised to operate on many levels at once, and the questions about ‘community’ being raised on/off social media these last few days is certainly one of them.”

Ms Harrison, who has a long history of project-based work, has lived in Glasgow since 2008.

Her artistic work takes various forms including installations and performance lectures, live broadcasts and campaigns.

However, the title of the project, The Glasgow Effect, is a well known phrase for discussing the poor health and low life expectancy of the most deprived areas of Glasgow.

The projects Facebook page is illustrated with an image of chips, a stereotypically unhealthy meal.

Some comments on Facebook and Twitter said the project was “insulting” and other questioned the use of Creative Scotland money for the work.

However it appears the project, which was initially called Think Global Act Local, is not primarily about poverty or deprivation in the city.

The description of the project by the artist adds: “The experiment will enable her to cut her carbon footprint and increase her sense of belonging, by encouraging her to seek out and create ‘local opportunities’ – testing what becomes possible when she invests all her ideas, time and energy within the city where she lives.”

Creative Scotland said: “Ellie is a recognised artist with an MA with Distinction from the Glasgow School of Art.

“Her idea, articulated in a strong proposal which met all the criteria for Open Project Funding, focused on exploring whether it’s possible for an artist to generate an existence for themselves by living, working and contributing to a single community, as opposed to being constantly on the road because of the need to earn money from commissions from different places that incur costly travel and accommodation costs and high carbon footprint usage.

“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.

“Our funding will support Ellie’s creative practice in Glasgow and we will be interested to see how the project progresses.

“As part of our funding conditions we will require an evaluation of the project once it is complete.”

Ms Harrison has lived in Glasgow since 2008.

Her career has featured a series of project based work, often based on gathering data and information.

She is taking leave from her job as lecturer in contemporary art practice at the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design to make the project in Glasgow.

The artist updated her Facebook page with a statement on the reaction to the project, saying: “Thanks so much for your interest and engagement in the project: both positive and negative.

“Glasgow has been my home for seven-and-a-half years and to suddenly have a response like this to one of my projects has been quite overwhelming. “You have given me so much material to digest, it will take the whole year to do so. I hope to follow-up by meeting many of you face-to-face, when all the fuss has died down.”

Phil Miller