1 April 2022
Art & the Public Sphere (p.37-53)


The Glasgow Effect is the name given to a public health mystery: Why do people in Glasgow, Scotland, die younger than similar post-industrial UK cities such as Manchester and Liverpool? Ellie Harrison appropriated this name to title an artwork where she confined herself to Glasgow for 2016. During that year the only vehicle Harrison used was her bike and she actively engaged with a variety of communities where she lives. The artwork’s invocation of Glasgow’s poor health record in combination with the £15,000 of public funding awarded to Harrison hit a nerve with some Glaswegians that led to outrage on Facebook. Subsequently, Harrison and her artwork were demonized by a broader UK media. Why fund a middle-class English artist’s ‘poverty safari’ in Glasgow when so many others never have the chance to leave? This article grapples with the educative potential of The Glasgow Effect. Harrison began the project because her teaching job in Dundee required her to ‘write and submit a significant research grant application’. That application’s success prohibited Harrison from travelling from her home in Glasgow to her job in Dundee; making her unable to teach. By enacting a complete dematerialization of markers of success – motorized travel and related carbon emissions – the artwork, and subsequent book, publicly challenge preconceived notions of ‘good career progression’, offering a critical artistic pedagogy that explodes success fantasies that hang on internationalization, excess travel and ultimately vast amounts of carbon emissions.

Anna McLauchlan