19 September 2014
As Scotland votes No to independence, we take a snapshot of the responses of some of the country’s many Yes-voting artists.
The four confetti cannons at Edinburgh’s Talbot Rice Gallery, installed by Glasgow-based artist Ellie Harrison and primed to go off in the event of a Yes vote, remain undetonated. “It seemed quite clear by about 4.45ish that we weren’t going to set them off,” said Harrison, at the end of a live webcast from the gallery.
With 55% of Scotland voting No to independence, the hopes and aspirations of many of the country’s artists – the majority of which appeared to be in favour of a Yes vote – have for the moment at least been dashed. A No vote, however, does not mean business as normal for Scotland – or the rest of the UK for that matter.
“In a way, I feel that they [the cannons] can be activated at some point in the future – not during this exhibition but metaphorically in some way,” said Harrison, talking about the energy and possibilities that characterised much of the Yes campaign, particular from those operating outside the official, SNP-sanctioned bubble.
The National Collective, which styles itself as ‘Artists and creatives for Scottish independence’, tweeted: ‘Never forget we’ve all stood toe to toe with full might of British state, corporate and media might and exposed their inadequacies… Now we must ensure that they keep their promises and hold them to account. We bid you goodnight but we will return.’
Edinburgh-based artist and Yes campaigner Alex Hetherington seemed to sum up the reasons why many Scottish artists aligned themselves with the Yes campaign: ‘I voted with my beliefs and values. No anger or disappointment. Fight for justice, equality, peace, and speak up and vote.’
Beautiful and brave
Counter views included that of the art critic and broadcaster Waldemar Januszczak, who tweeted: ‘Bravo Scotland. You make great art. Now you’ve made a great decision.’
Elsewhere, the international curator Charles Esche, writing on Facebook, said: ‘The British Government’s abuse of power and self-interest continues. I guess it was a step too far, but it’s still a very sad day. My only hope is that someday soon and somewhere else people acting together can really say no to established government, overcome all the vested interests that will insult and terrify them, and open up a way to invent new systems of democracy.’
Esche also posted a long reflection on the result by the artist Alec Finlay, who wrote: ‘Today was the greatest setback for the progressive vision in the British Isles in a generation. What a beautiful and brave struggle it has been.’
Edinburgh-based photographer and artist Johnny Gailey tweeted: ‘Don’t let the politicians off the hook in the name of reconciliation…’ After a passionate, loud, divisive and at times angry campaign, it’s a sentiment that can surely unite both sides of this Yes/No referendum.