A Scottish national public arts body has granted an artist who already lives in Glasgow the equivalent of $30,800 to live solely within the limits of the city for one year.
London-born artist Ellie Harrison’s project has provoked fury on social media because of its title, ‘The Glasgow Effect,’ which is a common term for the low life expectancy and poor health of people in poverty-stricken parts of the city.
She has lived in the city for approximately seven years, when she moved to study at the Glasgow School of Art. Her degree show project involved persuading the newspaper Scotland on Sunday to write about her work, which would become her exhibit.
Harrison’s previous work includes photographing every meal she ate for a year, and her Facebook page bears the title ‘Blatant Self Promotion.’
The aims of Harrison’s project are apparently to “cut her carbon footprint” and “increase her sense of belonging,” while uncovering whether an artist can be successful by staying only in Glasgow.
Critics say the project ignores and demeans the hundreds of thousands of Glaswegians who have no choice other than to reside in deprived areas of the city.
“Homelessness in Glasgow, food banks overcrowded, but we give money for this . . . utter nonsense,” wrote Joe Reid on Facebook.
Richard Baillie said the project “sounds like self-indulgent drivel” and the description was either “deliberately provocative” or “naïve.”
“Glasgow is full of artists, and general public who don’t leave the city. . . it seems to really be an artist getting a whopping grant to keep doing her thing and just not leave town . . . how radical!” posted Craig McFarlane.
A post from Martin McMillan criticizing Harrison for using a cover photo of a picture of chips, doing very little so far to deserve the money, and making fun of the poor received more than 4,500 likes on the event’s Facebook page.
Others opted to treat the project with mockery rather than anger.
“If you’re an artist and want to properly immerse yourself in Glasgow culture, can you come paint my hall? It’s been needing done for ages,” wrote Patrick Linton.
James Mooty asked if Harrison could lend him some money because “my tick [electricity] bill over the festive period has been horrendous!”
Another user, Mark Jardine, offered to gift Harrison slightly more than the $30,800 grant if she instead chose to live in Paisley, and an extra $20 if she didn’t once eat at local takeaway Mr Kebab throughout the year.
In a poll on the project’s Facebook page, around 1,700 people voted that purchasing 18,987 copies of 2000 trance song Sandstorm by Finnish DJ Darude would be a better way to spend the money.
Another poll saw hundreds indicate they would rather the money went towards local comedian Limmy, food banks, or journeyman Angolan footballer Jose Quitongo.
A web page has been created detailing things you can better spend $30,800 on in Glasgow, including 2,500 months of Netflix, 3,000 Saturday night entry fees at local nightclub The Garage, or 1,875 munchie boxes, a late night meal commonly involving delicacies such as chicken pakora, chips, and doner meat.
The $30,800 was granted by government agency Creative Scotland, who defended their decision in a statement, saying Harrison’s project was “strong.”
“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,” the statement continued.
“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.”
Harrison also responded to the furor on Facebook, writing: “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.”