erasing clouds

Social Sculpture by Sarah Lowndes

reviewed by anna battista

"Once in Glasgow, always in Glasgow," remarked a friend of mine in a flat but almost threatening tone when he heard I was going to visit the place for a while, foreseeing I would finally move there only a few months later. It may or may not be true that once you visit Glasgow you want to go back there as soon as possible or move there forever, but it is definitely true that the city has got quite a lot of reasons why you'd move there after you've visited it. The art, music and literary scenes are only a few and if you don't know much about them, then you should read Sarah Lowndes' Social Sculpture: Art, Performance and Music in Glasgow. A Social History of Independent Practice, Exhibitions and Events since 1971.

Divided into twelve chapters, the book follows the birth of the music, literary and art scenes, the latter also possible thanks to the many artists graduating every year from the local School of Art made famous by architect and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh. While telling us about the various exhibitions in the cutting edge galleries Transmission and Third Eye Centre (which later became the CCA), the releases on Postcard Records and Creeping Bent and gigs at the 13th Note, Stereo and Mono, the author still manages to keep an eye on historical and political events. The book is also packed with pictures portraying galleries and exhibitions, artists, writers, fanzines, bands and album covers.

Lowndes, who moved to Glasgow in 1993, studied at the University of Glasgow and later set up a fanzine, a club and a shop/gallery, started writing Social Sculpture as an MPhil thesis while studying at the local School of Art. In the introduction she defines her book as a "social history which charts the emergence of performance and conceptual-related practice in Glasgow from the '70s on." We could add that Social Sculpture is also an alternative guide to Glasgow, a book for everybody except those who are not into contemporary art and actually hate stuff a la Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst: for them Social Sculpture might end up sounding like an endless list of unknown artists' names.


Issue 25, July/August 2004

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