Wednesday, 27 August 2014

The Glasgow School: The artists reply iii: Harry Giles (part1)

Harry Giles is all right by me. He is one of the master-minds behind the Anatomy nights at Summerhall-  a post-modern spin on old school vaudeville variety. He has presented some small scale, intimate works, including one on debt at The Arches. 

While he is based in Edinburgh, he has been part of enough Glasgow-based festivals that he is a stake-holder in the West Coast scenes - and I am sure, as a positive anti-capitalist, he'll be delighted that I am using such a business orientated description.

'I'm not by any technical definition a Glasgow artist. I trained in London and I live and work in Edinburgh. I came from theatre and performance poetry, rather than live art or contemporary performance (CPP). But with each year that goes by I become further away from theatre and poetry and closer to being a performance artist, and I think that's largely due to the aesthetic gravitational pull of Glasgow.'

I think Harry has demonstrated why I wanted his opinions: he has noted that Glasgow is known for a certain sort of work ('performance art') and recognises that it influences beyond the geographical boundaries. 

'I think of Glasgow as the UK centre of what I do. Not London, and certainly not Edinburgh, but Glasgow. For at least two years I've talked about moving through, but I haven't done it yet; if I go to another city, though, that's where I'll go. When I think about moving through to Glasgow, I think that I'll make more friends making similar work to me, get to see more work I'm interested in, and be closer to funding and other forms of support.'

This makes sense to me: having seen Harry, mostly as the MC at Anatomy, I can spot elements of the kind of performance art that is familiar from, say, The Arches Live festival. That is not to say he doesn't have his own identity as an MC. He does a nice balancing act between the sinister and the welcoming (the former more playful, the latter more... I was going to say sincere. Too much of a loaded term...)

'When I was training in London, I saw Nic Green's Trilogy at the BAC. It was the first performance work I saw which I felt changed everything for me -- before then my influences were books and texts and photographs. I saw in Nic's performance the ability to present oneself directly on the stage, in a way that seemed honest and connected the audience directly to the subject through the performer. I saw a way to combine politics and abstract aesthetics that I wanted to be part of. I saw a fragmented, non-narrative approach to work that made sense to me.'

Harry says a great deal more, but this is enough for one blog (he deserves two or three more, so keep reading). I know what he means about Nic Green's Trilogy. It has often been identified as a precursor to the rise of feminism theatre on the alternative circuit (making that claim would involve me either be Matt Truemann or actually knowing how present feminist work was before Trilogy). I do think it announced a certain style to the world, that political and aesthetic combination that defines somebutnotall Glasgow performance. 

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