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Nothing Personal is a new magazine for art, essays and reviews. Normally, the caveat precedes an opinion: It’s nothing personal but… Whoever states the phrase lets themselves off the hook. Someone is told: I don’t mean to offend. Sincere or disingenuous, with hopes to hurt or to soothe, these words create a tension. It both is and isn’t personal. In terms of the magazine, this phrase introduces the contradictions inherent to criticism––the way, despite attempts otherwise, it cannot help but be revealing of both itself and its subject. In Nothing Personal, the anecdotal offers a bridge to the political, social and aesthetic, and vice versa. The writing within works at this intersection, knowing that the subjective can disguise the structural just as easily as the objective can mask the intimate. 

The problems of criticism are pronounced in a small scene like Glasgow’s. The personal and the professional overlap: friends are collaborators, successful artists are former tutors, graduates compete for limited opportunities. Engaging in public criticism is a gamble, you risk alienating your peers and forebears. As a result, a lot of important critical thinking in the city takes place casually between friends, within small crit groups or over drinks in the pub after an opening––in most cases, privately. This kind of closed-door criticality hides entrenched rhythms, curatorial norms and common grievances both of and from the wider scene. Exasperation with this situation sparked the magazine’s conception, along with a sense that writing and sharing these thoughts more widely could open out and animate the city’s artistic communities in untold ways. The contents of Nothing Personal aim to provide a starting point for discussion and are focused on letting artists contribute to and re-centre debate.

Lindsey Jean Mclean, Salome, 2019, screenprint on paper, 59 x 84 cm.

This issue begins with Neil Clements’ Leaving The Auld Toon, an essay which looks at Glasgow International’s relationship to the city, its biennial effects and mythology. Echoing Clements’ concern with belonging, Esther Draycott’s The Monroe Effect charts the downward pull of high rise buildings, asking what it means to be upstanding in a modern city. Swapnaa Tamhane’s essay on self-Orientalising inaugurates our The Limits of … column, a series exploring the problems inherent in various forms of art practice, and their associated language. Drawing primarily on the writing of Edward W. Said, Tamhane reconsiders the labelling of progressive work, defining and unpicking the ironies of self-Orientalising. Following this, Kiah Endelman Music’s Much of it Means Nothing critiques the lack of meaningful care or action behind so-called ‘statements of commitment’ that art institutions seem to endlessly churn out. Loll Jung’s hybrid work Janus Sees the Greys and the Blues but also the Greens and the Yellows looks at beginnings and ends, reflecting an interest in boundaries and transitions found throughout the writing in this issue. In CAMPUS, Calum Sutherland draws a conceptual line between the Barclays Glasgow Campus and that of the Glasgow School of Art, considering the affect of inner-city infrastructure. The Metacritical is written by Aman Sandhu, who embraces the column’s aim to scrutinise rituals and methods of criticality used by artists, while considering the fallout from making, researching and invigilating his show NO MORE ARTISTS. Maria Howard begins our Writing Through feature with a piece that engages with the latest incarnation of Bernadette Mayer’s Memory, meditating on the life of an artwork and its potential to haunt and influence.

Each of these texts is paired with an image. Some provide a counterpoint, some an illustration and others are woven into the writing. Attentively chosen, every image is an essential part of the fabric of the magazine. The issue itself is paired with an artwork too. A few months ago, when Rhett Leinster showed us some new paintings, we knew immediately we had seen something special and had found our first cover image. The painting took us back to the pub, going for drinks after an opening. A toast to the lassitude, the talk, the friendship.

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