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Editorial III

Our cover image for this issue is Hannah Wilson’s The Folder (2022). The work depicts a man, shoulders hunched and bent forward, his balding crown exposed and his gaze directed downwards. His head casts a long shadow over his left shoulder as it bows over his chest. The paint here is particularly dense, the contrast is dramatic, the darkness flat. The man’s shoulders become a kind of horizon, improbably high, broken only by a few lines of fine hair. The background, a pale grey-blue, evokes the sterile walls of a warehouse or an office, some unforgiving workplace rendered the shade of a cartoon sky – giving a half-hearted impression of escape.

Wilson works primarily from film stills, carefully selecting, cropping, and redrawing until they have found a composition. Face obscured, setting unclear, The Folder draws attention to the details it excludes as much as those it contains. The subject wears a cobalt, crumpled worker’s jacket, once a uniform of manual labour, now more familiar as the affectation of a middle-class creative. There is a sense of resignation, but from what it’s not clear.

A similar feeling threads its way through several of the essays in this issue. In Top Floor Tales, Hayley Jane Dawson recounts a journey home from an exhibition opening in Glasgow, unearthing the layers of personal history woven into a well-trodden route through the Southside. It outlines two worlds: the working-class city on one hand, and the middle-class art scene on the other, drawing out some of the tensions and pressures around keeping a foot in the door of each. That movement continues with a piece in our Metacritical series by Lisette May Monroe, about the long drives she sometimes goes on with a friend. Recounting one particular detour to a museum of chewing gum in Arizona, Monroe speculates on the function or lack thereof these journeys perform, about the idle car-games and conversations that contain real issues at heart, about the universal need to ‘divert’ one’s time and the privilege of having that recognised as art. Framed by a looping image of an artist donning and discarding his Deliveroo uniform, knotty relationships between class, time and creativity also run through Kate Morgan’s review of Teddy Coste’s The Junction at Lunchtime and Gregor Horne’s New Work Scotland at Celine.

Ruby Kuye-Kline, RED HOLE, 2022, oil paint on canvas, 180 x 120 cm.

Elsewhere, Kiah Endelman Music speaks to artist and filmmaker Michelle Williams Gamaker. Touching on projects including the Women of Colour Index, her Dissolution film trilogy, and the institutional collective A Particular Reality, Gamaker discusses the role language has played in her work: drawing together real and fictional activism, creating the possibility of critical affection and enacting an interrogation, immersion or escape.

In The Sharp Wheel That Loves You, Georgia Horgan dissects the appearance of Japanese anime in Mexican culture since a series of international trade agreements beginning in the 1980s. She registers anime’s contemporary influence in the work of millennial artists Mauricio Orozco and Luis Campos as an emotional symptom of a distinctly neoliberal condition. For The Limits Of … column, Rachel Grant unpicks the links between the oil industry and culture in Aberdeen, outlining the insidious effects it has had on the city’s art scene and asking where and how forms of fossil fuel divestment might take place.

Aya Bseiso’s Impossible Terrains meditates on the intimacy held in contested landscapes, the memories that course through the watery border between Palestine and Jordan, and asks ‘How to Return?’ Kandace Siobhan Walker’s SEINE was first presented at Chapter Gallery in Cardiff, alongside a film, photographs and a delicate net suspended from the ceiling and made by the artist herself. In the poems, the net ‘WEARS THE DEAD LIKE JEWELLERY’, and pulls in the stories of her childhood.

In our reviews section, Maria Sledmere responds to Elvia Wilk’s recent book of essays, Death by Landscape, plotting the points where a first person ‘I’ transforms from a glyph to a stalk that wraps itself around essays on the climate, fandom and the weird. Rodrigo Vaiapraia reviews Holy Bodies by Clay AD in light of Raphael’s painting The Ecstasy of Saint Cecilia, considering the book’s queer interweaving of the spiritual and bodily. In their review of Suds McKenna’s exhibition, A familiar plough into the knot of a tie, Romy Danielewicz describes the queer communality the works depict, a hedonistic imaginary of lives lived in a ‘mutability of presentation’. Andy Grace Hayes reviews Scott Caruth and Alex Hetherington’s exhibition Seen and Not Seen at CCA, Glasgow, disentangling the ‘migrating sounds’ of the two artists’ work and asking if they are in conversation or competition. In A Letter from Newcastle and Gateshead, Caitlin Merrett King recounts a weekend of openings and music in New Narrative style.

In her review of Agitated Air: Poems After Ibn Arabi, Nasim Luczaj notes how the movements of Yasmine Seale and Robin Moger’s retranslation perform love as a site of renegotiation and recapture. Reviewing Camara Taylor’s show at Collective, Maria Howard draws links between memory and water in the context of the artist’s research on Scotland’s links to the slave trade. Finally, Hussein Mitha reviews Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme’s installation at The Common Guild ‘May amnesia never kiss us on the mouth’ reflecting on the show’s treatment of the 2011 Arab Revolutions in ‘strangely melancholic images, charged with unfulfilled potential and lost hopes’. A negative image is not necessarily a symbol of defeat, they argue: rather a way of rendering their subject with vividness.

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Editorial II

In our interview for this issue, Momus editor Sky Goodden begins a discussion on the idea of ‘crisis’ with a quote from Toni Morrison: ‘I insist on being shocked. I am never going to become immune. I think that’s a kind of failure to see so much of it that you die inside. I want to be surprised and shocked every time.’ Similar sentiments appear to thread their way through this issue. In many of the pieces there is a sense of working against inertia, against prevailing attitudes and their hardening in moments of crisis. Often, that effort produces a certain unease, which manifests in unsteady movement – the writing cuts, splices, pivots, shifts tense. The images chosen to accompany the writing reflect this, seeming to turn in on themselves, with scenes and objects that feel difficult to pin down. Together, they register a need to return again and again to the task of marking extremity in the everyday.

For many of the contributors, time is of particular concern. In Tillie Olsen and Time’s Coal: Some Verses on the Limits of Practice and Discipline, Laura Haynes navigates the constraints of late capitalist time on the woman writer. Questioning a societal demand for the day’s optimisation, Haynes asks instead, where is the good-enough setting? In our Hybrid column, Jessica Higgins’ Now, for the doubters and the sceptics moves through the syncopated rhythms of office hours, clock-time and domestic boredom, cutting between Jane Arden’s film Anti-Clock and Clarice Lispector’s The Hour of the Star. In Do You Ever Remember Books You Haven’t Read, Brent Garbowski recounts a trip across Pennsylvania, tasked to pick up thousands of books for a Jim Lambie show in noughties New York. For our Writing Through column Rebecca O’Dwyer considers Rosemarie Trockel’s Manu’s Spleen 1, reflecting on its graveyard scene from the perspective of post-lockdown Hamburg, noting a world picking up where it left off. Aïcha Mehrez’s essay Ethically Surfacing Museum Connections with Empire and Slavery addresses the ongoing harm caused by Tate’s decision to frame its colonial history in neutral terms, and its refusal to acknowledge the institution’s power to shape national narratives.

Similar themes are outlined in exhibition reviews by Natasha Ruwona and Maria Howard. Ruwona looks at how Drink in the Beauty at GoMA falls short of its aims to address ‘current debates on climate justice and legacies of the British Empire’. At Tramway, Howard reflects on Amartey Golding’s Bring Me to Heal, its meditation on the generational trauma of colonialism and the iterative rituals that become a form of processing and resistance. Elsewhere, Ruth Gilbert reviews Life Support: Forms of Care in Art and Activism, last year’s major show at Glasgow Women’s Library. She looks at the ways care has been taken up by various women artists not only as a necessary tool for survival, but an ‘articulation of hope’. In a review of Thriving in Disturbed Ground at 16 Nicholson Street, Gwen Dupré questions the curatorial assertion that female empowerment can be achieved through reclamations of vulnerability and spirituality. Calum Sutherland writes on the assimilation of artisan materials into tasteful contemporary art via Tonico Lemos Auad’s Unknown to the world. In light of their shared experience of growing up in Belfast, Neil Clements considers Cathy Wilkes’ installation at The Modern Institute. Paul Barndt’s book review takes us through David Hoon Kim’s Paris Is a Party, Paris Is a Ghost, touching on language and translation, love and wasted time.

Frances Stanfield, Yellow Bull, 2020, monotype on Somerset Paper, 70 x 50 cm.

Our cover image, Poppy Jones’ Soul & Body (2021) depicts a tan jacket with one button fastened and one undone. Painted on suede, the work repeats itself, the art object and its subject indistinguishable. Cropped sharply and framed in aluminium, it focuses all attention on its detail, avoiding any definitive narrative suggestion. Jones builds the image through lithographic printing and washes of oil and watercolour in what becomes a palimpsest of process and routine. The nap of the suede bears traces of a hand passing, evoking both the immediacy of painterly gesture and the intimacy of dressing. 

After a glimpse of how things could be done differently, it is frustrating to witness a return to normal. Towards the end of the interview with Goodden, a question arises of what to do with the unease of this moment. She suggests the tension, if not defined in terms of crisis, can be generative, a well of energy for new conversations and practices. In Soul & Body, as with the rest of this issue, something hopeful emerges from the refusal to stop looking, despite the pressures of time and exhaustion. The past is unsettled in service of the present, and inertia is held at bay. 

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Editorial I

In Margaret Salmon’s film Icarus (after Amelia) (2021), Glasgow is shot from above through the window of a light aircraft. The Clyde trails like a ribbon across a city which looks hazy and expansive. Hitchcock-esque, the camera gradually zooms in on The Pearce Institute in Govan where the film was on show as part of the exhibition Home Economics, and then proceeds to capture the lives of women in the neighbourhood – their work, gestures, daily routine. Salmon deftly enacts a shift from the macro to the micro. This move feels particular to the derangement of scale felt over the past eighteen months. It captured the manner in which our lives are caught up in larger institutions, systems and civic networks, without diminishing the agency and dignity of the individuals involved. 

The way artists navigate institutional expectations and the entanglements of personal relationships is a thread that runs through Issue I. Our cover image is provided by Andrew Black, winner of this year’s Margaret Tait Award. Justin Bieber (2019) is a nude, depicted in nature, ‘the prince of pop’ turned away from us, mid-ascent. At points the paparazzi grain of the image is underscored, at others smoothed away. There is a real sense of intimacy and personal connection, belying the artifice and intrusion of the original photograph. Desire seeps into the long lens shot, and Bieber’s celebrity is backgrounded by Black’s treatment of the subject – attentive, individuated, sensual.

The Margaret Tait Award demonstrates how a confluence of scales, or the small masquerading as the big, can feel claustrophobic. It is rare that peer review becomes a literal reality, but in Glasgow your friends are often also your collaborators, colleagues and gatekeepers. This year the prize fell into this collapsed universe. Some of the shortlisted nominees had themselves nominated others on the shortlist and the panel itself was comprised, at least in part, of their friends and associates – a diverse but close-knit milieu. In a competitive scene this closeness is a double-edged sword. 

Jessie Whiteley, The Outlaw, 2021, egg tempera on board, 30x36cm.

Winning an award like the Margaret Tait, or even being shortlisted, is a gateway to bigger and better things. It is a key checkpoint in the Glasgow art pipeline, sitting somewhere between an Intermedia show, a couple of years on the Transmission or Market Gallery committee, a Cove Park Residency and, at the pinnacle, representing Scotland at the Venice Biennale. The question of how to negotiate this slim set of opportunities lies at the heart of Calum Sutherland’s interview with Hardeep Pandhal, starting with a critical discussion around the artist’s exhibition Confessions of a Thug: Pakiveli (2020) at another key pipeline location, Tramway. 

In our pilot issue, Neil Clements observed of the art scene’s relationship to Glasgow International, ‘if the city is to function in service of its local practitioners, we must pay closer attention to its internal rhythms’. Once again, the ninth edition, postponed from 2020, solidified a competitive cycle and general fight for visibility beyond the city limits. The majority of press coverage (from The Guardian, The Art Newspaper, and Art Monthly) devoted column inches to the Commissioned Programme and simply centred the festival moment. This kind of writing, conceived over the course of a long weekend, takes something already so concentrated and makes it even smaller and more digestible, first in the festivalisation of the city’s art scene and then in its abridged reviewing. Hussein Mitha’s piece for this issue aligns with some of Clements’ analysis, providing an expansive consideration of agency and class within GI through the lens of Shona Macnaughton’s performance Here To Deliver (2020). 

Elsewhere in our GI reviews, Esther Draycott writes about You’re Never Done at Springburn Museum and Kiah Endelman Music considers Martine Syms’ SHE MAD S1:E4 at Tramway. In an effort to balance the attention lumped on the festival, our reviews section also covers exhibitions which fall outside its bounds. Calum Sutherland looks at figurative painting across three shows in the city, and Gwen Dupré reviews Emma Talbot’s Ghost Calls at Dundee Contemporary Arts. On a lighter note, Maria Howard considers the merits of an annual competition of children’s art. Mike Sunda and Caspar Heinemann inaugurate our book reviews. Reviewing Jackie Ess’ Darryl, Heinemann tracks a life lived in desiring, exhausted negotiation with masculinity. Sunda meditates on language learning, cultural immersion and noughties Japan through Polly Barton’s Fifty Sounds.

The issue also includes essays, poetry and experimental writing. Esther Draycott’s She’d been good, it hadn’t worked delves into twentieth century Glaswegian women’s memoir, redressing the surveillance and state controls enacted on the lives of those in council housing. In the lead up to COP26, Maria Howard looks at the limits of the heroic narratives that pervade nature writing in her essay Vigilant Care. In Can I We really be all this !!!!, the poet Olivia Douglass uses family photographs to ask how language, memory and image can exceed themselves. Yuki Okumura writes our first REWORK. His The Depersonalization of Artist treats text sculpturally, manipulating each word of a version of Lucy Lippard and John Chandler’s The Dematerialization of Art in a disassembling of conceptual art’s origins and virtues. K Patrick & Adrien Howard’s Silence continues our Writing Through column, drawing on their relationship to transgender experience to reimagine scenes from thirteenth century French romance, Le Roman de Silence. Writing from ‘a place of friendship’, the pair represent one of the advantages of a close-knit community which makes it easy for artists and writers to come together and collaborate. 

In Home Economics, Salmon’s film was accompanied by a series of objects and photographs, entitled Surplus (2021). Across two tables the play of scale continued – little battleships sunk into a melted candle, postcards piled up, broken coil springs nestled on a set of scales – and everyday items mixed with literary ones. A child’s chair sat between the tables. On top a pile of billiard balls, underneath a globe. 

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Editorial

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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