This is a festival of performances. There are theatre shows, live gigs, and guided tours. There are demolitions. There are dancers. There is Tilda Swinton and David Bowie. There is sex talk and lullabies. There are school children in military re-enactments. There are jet packs. And there is one brief moment when the whole of the city is completely still and utterly silent.
This is a festival about Glasgow. A festival for Glasgow. A festival born out of the closure of one space that imagines the beginning of a new space. Not a physical building but a space of possibility.
This is a festival that will happen in two places.
It will happen out on the streets of Glasgow, on a series of 20 billboards scattered across the city. On each of those billboards will be a description of an imagined performance created by a different artist, some of them from the city, others who know it because they have performed here many times. They were asked only to create an imagined performance for the city of Glasgow. The rest was up to them.
The second place this festival happens is somewhere in the space between each of these artists’ imagination and your own. That intangible, unmeasurable, unpoliceable space in which ideas in their heads become ideas in your heads. In which something that they made becomes something that you made.
In some ways this festival is nothing. It is a festival of nothings. A festival of words on paper. Of idle speculation and improbable delusions. Of meaningless daydreams and trivial meanderings.
And yet, we hope all this nothing can amount to something more than itself. We hope that somewhere in the sharing of these ideas, in the conversations they might generate, in the journeys across Glasgow they might necessitate, in the gentle re-imagining of the city that they invite, something real and actual begins to change.
A city is the accumulation of meanings we ascribe to a place. Everything else is just bricks and concrete. We hope that this festival might generate some new meanings, and some new possibilities.
I hope you enjoy Glasgow’s first Imaginary Festival. Go out into the city and explore it.
And who knows, perhaps many years from now when this festival is only words on old posters buried beneath another thirty layers of posters, you will remember one of these performances not as something you imagined, but as something that actually happened.
Introduction: Jackie Wylie
I recently saw the New York performance artist Taylor Mac opening London’s LIFT festival. Taylor uses a combination of song, live art, improvised dialogue and drag to unify the audience as one joyous and playfully politicised community. The show was introduced as a ‘Radical Faerie Realness Ritual’ – where we were all invited, through participating in group renditions of popular and often political songs, to honour the past and acknowledge the present as a way of letting go and enabling the consideration of a better future …
It was devastating when The Arches closed in 2015. And it remains my hope that a cultural entrepreneur, following in the spirit of Andy Arnold, the organisation’s founder, might take back the keys from Network Rail and start again. But this project represents something different.
It is part of a period of research, funded by Glasgow Life and Creative Scotland, into how the particular experimental, open-hearted energy of The Arches arts programme might be re-imagined for 2016 and onwards, beyond the original building.
This research phase has provided the opportunity to consult with an amazing range of arts organisations and artists. It has enabled the commissioning of three brilliant artists – Andy Field, Rosana Cade and Alan Mckendrick – to take on ‘Action Research’ projects that are each aimed at provoking reflection and progressive thinking around what comes next. With the Glasgow Imaginary Festival project, Andy Field has invited a group of artists to offer up their creative dreams…
The project’s ideas, taken cumulatively, are at once both a love letter to Glasgow and a provocation, a challenge. Stretching back to 1990 and the now legendary moment of the year of European Capital of Culture which led to the opening of The Arches, Glasgow has defined itself as a place of possibility; as a host for incredible international artists and as a home for a community of local artists that relish subversion, risk and ambition. It is lucky to have an audience who are hungry for new experiences and who expect to be taken somewhere unexpected.
The closure of The Arches was a disruption to this sense of possibility. The reason for commissioning Andy Field was that his project idea represented an attempt to regain hopefulness, to fight for expansive thinking, even if that means capturing projects that are practically impossible to realise.
So to return to Taylor Mac – subversion should happen through joyousness. What better way of doing this than by dreaming together of what might just be possible in a brighter, glitter-filled future?
Curated by Andy Field and Jackie Wylie. Production support from Niall Walker and Gillian Garrity. A huge thanks to Billy and the TPA team for donating the poster sites for this project. Thanks also to Platform, Louise Irwin and Lucy Mason. Glasgow Imaginary Festival was supported by Glasgow City Council and Creative Scotland.