Differences under the Skin

The commission for CCA’s reopening was to develop work that focussed on Scottish identity. The research period coincided with the opening of the Scottish parliament, when some were of the opinion that its establishment arose out of a sense of cultural difference rather than a drive for political change.

Differences under the skin is the first in a series of video installations that address personal subjects. About the integration into Scotland of Tracy’s mother’s Italian family, it is largely based on the slides made by her Scottish father. His images are of family members, Italians affected by emigration from the Molise region of Italy, both through leaving or having been left and the Scots Italians who are the result of that emigration.

Migration from Italy to Scotland was part of the larger Italian economic emigration that started in the 18th century. The Molise region is a mountainous and impenetrable landscape, an underdeveloped area of small towns and villages. Due to the high percentage of emigration from the region, the regional government has recently adopted policies that examine cultural and identity issues in people from Molise living abroad. This is in response to requests from emigrants to strengthen their contacts with the region and is significant given the marked increase in the phenomenon of return emigration.

The images that Tracy’s father made record the complex process of assimilation into a new culture over a number of generations. The people, personal effects, interiors, significant places, religious feasts and festivals, the portrait and location photographs give clues as to how the Italians established themselves in their new surroundings. What is also revealed is to what degree Italian identity was stimulated or enhanced, how cultural continuity was maintained through beliefs, values, customs, language and traditions and the importance of the home and objects, personal belongings, décor and place in terms of leave-taking and assimilation.

New images made by us document many of the people in Tracy’s father’s images and record new family members. 18 simultaneously moving images in grid format scrutinise in extreme close-up the original images. The slow, hypnotic pace and the large-scale of the projection causes the viewer to constantly seek new combinations and groupings of images.

Ed and Ellis in Ever Ever Land

CCA, Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow, Scotland, 2001

Double screen video projection, 300 x 800 cm, duration 20:00

First in a series of video installations addressing personal subjects; the integration into Scotland of Tracy’s mother’s Italian family

Part of Ed and Ellis in Ever Ever Land; public studio, video installation, publications. Commissioned by CCA through the National Lottery