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

Public studio, video installation, publications

Focussing on Scottish identity, timed with the opening of the Scottish Parliament and presenting new video work on Italian assimilation into Scottish society.

Commissioned by CCA through the National Lottery. CCA, Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow, Scotland, 2001


Ed and Ellis in Ever Ever Land

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.

The research process revealed how difficult it was to get to grips with Scotland’s identity. The many faces presented were a combination of the legacy of generations of myth making and the overwhelming visual imagery of tartan and shortbread. For all the heroism, identity seemed to be reinvented on a daily basis. As Kevin Toolis wrote, “Truth and lies are interchangeable when it comes to national myths” ... “anything – past, present or future – can be manipulated for a nationalist agenda.”* It was remarkable to see how Scottish national identity continues to be defined in relation to England; almost 300 years after Scotland and England formed the Union that created Britain.

Travelling and filming extensively, we talked to people about their opinions on Scots identity and their ideas for the future of the country. The enormous differences between our own respective homelands became a significant issue. The Scots were characterised as lacking self-confidence and expressing a desire to recreate and relive the past, and the Dutch by contrast as overly self aware, trivialising its cultural heritage in favour of an almost zealous commitment to the future.

During the exhibition a text blanket was made in a public studio in the gallery, opinions and statements about Scotland and Scottishness gathered through conversation with visitors and from written contributions left on a large pin board. A recurring element of the blanket projects is their use by the people who have contributed to the making process. A daily website update tracked the blanket’s development.

The complementary video installation Differences under the Skin, dealt with more personal subject matter. The work explored the integration into Scotland of Tracy’s Italian family. It is partly based on her Scottish father’s slides that document family members affected by emigration from Italy and the Scots Italians who are the result of that emigration.

To engage and inform a group of people about the development of the work in the year before its staging and presentation, we produced and distributed a series of eight printed envelopes each containing printed material. One of the envelopes included the text Secrets are safe with us written by Tracy about her Scottish-Italian identity.

*‘Scotland, the Vainglorious’, Kevin Toolis, Guardian Weekend, April 24, 1999.

Supported by The National Lottery and Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design Research, University of Dundee.