The Dear Blue/Green Place
Claire Mitchell speaks to Roderick Buchanan about his installation at GoMA, where the fault-line of sectarianism that runs through Glasgow erupts in the gallery
When good Catholic boy Mo Johnston signed up for Rangers in 1989, he was stepping into pretty dangerous territory - teetering gingerly on the razor-sharp knife-edge that is a specifically Glaswegian sectarian divide, where deep-seated prejudice is often deceptively wrapped up in the silky bright colours of your favourite team. It’s a not-so-invisible line that has been drawn in the city’s culture for years, and while there is no way Glasgow-based artist Roderick Buchanan’s show will be able to erase that hardened, ingrained line, the hope is that it might just be able to blur the boundaries a little.
Historionics, a near-monumental installation centred around a 30ft construction, which takes up the entire ground floor gallery space, is part of GoMA’s Blind Faith project, an 18 month long programme of exhibitions, outreach projects and educational events that will attempt to raise awareness of sectarianism, cultural identity and, importantly, history. ‘The title of the show is very simple to decode. I think of Histrionics as a cross between history and bionics,’ explains Buchanan. ‘My angle on this whole social justice issue is education. And whether that’s in school or as a personal undertaking, Glaswegians should be taking more time to understand where we’re coming from.’
And it’s true - while in school we do learn about the far-flung conflicts of distant times, we tend to be a little less educated about the problems on our own doorstep, problems that inform our own culture. What tends to happen is that, amidst the chants and songs from the stands, the football stadium becomes a learning ground, and while there’s no denying valuable life lessons are learned pitch-side, ‘love thy neighbour’ probably isn’t one of them.
At the centre of Histrionics is ‘Here I Am’, which involves two films playing side by side of Glasgow flute bands, one Loyalist, and one Republican. And for anyone who lives in Glasgow, you know that the presence of these bands within the city is loaded with a certain degree of hatred. Initially Buchanan had wanted to film them together but instead he filmed each band separately, filming them as they chatted before getting ready to play, as well as the musical performances themselves. Consquently, as you watch one performance, you will be able to hear the muffled conversations of the other as they wait to get started. ‘Both bands play, no one’s music interrupts anyone else’s and the pendulum edit means both get an equal crack at representation,’ explains Buchanan.
And on the outside wall, photographs of newly signed Rangers and Celtic players will show that these days it doesn’t seem as if religion really comes into play at all.
Much of Buchanan’s art has been about sport - creating microcosms that point to the bigger social picture. And by placing such sports-tinged works alongside other pieces that consider Glasgow’s ‘mixed’ marriages, or the colour of local history, Histrionics might just make you think a little about where your place is in that very picture.
Histrionics, GoMA, Glasgow, Thu 5 Apr-Sun 28 Oct.