The Nation // Live to explore Work, Union, Faith, Civil War and Roots
The Scottish National Portrait Gallery exhibition features contributions from Wounded Knee and Daniel Warren
When a bust of the late trade union activist Jimmy Reid was removed from the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and taken around cross-general communities in Clydebank, where Reid co-led the famous shipbuilders’ work-in of 1971 and 1972, it led to a voice drama being performed on the site of the former John Brown Shipyard on May Day 2012. The performance was one of five major projects developed as part of The Nation // Live, the gallery's first big outreach project since it was refurbished.
'Some people think museums are just about dead people,' explains the gallery's chief outreach officer, Robin Baillie, 'and all about kings and queens, but we wanted to have people explore their own history and make it relevant to today.'
Based around five themes that have shaped modern Scotland – Work, Union, Faith, Civil War and Roots – The Nation // Live put artists into relevant communities with an exhibit taken from the Portrait Gallery's collection to explore each theme. The results of the two-year project include a dance piece created on Skye in response to St Columba’s relationship with the island, the casting of bronze medals in Fort George, and a 10” vinyl album of folk songs featuring voices from Scotland, Africa and Poland and led by Drew Wright, aka 21st-century folklorist Wounded Knee.
All of this is documented in a film by Daniel Warren that will form the centrepiece of a show aiming to bring history to life while looking firmly forward.
Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh, Sat 5 Oct–4 May.