When it comes to art and culture Glasgow is at the cutting edge of what goes on around the globe. The offer is diverse.
Performance (or Live) Art
Take performance art, for example. Glasgow is the host city of the New Territories Festival, culminating in the National Review of Live Art, which this year has celebrated its 30th anniversary. This is one of the top festivals of its kind in the world, and very much benefits from the cozy size of the city. The format consists of five all-dayers spread amongst various venues in town (the Arches, Tramway, the Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow University…) and showcases a variety of works from the interminable to the one-to one encounter. Expect bloodletting, fainting, swooning, nudity, humour, things thrown at you, costumes, props, cross-dressing, generosity… This year, Guillermo Gomez-Peña made us laugh and cry with his post-colonial politico-performative lecture, washed down with 7-year old Havana Club rum (which he kindly shared with the packed auditorium). Elsewhere at the CCA, four Slovenian performers enacted the death of their favourite artist, staging heart attacks, wall collisions, and gun-shots, while meticulous cleaners did away with the mess left behind. I had never seen anything more compelling. Meanwhile, at the Glasgow Film Theatre, Stelarc was giving a talk and showing is third, full-working ear. At the end of the festival, all participants (public and performers in harmony) got their picture taken for the future, as if the roller coaster of the previous week had been but a dream. The festival is so very innovative that next time round we are to expect a complete change of format.
If you like more active participation you can join Dr Sketchy’s Anti-Art School at the Arches for her life drawing burlesque classes. And for something more informal, keep up with the annual festival of DIY culture, where you can learn how to screen-print, alter clothes or join a writers’ group for free. You prefer the outdoors? No problem, just join Glasgow Guerrilla Gardening group.
And if participation and direct engagement is not your thing, there’s still plenty going on. Glasgow is a hub for contemporary cutting-edge visual art. Just remember Franz Ferdinand’s lyrics: ‘here we are at the Transmission party, I love your friends they’re all so arty, oh yeah’ and, while singing, get down to King Street to see what the gallery has on offer. And, if on an even year’s April you find yourself in the city, don’t miss the Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art, where you will invariably find work that is mind-blowing, sometimes hilarious, sometimes compelling, sometimes a little too close to the bone. Be warned, though, here you may also be asked to participate. Relational art is in vogue! 2010 will see Glasgow’s Streets covered by white bicycles, from Kelvingrove Museum to George’s Square, for example.
Fashion, Film, Music, Comedy
For a dose of cutting edge design, the fashionistas amongst you should head to Che Camille in Argyll Arcade to find impressive dresses, jewellery, and events, including clothes swaps and art exhibitions. Glasgow Film Theatre is very good for strange, out of the ordinary films. As cutting edge does not have to be current, you can also join some of their late night screenings of cult classics. The ticket will also get you into the Nice ‘n’ Sleezy club for free! Musicians should check out the small venues, such as the 13th note, for up and coming bands and, if you want to discover the next Frankie Boyle (himself quite cutting edge) don’t miss Tuesday’s Red Raw at the Stand, where a row of virgin –in the stage sense– stand-up comedians perform their first acts, in a 5-minute psychotic succession. And if you fancy something more sober but still cutting edge, do not miss the Doors Open weekend, as it will give you an opportunity to see spaces designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh that are not normally open to the public. He was such a pioneer that no other designer-architect actually followed his footsteps!
So you see, there’s something for everyone cool and trendy, or for those with an open mind who like seeing experimentation. And if you want to continue the trend, you should head to Bar Miso on a Wednesday, where you can put all you have learned into practice by mixing your very own experimental cocktail. Cutting edge, yes, but always in style.