Exhibit B

Photo : Murdo MacLeod

Photo : Murdo MacLeod

I’m back in controversy corner again.

Exhibit B by Brett Bailey (a white artist) is an art installation involving black actors re-imagining a Human Zoo (a place in the olden days where Europeans came to gawk at non-Europeans in their tribal garb… a bit like an amalgamation of travelling tourist traps) in a modern ‘subversive’ way.

The work is intended to provoke white audience members into feeling guilty about our Imperial past, white supremacy and the treatment of immigrants, but recently, after touring extensively, it was shut down at The Barbican in London by a ‘baying mob’ of black protesters who felt anger and hurt at the way they had been represented… The ‘baying mob’ say they were no such thing and The Barbican over-reacted.

There’s three immediate problems :

is it ok to use black experience when you don’t have any?

is it ok to assume it will have a guilty-feeling white audience?

The Arts Industry doesn’t seem to have many powerful black collectors or curators – does it have the right filter?

**I’m slightly obsessed with representation power – I think it’s because I’m not sure what I represent… and I’m not sure if anyone would be interested even if I did know.**

Brett Bailey’s attitude doesn’t help – he’s reacted huffily to the suggestion that he might not be entitled to express himself… That doesn’t show any great insight into the millions of ways that minorities and non-elites are denied a voice. In the 1980s this would have been countered by serious debates on television and radio – but the news-value of the arts has depreciated – so no one has an adequate platform for airing grievances or deeper meanings.

To me any form of shutting down or censorship feels wrong – although it has to exist. Not only can we not allow hate-speech or child porn or other morally suspect things… there isn’t enough professional public space for everything to be seen. Galleries select work. There is a process that supports Brett and hasn’t supported countless others.

I wouldn’t ban Exhibit B.

It’s obviously powerful.

But I don’t think it’s anti-racist.

Anything with nudity and shackles isn’t going to purely incite pity or shame… or at least not always for the thing we’re meant to be atoning for – the strongest images are things we fear but desire…  It’s also wrong not to factor in a black audience’s reaction. And if that reaction is one of feeling demeaned and humiliated then it can’t just be anti-racist.

I think it belongs more in the Punk-Goth-Cabaret-Harlequin bracket – where vanity and thwarted expectations take refuge in the abject corners of past marginal cultures – the freak shows, the Weimar Republic, haunted Victorian nurseries… A narrative space that Art with its conceptual jargon about light and stillness and found objects is struggling to explain.

Some links  for more info :





Ewan Morrison – YES: Why I Joined Yes and Why I Changed to No


UPDATE : Presented without comment

Originally posted on wakeupscotland:

 Ewan Morrison is an award-winning Scottish author and screenwriter.

how one word silencedFour months ago I joined the Yes camp out of a desire to take part in the great debate that the Yes camp told me was taking place within their ranks. Being a doubter I thought maybe I’d failed to find this debate and that it was exclusive to the membership of the Yes camp, so I joined hoping I could locate it and take part. But even as I was accepted into the ranks – after my ‘Morrison votes Yes’ article in Bella Caledonia, I noted that 5 out of the meagre 20 comments I received berated me for either not having decided sooner or for having questioned Yes at all. Another said, and I paraphrase: ‘Well if he’s had to mull it over he could easily switch to the other side.’ That comment in Bella Caledonia worked away…

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Left Cheers Own Death – Again.

The past - having a revolution - that can't fail to bring perfection....

The past – having a revolution – that can’t fail to bring perfection….

For a mainstream socialist these are dark days in Scotland… the left seems about to out-wit itself… again.

Back in the 1970s Trade Union agitation brought down a Labour government and convinced the Tories that there was no point in even talking to them if even Labour couldn’t appease them – they decided to destroy them instead. The Unions went from being one of the most powerful forces in Britain to being absolutely powerless and all this was accompanied by an excited arts industry singing songs, writing plays and having beautiful meetings full of hope and comradeship.

They still happily blind themselves to their mistakes by demonising Thatcher – a woman so dim her handbag became a star.

And now we have a radical left that sees Scottish independence as a vehicle to social justice. Any word of caution about transition costs, declining oil production, alienating our biggest market – England – whose institutions, which we helped build, would become next to closed to us, our ageing population etc are dismissed as media bias, Brit-Nat Imperialism and fear… The chances are that radicals will be ditched and we’ll end up with a low-tax economy dependent on enticing foreign investment, with high emigration and only National pride and the occasional half-decent subsidized novelist to keep ourselves warm with.

The Greens are a lifestyle as much as a political party and can be happy anywhere on earth civilized enough to sustain at least one organic grocer.

But a tiny government is no defense against a global capitalism that carries no ethnic or religious baggage and can flow through any barrier… we can’t even be sure it won’t morally implicate us in some future Super-power shenanigans… Canada has been berated for funding the Tamil Tigers and prolonging a violent division that was finally crushed by China, and Sweden has been characterized as a CIA-stodge / fascist state for wanting to try the Wikileaks founder for rape.

So – stay and fight on several fronts with the Scottish parliament now a permanent sword of Damocles over our heads and a Tory-Unionist resurgence our only other deliverance. Or accept that supporting our ultimate doom is the fate of the British left wither our family of nations are on speaking terms or not?

We can always console ourselves by demonising Nicola Sturgeon.

Scottish Politics!


Scotland’s Independence referendum has made Scotland politically interesting in a way it hasn’t been since Industry collapsed.

45 % of the population voted for Independence – 55% want to stay in the Union.

Yessers believe we’ll be Rich and Socially Just in an independent Scotland – Unionists think the Union brings us more advantages and they feel (sort-of) as British as they do Scottish.

Yes parties are the Scottish National Party, The Scottish Green Party, and The Scottish Socialist Party…. No parties are The Labour Party, The Conservative Party and The Liberal Democrats – all the parties with high stakes in the UK parliament.

Glasgow adds it’s usual dash of Belfast into the mix – the most visible No-Voters being Rangers fans with a real or imagined connection to the Orange Order (a sort of cut-price Irish Protestant Freemasons, that started as a Militia and keeps going in the absence of any other pan-denominational organisation)… It’s a tiny minority but it looms large in Glasgow’s psyche and completely distorts the way the battle lines are discussed (& felt)… Some Irish Republicans think this could be the road to a United Ireland (it’s not) but at the very least would give them a cheap laugh at Sevco (as if everything about it doesn’t already provide that)… Celtic fans can easily be Yessers – but their Irish heritage isn’t entirely containable in a Scottish Narrative that has breaking with Rome as such a major feature of its history… which is possibly why the Catholic composer James MacMillan has been so vocal about the Union. Away from football fans – the main churches in the UK have a great working relationship with each other.

No voters tend to be middle-class and OLD… There’s been a lot of talk of waiting for No-voters to die and then going Independent… The issues that enrage England – Immigration and the E.U. don’t matter in a Scotland where resentment can be aimed at Westminster and the Tories… but equally the strength of feeling in those issues turned on the Scots as foreigners with a border would make Independence negotiations rocky… The idea that we would keep all the advantages of the UK while leaving it are misplaced… Once we have our own agendas those ties will rupture.

Scottish musicians, playwrights and actors tend to be in favour of Yes – believing an Independent Scotland is a better platform for our cultural production and our self-esteem in general… But Scotland’s novelists and fine artists have more No-voters… possibly because their interests are well served in the UK in a way that theatre and film and television is not… To survive, the UK will need to win over the artists who currently feel marginal in Britain…

Some of the unofficial Arts-world rhetoric of a no-vote being about fear, or victimhood or brainwashing by the might of the British state is a misreading of the way people who are not aspiring/professional artists or activists feel. Most Scots never think about being Scottish and have no pressing desire to show their Britishness with bunting. Calvinism’s legacy is a moral distaste for signs and symbols, along with a tendency to read their very existence as a provocative act of aggression… you can see it clearly in the way that Yes/No campaigners will interpret a person flying a flag (us – joyful – them – thuggish) and the (very quiet) mocking of anyone festooned with ‘yes badges’ or the (equally quiet) marking down of anyone with a defaced picture of the Queen or Margaret Thatcher (however much you’re not a Royalist or a conservative) as a loon or a terrorist.

A new problem is that a great deal of Scotland’s cultural tropes come from the Highlands, Islands, and Borders – areas that voted in favour of the Union in the greatest numbers… the Islands in particular are flirting with the idea of breaking with an iScotland and becoming UK crown dependencies in line with the Channel Islands… that ruins the whisky/folk-songs/Gaelic nature of Bella Caledonia… The truth is (I type as a half-Islander) they hate Glasgow and Edinburgh far more than they hate London – and there are signs in Glasgow that the feeling is now mutual – which is a new and weird take on the old Cosmopolitan Scum/Inbred Tcheucher divide – City Separatists and Rural Unionists are a nearly unheard of double-bind.

Perhaps the over-reliance on Irish or Nordic role models, the re-packaging of our Empire opportunism as oppression and our celebration of happily unionist writers like Robert Burns and Robert Louis Stevenson –  was a sign that the Scottishness of this new Scotland was in trouble all along… Sir Walter Scott made the English love Scotland and Scotland accept the Union… it would be difficult to use any of our world-famous achievements of the past 300 years to sever those connections, and without them, what are we? We can’t dine out on a 13th-century warlord and a beheaded Queen forever.

The Labour Party is going to struggle to find leverage in the muddle between this not-entirely-thought-out Scottish patriotism, the clarity of ‘Yes’ as a demand, and the progressive left’s mistrust of the mainstream media and increasing faith in conspiracy theories, urban myths, and shared videos that make a small incident a permanent source of outrage and vindication. It’ll need to point out that the joy of ‘sticking it to the British Empire’ is going to last about a week… after that you’ve got to pay the bills and the ‘oil bonanza’ may or may not be enough. They could add that Empires are even more powerful once they’re truly dead – America tries to mimic Ancient Rome, Islamic State are trying to resurrect the Old Caliphates and Russia is fusing its Soviet and Imperial pasts with hyper-capitalism and Putin as a quasi-Tsar.

The Scottish National Party may lose its startled heartlands outwith Dundee… and its new allies in Glasgow have different economic ideals that would be hard to reconcile. They can capatalise on the idea that Scots don’t own their own resources, they can imply we have no influence, power or self-determination within the UK, they can paint us as being ‘cap-in-hand’ but those things are down to class, not Nationality… and after a break-up or with Devo-Max those arguments could be demolished by a good Labour politician… there could be a backlash of disappointment as bitter as the one Scottish Labour is currently enduring. In fact – many of its allies actively talk about its destruction in an Independent Scotland as if the Greens and Socialists could fill all the remaining political space.

Most Scots paid no attention to the Independence Referendum until the last few weeks… The Yes campaign was mostly conducted in a series of exciting bubbles – from marches that looked the same as the Gaza marches but with blue flags… to the Arts world holding a series of events that their usual audience attended… to social media where a small core of sincere activists were backed-up by users wanting re-tweets and likes. The No campaign started negative and complacent (hence all the ‘too wee, too poor, too bigoted’ stuff)… became negative and desperate… and in the end was ditched while the UK politicians intervened to makes pleas and promises.

Civic Nationalism – meant to reassure minorities and socialists – has led to many Scots being labelled ‘Unionists’ as if they’re colonialists or traitors – another weird division that’s potentially as toxic as sectarianism (especially in Glasgow where it will be framed directly as sectarianism). It risks Scots seeing themselves as being pushed out of the parliament in the way that Celts were pushed to the fringes by Anglo-Saxons and Serbs felt pushed out of  Kosovo.

If Civic Nationalism loses the bulk of its own nationals but keeps the progressive-left we’re in for the kind of vicious, internecine, schisming politics that mirrors our rapidly atomizing world. An antebellum Yugoslavia with an inlay of clapped-out Ulster… The HOPE-CHANGE alliance will blame the evils of the British Media-Elite-Establishment’s lies and scaremongering, plotting and fearing A DAY OF RECKONING, while continuing to alienate the people – Scots, Scotland, Scottish – they should be leading to freedom.

No-voters will resent, ignore and resist them – the Scottish status quo hunkers down, it doesn’t parade – unless it’s the Orange Order… which will continue to be the Orange Order come rain or shine, yes or no… attached to their customs and history… picking up the disaffected whose unhappiness can’t be countered by finding someone worse off than them to help or by being helped by someone better off than them… taking all the fascist, neo-Nazi, Brit-Nat, fat, ugly, stupid racist, sectarian, sub-human scum, c**t flack that they internalized so long ago that they would shout it at themselves if no one else did… The ‘Shy Nos’ will not feel the pressure that’s meant to turn them into Yessers… they will simply blame Glasgow with its poverty and violence.

So – we are literally a divided nation – every council area has a huge minority of yes or no voters, and nearly everyone has heard, seen or experienced some form of insult or attack… we’ve even managed to attract the attention of Russia who views us as a potential way of embarrassing and scaring the E.U. and NATO (a Union we want to join, and an alliance some of us despise). The United States would rather we stayed in the Union because we’re allies and God knows what they’ve got dotted about our coastline or incubating in one of our Arms factories…. with international attention focused on wanting us to stay or go -nukes on the Clyde could be the least of our warmongering worries.

So what now?

Well – we’re not going to be friends. Many of us will be frenemies… some of us are stuck in enemy camps and will front like Kim Philby… and true bastards are going to persecute the ‘other’ to hell and back.

But I think we’ll enjoy it.

UPDATE : the Independence movement has decided to label itself ‘the 45′ and is waging a war against more than half of the (duped/scared/fascist) voting population in order to liberate it… They’re doomed.

UPDATE UPDATE : I wonder if Nigel Farage will cotton on that all he has to do to forge an alliance with the Greens and any old radical socialist is to promise them a couple of wind-farms and yell Euro-Nat at Angela Merkel?

UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE : The Catholic Church in Scotland appears to have struck up some informal alliance with the SNP that may promise that an Independent Scotland will leave them alone on hot issues like gay marriage and Catholic Schools… This is incredibly short-sighted of them… A small boring country that contains radicals is far more likely to get round to imposing and banning things than the Frankenstein UK with its fudge and compromises….


The Scottish Independence Referendum or #indyref #youyesyet #nothanks

It’s difficult to decide who to piss off the most – EVIL ENGLISH WESTMINSTER LABOUR TORIES or WEE ECK AND THAT GLASGOW BAND YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF – so I’ve carefully weighed the evidence :



1. We’ll become a green-socialist paradise.

2. Even more signs will be in Gaelic.

3. Everything will be free!!!

4. The DAY OF RECKONING should be entertaining.

5. Disgruntled English artists will come here to slag off England instead of moving to County Wicklow.



1. England will hate us for at least 100 years until someone makes tartan hats fashionable.

2. England will ignore us – the bastards!!!!

3. Scots will no longer occupy every boardroom in London and rUKIP will patrol the BORDER like we’re Mexico.

4. We’ll be POOR… (apart from the ruling class – obviously).

5. Once THE EYES OF THE WORLD are no longer on us… well, I mean, who cares….

Street Harassment


There’s a new group called Anti-Street Harassment UK and it aims to stamp out the sexual harassment of women by men in public.

So I thought I’d list some of the things that have been said to me over the years :

I’d walk you (I was walking my dog)

Pig noises (I was fat)

F**k off back to Ireland (I’m not Irish & I wasn’t wearing anything that would remotely suggest I was)

What are you wearing, ya c**t (I think it was the pink tights)

Is she going to a wedding? (I was wearing a long white skirt & this was said with extreme anguish & confusion)

What the f**k are you wearing? Hates men of course. (I think it was the trousers & the bunnet)

‘Hey Sexy’ (he did not think I was sexy – I was wearing a cagoule). 

Come and talk to us. Why won’t you talk to us? Being fat must make her deaf. (I don’t want to talk to you!).


Only men should wear bunnets but you look cute. (The bunnet was a real issue) 

Wolf whistles. (this was before I was fat)

Why do you always wear that stupid hat?’ (said by the world’s most irritating teenage girl) 

‘They shouldn’t let them out’. (I had a temporary calf injury that made me hobble like I had cerebral palsy)

A Kilmarnock fan shouted ‘something completely incomprehensible’ at me, while pushing me, and got arrested.

A middle-aged man in a Pringle golf jumper ran around me yelling ‘Up the Ra! Up the Ra!’ 

A man grabbed my skirt, wouldn’t let go & was hit by a nun.

Are you Scots? I hate Scots’. (said by a rescue driver when our car broke down)

I hate the Scots. They hate us. Not like the Irish. The Irish love us’. (said by an idiot in a pub who thought I had an Irish accent) 

A middle-aged man in a park in York saw me wearing a West German shirt (like all neo-hippies in the 1990s) and said ‘That’s the German flag. I fought them. I’m going to kill you for that’ and chased me until I lost him.

A group of men who might have been Polish kept asking ‘do you have boyfriend’ and chased me down Buchanan Street. I had to hide in Borders (the old book shop).  

If I dredged my diaries I’d find a heap more. 



The UK celebrity pensioner sex scandal is still hurtling to its infinite endgame… and the latest (possible) pre-lag in the limelight is Cliff Richard – the English Elvis, the non-American Peter Pan of Pop.

His Berkshire flat has been raided by the police. Cliff was in Portugal and knew nothing about it but the BBC was there filming live and his agent saw it on the rolling-news.

The police are now in trouble for tipping-off the BBC and the BBC are in trouble for their coverage… Unless this is just Elite common decency it either means that Cliff is well-beloved and no pundit believes he could be guilty or he’s the kingpin that could bring down the entire alleged Establishment abuse ring.

As I spend my life steeped in internet gossip – and before that I was steeped in Anarchist conspiracy theories – I’ve been hearing about his alleged perversions for over 20 years – so I don’t really understand why anyone is bothered about it being out in the open. People are perfectly capable of enjoying the tabloid melodrama sincerely while equally thinking that it’s all lies. His image is in trouble – his career might suffer – he might lose his mind under the pressure of a rapidly changing image and a quaking career – but as a person he’s innocent until he’s been banged up so long we forget he was ever free. Or he’s been horribly wronged and the nation will be outraged (while loving every last disgusting second). That’s how showbiz works.

I hope he’s not guilty… He was great as a teen star… he’s been naffly harmless (albeit with a reactionary 1970s Christian-based blip) since about 1965… and well – who would want any of this horror to be truly true when you could listen to his 1950s songs instead?