Monday 2nd – Sunday 8th March 2015 This week-long event was created to celebrate the artist Alasdair Gray who lives and works in Glasgow and has just turned 80. Born in Riddrie in the east of Glasgow in 1934, he attended the Glasgow School of Art in the mid 1950s. Gray is a prolific poet, playwright, novelist, painter and printmaker, and is often described as a creative polymath – an expert in many art forms. The concept of ‘Up a Snake and Down a Ladder’ was to introduce a larger and more diverse audience to Alasdair Gray in a fun, inviting and interactive way. The learning team at GoMA opened up the main Gallery 1 space to the public and invited them to learn and create by adding to the installation over the week. This event was low cost in terms of budget and resources therefore a key part of the success of the event was partnership working with the wider GoMA team including the library downstairs. The event also complemented the Spheres of Influence show in Gallery 3 which looks at the key influences of Gray and also those he now influences in current art practice. The idea of how artists, musicians and the like can influence one another gave the ideal starting point to develop into a week-long event. Through discussion and mind-mapping the learning team were able to create a wide variety of creative activity in the gallery from musical performances, jewellery making workshops and theatrical performances to book readings by Alasdair Gray and Tom Leonard. It was important to have something for all ages and to that end we collaborated with the Wee Write festival and offered storytelling sessions for visiting schools and nurseries. Along-side scheduled workshops and performances the main feel for the gallery was that of an open studio where the public could dip in and out of a wide selection of self-led activity including a library corner, giant games and board games. A highlight of the week was a chess tournament with professional chess players playing on a chess board from the contemporary art collection held in GMRC. ‘How the West was Wild’ by Victor Tiede (Canadian) was an instant hit with the public, people were very pleased to see something that had been in storage for so long especially as it was being used for its original purpose.

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You may have noticed Speech Baubles already in the the Library @ GoMA. The library staff have also gathered a rather fine seasonal booklist to accompany the work. Installed since 1 December we asked Penny to send us her thoughts about Speech Baubles and reasons why she approached the Library staff at GoMA to install it.

“I love GOMA and its library and spend a lot of time there. I first considered placing anonymous interventions in the form of bookmarks in books, but realised they might be not last long enough to be seen (if they were taken).
I then proposed using my practice of embroidery (I also use photomontage, painting, performance and installation) to create an installation. Throughout my work I use what I have termed ‘Speech Bubbles’ – overheard gems of conversation, recorded, anonymised and sewn onto traditional style samplers. These snippets are frequently revealing of the lives of passers-by and their humour, problems and experiences.
For this work I read many, many books either with a xmas theme, or which contained pivotal Xmas scenes. I put a call out amongst acquaintances, and soon realised that we remember xmas through songs and films – less so books. This led me to unveil xmas scenes in some surprising literary sources: from the Diary of Anne Frank, to the oeuvre of Katie Price (my eyes!) to classics. I tried to create a memory of xmas by sharing curated words onto labels, placed on the branches of a xmas tree.
Libraries fascinate me: they are places of learning, shelter and safety as well as precious repositories of knowledge.”
Penny is an artist living and working in Glasgow. She has had work shown and acquired by Bury Art Museum and also shown in The Text festival there. In 2012 she curated and produced ‘Packing and Mourning’ as part of The Mutual for Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art and she is also writer (The NME, BBC The Guardian, published writer of fiction). Penny completed her Masters at Glasgow School of Art in 2011. For more information visit her blog.
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