Vlodcast: Problematic musicians

Watch Daisy Smith, Paul Sinclair and Rachel Lee discuss the issue below.

Read the article ‘Behind the music: problematic musicians’ here.

Another Country exhibition: a topical subject meets remarkable artwork

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The installation by Toby Peterson at Another Country. (Credit: Rachel Lee)

 

“You come in and it’s quite confrontational. It blocks off a large part of the gallery and on a very literal physical level acts as a barrier,” says artist and curator Euan Gray. “But it’s permeable, he left spaces – as if no borders or barrier is impossible to get through.”

Euan is describing the luminescent orange, capacious fence that is powerfully situated as the exhibition’s centrepiece. The towering instalment is startling yet not distressing. The artist behind it, Toby Paterson, has purposely used ‘safety’ orange. This particular shade of orange stimulates images of life jackets and rescue boats – much like those an immigrant may encounter on their journey.

Contemporary immigration to Scotland, integration and identity are the topics that this exhibition, Another Country, explores through the work of 11 artists. Euan has collaboratively curated the exhibition alongside Alberta Whittle, which is currently displayed at Edinburgh’s City Art Centre.

Each piece in the exhibition is thought-provoking and visually arresting without having to resort to shockingly pervasive imagery. The artists – all of who are either living in Scotland or were born here – address a period of cultural movement or geographical and political unrest through various mediums.

“We’re trying to look at migration from as many different angles as possible,” says Euan. And this is undoubtedly apparent.

Julie Roberts offers a historical reflection of migration with her stained glass like oil painting series on the migration of 10,000 Jewish children in 1938, known as the Kindertransport. Euan refers to it as a ‘positive forced migration’ as the operation rescued the children from the clutches of the Nazis and allowed them to start a new life. Julie perfectly captures the sense of tentative excitement and a new beginning.

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Julie Robert’s oil paintings. (Credit: Rachel Lee)

More up to date, The Brexit Beast is a reaction piece by Andrew Gilbert especially made for this exhibition. The Scottish artist’s grotesquely caricatured Loch Ness monster-like creature sits on the banks overlooking a sea of boats overturned and flailing people drowning. At the enormous monster’s claws, there is a swarm of soldiers, a burning Grenfell Tower and traffic lights. A spiked, menacing medieval morning star weapon and a defiant, waving Union Jack makes up the Brexit beast’s two-pronged tail. Observing the sketch provokes a wry smile before a sense of foreboding reality sets in.

“I’m not wanting to change anybody’s views,” says Euan. “If they just think about migration, then we’ve achieved something. I think it’s important that people just consider both sides of the argument.”

“I just think it’s a very, very important topic that’s only going to get more significant and more heated in the future because of all the tensions that are in the world at the moment.”

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Inside the Another Country exhibition. (Credit: Rachel Lee)

The exhibition took three years of planning after the idea was sparked from Euan visiting Canada and the USA. While there, realised that over 25 million people claim Scottish heritage yet the Scots cultural identity remains prominent. Another Country has previously toured a university in Minnesota and galleries in England.

During these years Euan worked on his own magnum opus for the exhibition. His standout piece is the most interactive of the exhibition, which boasts an extensive variety of art forms including sculpture, photography and film.

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Artist Euan Gray beside his work. (Photo Credit: Rachel Lee)

Although his roots are in painting, he challenged himself to design a functioning pinball machine called ‘The Immigration Game’. The picture etched on the retro machine’s backboard is of a life-jacketed immigrant clutching a young boy in his arms, reminiscent of the images commonly splashed across the front pages of newspapers. The nod to the media is deliberate.

“The game is made to be played for three minutes, which is the average time people spend reading the news.” Euan explained, “I saw the parallel between the entertainment side of playing the game and the media’s involvement with migration from the side of trying to get ratings.”

Inspired by the UKIP poster used in the run-up to Brexit, the motherboard of the machine is a sea filled with the boats full of immigrants.

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The pinball machine’s promotional poster, a painting by Euan. (Credit: Rachel Lee)

“So it was called the Immigration Game as it’s obviously a very ironic title because it’s not a game for the people trying to cross Europe in boats. We’ll play this game, we walk off and forget about it.”

A visitor is unlikely to forget this exhibition, however. Euan says the aim of the exhibition was to open a political dialogue with the audience by being playfully interactive and inclusive, which it certainly has achieved.

You can visit the free exhibition at the City Art Centre before it comes to a close on Sunday the March 17th, a mere 11 days before the UK is scheduled to leave the European Union.

There is a workshop Saturday the February 9th, titled The Legacy of Colonialism that is led by the Another Country team. The workshop will run 10 am – 4 pm at the gallery.

Find out more about the gallery, exhibition and workshop here.

Behind the music: problematic musicians

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The campaign #MuteRKelly wants the singer removed from Spotify. (Credit: Rachel Lee)

Have you ever felt a twinge of shame when scrolling through your Spotify library? Or tilted your screen so your friends couldn’t catch a glimpse of your throwback emo-phase songs or Pop princess playlist?

You wouldn’t be alone. But in the era of #MeToo – perhaps it’s time we feel ashamed of the musicians behind the music we love.

Like the victims, the fact that admired musicians are sexual predators has been largely ignored. From Elvis’s habit of scanning crowds for ‘cherries’ for his entourage to ‘pick’ (14 year-old girls to you and I) to the Rolling Stones selling T-shirts that boasted the band had survived decades of ‘under-age sex’ with ‘baby groupies’– the revelations are disturbing. And yet, their legendary status remains untarnished.

Over a year since the #MeToo movement became cemented in the public consciousness, the entertainment industry is finally looking behind the talent and fortune of its biggest stars and acknowledging what they really are: predators.

The campaign #MuteRKelly has gained traction in the wake of a revealing documentary, Surviving R. Kelly, which aimed to give a voice to the numerous women whom Robert Kelly preyed upon. It covered Kelly’s 20 years in the limelight – during which he was praised for his singing voice, sold over 30 million albums and eventually called ‘the most important R&B artist of the last 25 years’ – whilst knowingly abusing underage girls.

Why, might one ask, if the abuse was so well known, has it taken so long and a worldwide movement to recognise it?

Professor of Feminist Media studies at Strathclyde University Karen Boyle says,

“The women have got to matter enough for it to be a story. A lot of these stories have been stories for a long, long time but they weren’t stories because the women didn’t matter enough. The men mattered more and so the women weren’t believed.”

“We see it with the R. Kelly case – the abuse of black women is the lowest priority of all and especially black women who are sexualised.”

“With R Kelly, if you look at the intersectionality of it being racism as well as sexism – would it have persisted for as long as it had if it had been young white girls he had been abusing?”

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R.Kelly. (Credit: Lean-Op, Flickr)

This week, after protests outside Sony’s New York headquarters, the label has dropped R Kelly. Former collaborators, such as Lady Gaga, Chance the Rapper and Celine Dion, have removed their songs with him from streaming sites. But R. Kelly is still touring – and selling out gigs for that matter.

Hannah Daly works for Edinburgh Rape Crisis and visits high schools to teach the definition of consent. She finds that a lot of teenagers believe that, quite simply, being falsely accused of rape is just a side effect of being a celebrity.

“There isn’t actually a lot of evidence that if you are a celebrity and have been proven to have committed sexual violence, that there will be any difference made to your life. Their careers aren’t destroyed by these allegations, and actually, people go on to have very successful careers for decades even when they have convictions.”

“From our experience, there isn’t really a lot to gain by making false allegations of sexual violence. Generally, I think our survivors would think the assumption that the celebrity status or the attention you’ll get in the media is somehow desirable to be very offensive.”

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The #MeToo movement opened up a discussion about problematic musicians. (Credit: Pexels)

Everyone knows that rape is wrong. We abhor rapists in everyday life. So what do you do when you find that your favourite artist has assaulted a woman or child? Do we make a pledge to #Mute all musicians who are sexual predators? Do we separate the rapist from the art and continue listening to their music?

It’s a question actress and presenter Jameela Jamil has offered a solution to. She proposed that we don’t take convicted abuser’s music offline, but instead that all the proceeds from royalties on steaming sites and iTunes should go to rape support charities. This would allow everyone to continue enjoying their favourite problematic artist’s music, innocent songwriters wouldn’t lose money and records companies wouldn’t have to compromise profit for morals. Sounds like a win-win right? Jamil called it ‘recycling without losing the songs’.

In 2019 it’s important we continue the premise of #MeToo by having discussions and asking questions in order to incite change. It’s time we stopped turning up the music to drown out the voices of thousands of young women.

Watch the vlodcast about this issue here.

Bleedin’ Saor: tackling period poverty and stigma

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Bleedin’ Saor logo. (Photo credit: Bleedin’ Saor)

Menstruation. TOM (Time of the month, FYI). The blob. Mother Nature’s gift. Whatever you call periods, they are sore. And bloody. Bloody sore, actually.

Aptly so then, that a non-profit student organisation that aims to dispel period poverty and stigma is called Bleedin’ Saor. Founders Brogan Henderson, Hannah Stevens and Sam Calder feel the name is perfect, both for the obvious nod to a woman’s monthly cramp-laden cycle and as saor translates to ‘free, without barriers’ in Gaelic.

Bleedin’ Saor is the design and social media branch of the collaborative A Bloody Big Project that includes Hey Girls – who are a buy one give one social enterprise – innovative marking team at Wire Media and the Bloody Big Brunch event enterprise.

The three Edinburgh Napier Product Design students have been commissioned with the task of designing dispensing stations to replace the ever-so appealing shabby cupboards that currently stock the free sanitary products at all three campuses. Tucked out of sight and reach, advertised with a singular poster limply hanging on by one pin, the current cupboards hardly help discourage the stigma and fail to make the products conveniently accessible.

Bleedin’ Saor and the university are keen to change that.

Next week, Hannah, Brogan and Sam will be trialling temporary sanitary stations to gage a public reaction, in order to design the ideal final solution. They have designed open, basket-like dispensing stations and hope for the final solutions to be situated at locations that have 24-hour multiple access points. Their goal is to bring freeness to a woman’s period – both in terms of cost and shame.

“There’s nothing wrong with the products being there, they don’t have to be hidden,” says Hannah. “We’ve focused on making it so that the products are there and where you can see them – we want people to get used to the fact that this is a normal thing.”

“It’s ridiculous there is still a stigma. Half the population experiences this and it’s a completely normal thing that women experience for 40 plus years of their lives,” says Brogan.

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Hannah, Sam and Brogan. (Photo credit: Rachel Lee)

Bleedin’ Saor also runs a social media campaign that invites people to leave their period stories, ask questions and banish the embarrassment.

“We want people to be able to celebrate their period, which is what we’re doing with our Period Blether project – its’ getting people to talk about it. A lot of people already have shared stories on our website,” says Brogan.

Periods are natural. Unavoidable. Uncomfortable. In a lifetime, a woman will endure around 450 periods and will lose about 12 teaspoons of blood during each cycle. A woman can find her periods to be painful and inconvenient; they needn’t be shameful and costly too.

The Scottish Government took a significant step in the long road to gender equality last year by pledging £5 million towards free sanitary products in all schools, colleges and universities. However, there is still work to be done to ensure that period poverty becomes a thing of the past.

Part of doing so, is opening up honest discussions about periods to all genders. By encouraging it to be universally viewed as a natural, taboo-less fact of life, it will hopefully allow products to be easily accessible and readily available.

“The biggest thing is that we want to raise awareness of it we want people to be comfortable enough to have that conversation” says Brogan.

Hannah adds, “It’s astounding that period poverty still exists in 2019. We have learnt so much since joining the project. We didn’t realise how big it was and that 1 in 5 girls in Scotland are not able to have access to products and therefore missing out in school and their friends by not having access to everything that they need.”

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Sam working on designs. (Photo credit: Bleedin’ Saor)

They hope that, with the new and improved sanitary stations, people will make full use of the free products.

“We don’t want you to just take one product as you need it, take enough to last you your whole period,” says Brogan.

The team say that the university has been greatly supportive of them. University leaders have supported the student’s designs and upcoming installations of the dispensary stations and have provided funding for a trip to Uganda this summer in which the students will observe the social aspects of periods and the design of reusable products.

Napier University has also allowed Bleedin’ Saor to host three across-campus Bloody Big Brunches on March 6th. The team will soon begin fundraising for the event which will welcome people to come together to chat all things period over everyone’s favourite mid-morning meal.

Whatever campus, whatever gender – Bleedin’ Saor is an organisation everyone should get behind.

You can support Bleedin Saor by following their Instagram @bleedinsaor and leaving feedback on the temporary sanitary stations from the 4th February onwards.

Artist Zac Hughson on gender norms, working in retail and haircuts

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Zac Hughson. (Photo credit: Rachel Lee)

Displacement. It means something different to everyone. It connotes a different feeling. But it is something we have all felt, experienced, fought against or thrived within at one point in our lives.

Displacement is the theme for Edinburgh College of Art’s newest Canvas exhibition. The theme allows artists to explore the limitations they face within their creative fields and themselves as artists and individuals. Not only does the exhibition allow artists to showcase their personally explorative works, it invites varied art forms and artists to merge and inspire discussions. The Canvas collective hope to do more than inspire discussions. The Canvas collective hope to do more than inspire, but rather challenge the artist and the viewer.

ECA’s Firehouse Building opened its doors for the exhibition’s launch night on Thursday 31st January. The mood of the room was serene and thoughtful. Under dimmed lighting, a huge installations stood out in a darkened corner. A hilly mound of structured wool topped grey masses of concrete – one ball and one cube. The piece was untitled, and the artist behind the work – Zac Hughson – admitted he has never named any of his work. Ever. Although, he did give the two pieces of concrete various pet names.

Zac is a third year Sculpture student at ECA. He’s engaging, open and eloquent. The more you speak with Zac, the more the apparent how perfect the use of concrete is. He believes it’s a misunderstood material. It begins as something to be freely shaped but it doesn’t have to remain in any set form.

Zac spoke to EN4News on the opening night of the exhibition.

The stem of a lot things I’ve been doing comes from recently getting my haircut. That sounds so banal and minor but it made such a weird, unexpected difference in my life.

When I got my haircut people would speak to me in a different way. I work in retail so I noticed the way people address me behind a till is very different now. Male customers tended not to speak to me that much but now that I’ve had my haircut I get asked so many sports questions. The way people will address me or assume how I’ll speak with them now is quite strange because I’m still the same person. I think when there’s something that isn’t masculine or feminine and instead something that is crossing and merging those boundaries is when people sort of freak out a bit.

I’m documenting the shift in relationships between masculinity and femininity and their place in the world. We can start investigating our own things in third year and it’s resulted in me going against the norm. Experiencing things, experiencing change and then pushing that onto objects, spaces and contexts.

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Untitled by Zac Hughson. (Photo credit: Rachel Lee)

I like to blur things, change them and play with things. I really like looking at and exploring binary – sometimes I go out with make up on and glitter and then some days I just like to look really plain. I think it’s fun express but then taking in response to that is eye opening to the way people work.

A reaction is better than no reaction. I like people to come up with their own meaning and take away from it what they can. I think it has got to a point of looking at relationships between things and then they can take away what sort of relationship between that is. I’m not forcing it, it’s not a very explicit piece, it’s personal in a respect but not so obvious.

Certain people take certain things away from it. It does have quite a masculine look to it and almost a caricature of a formal, bold masculine sculpture.

I’ve never been happy with how an art piece turns out in my life! I think as soon as I’ve produced something than I have a yearning to push it further or to change it.

I like engaging with material, I think that is the primal side of sculpture. I think it’s so much more alive than other forms of art. I feel much more connected to it. I feel like I can manipulate it more than other types of art and then it can live in a different space.

I’m actually really weird about where my work gets exhibited – I must be a picky artist type! But I’m really pleased with the curation of this space. I think my piece works in this space and I’m excited to have my work exhibited with other people and disciplines. It’s really different from what I’ve done so far.

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Zac Hughson. (Photo credit: Rachel Lee)

 

Interview: Ayshia Taskin

Edinburgh artist wants to reduce food waste and global hunger – one corn puff at a time.

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Artist Ayshia Taskin (Photo Credit: Rachel Lee)

Meet Ayshia Taskin. She’s a mother, an artist, a wife, a student – and now, thanks to her recent project, an engineer.

With her installation performance art piece, Paradise Corns, Ayshia hopes to prompt visitors into conversations about the impact food waste and modern day corporate consumerism has on world hunger. Paradise Corns – the name of the machine Ayshia built herself – churns out edible corn puffs which visitors of the exhibition are free to help themselves to.

When I first encounter Ayshia, she envelopes me in a friendly hug. In the interview below, Ayshia passionately discusses the personal connection Paradise Corns has to her and about her hopes of a world in the not-too distant future where food waste has drastically reduced and everyone is happy and healthy with a full belly.

I thought that was all my life was going to work in hospitality, I never thought I was going to be an artist. I’m the first in my family on both sides to go to university. I’m really lucky because my husband took the brunt financially, he told me to finish university and focus on my art. Luckily I got funding to go to Venice, there are some really supportive tutors at ECA. I always try and keep myself and my work down to earth. It gives me a good worth ethic.

I think what happens in your childhood really affects you when you grow up. When I was a kid in Cyprus, me, my brother and sister would see the British tourists with an abundance of food and enjoying their holiday. I think that sticks in my brain that I was born in Britain but only had a bit of couscous to eat. It is very surreal to look back on.

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“Paradise Corns” produces an abundance of corn puffs (Photo Credit: Ayshia Taskin)

When I look and see people still starving in 2018 when we shouldn’t be – we have all these factories and mechanisms to make things available to people – it’s very irritating in my mind the way the system works and they don’t necessarily want everyone to have an abundance of food or anything because it’s all about the capitalist system. I think we are at a point where we don’t need capitalism anymore. There’s enough food in the world but it’s not distributed properly.

I don’t like to see the waste. It’s unnecessary. In the West we are so disconnected from other countries who don’t have access to food at all. If everyone was just more aware of the rest of the world, and how people in the world are struggling to survive then things will change.

“Paradise Corns” is the amalgamation of performance, multi-sensory methods, i.e. olfactory senses, sight, smell, taste and auditory. Visual stimuli in the form of video and the literal production of food – auditory stimulation in the form of the sounds of the milling machine, extruder and videos. I created a set of films as part of the Paradise Corns project that are inspired by adverts from the 90s. They were very child-focused…bright colours…very appealing. ‘You can have this, when you want it’…but not really if you don’t have any money. It helped create a spoiled society and food waste.

I harbour a fascination of mass food production and consumerism. When I watch documentaries about starving people, food waste, countries unable to feed their people and my son asks, ‘well why don’t we just send food’. I always think ‘yeah we could, but that’s not going to sustain them’. People need to eat everyday so if I make a machine, you can make a machine too.

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Ayshia constructs her masterpiece (Photo Credit: Ayshia Taskin)

I didn’t study engineering but I built a machine. It shows that women can engineer things. I’m not an engineer – I’m not even good at basic mathematics – but when you have such a desire to make something or do something for a purpose you just have to go for it.

Women are held back from doing engineering jobs because they don’t have the belief they can do it because it’s so historically male dominated. I think we have to encourage girls from young age to be interested in engineering and building things. The logic brain is considered masculine and the creative side of the brain is considered the feminine, sensitive side. To this all starts at childhood, so I think it’s important for parents and teachers to give girls mechanical sets.

We should all try our best but it shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of individuals. The Council should provide more outdoor space to grow your own things – fruits, vegetables, corn – whatever! It’s more sustainable. I would love for anyone to be able to walk into a supermarket and buy whatever they want and to have an abundance of food, but it’s just not possible.

I set up a free-for-all pantry in the studio. I wouldn’t say it was me, I would just do it. I set myself a budget of five pounds a week to get as much as I can and then everyone can help themselves. People in the studio can add to it they want but not forced to, or don’t have to spend as much as a fiver.

With Paradise Corns, I’m creating the food waste and I want it to look shocking. The project has so many layers. I don’t want to tell people what to take away from it – they may want to just take a corn puff! But I hope the work inspires people to question how food is made and consumed so we can create a future where people do not starve.

Fast fashion, faster damage

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Clothing and shoes collection bins will hopefully encourage people to donate their unwanted items to charity.

Fast food, fast cars and now there is even fast fashion – a contemporary term used for the cheap and trendy throwaway clothes we buy from budget retailers. These garments might be perfectly good at the time of purchase, but they soon both fall apart and out of fashion. According to Fashion Focus, it is estimated that we now buy 40% of our clothes at ‘value’ retailers. These fast fashion suppliers – the majority of whom solely allow online shopping – have not just stomped their stiff, faux-leather boot adorned foot down on the high street, but they have also left a muddy carbon footprint in their wake.

Recent findings from the Environmental Audit Committee show that Britons are the number one consumer of new clothes in Europe, and the number of items we are purchasing has doubled in the last ten years. Campaigners for sustainability Wrap have highlighted that 300,000 tones of clothing are binned every year. Of these easily re-useable clothes, 80% are piled in a landfill and the other 20% are incinerated, releasing toxic chemicals such as azo dyes, chlorinated solvents, lead and mercury into the air.

Last week, MPs reported that they are growing increasingly worried about the UK’s penchant for buying new clothes and the many repercussions this has on the environment. In their report, MPs said the fashion industry was now a leading producer of the greenhouse gases that are over-heating the planet. MPs have since reached out to a number of retailers, urging them to consider the various approaches they can take to drastically reduce fast fashions’ destructive impact on the environment.

Andrew Pankhurst, Re-use Campaigns Manager for Zero Waste Scotland, emphasised the importance of fashion retailers taking immediate action:

“We all know buying brand new products can be tempting, but we have to think about our limited natural resources and the impact of our waste as we fight the ever-increasing threat of climate change.

“With the public and businesses more attuned than ever to the problems caused by linear consumption, there has never been a better time to be making the case for making things last and getting maximum value from our resources.”

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Clothes will a lot of life left in them can be found in charity and vintage shops.

In Edinburgh, steps are being taken to find solutions and alternatives to fast fashion, with its various sustainable fashion choices for shoppers. The capital boasts a vast array of vintage boutiques, natural wool knitwear stores and even shops such as Godiva and Totty Rocks, who use locally sourced fabrics to custom make pieces – which can take up to three weeks – ‘slow fashion’ is more fitting here.

Edinburgh & Lothians’ Regional Equality Council, who work to promote human rights and sustainability, have been hosting weekly clothing repairs and alterations drop ins. At 1:30pm on Wednesday 10th September, they have organised a swap shop event at Kings Church on Gilmore Place and encourage the people of Edinburgh to bring items in exchange for other items of their choosing. They also hope to launch a sewing club in the coming months.

Project Coordinator, Jean-Matthieu Gaunand said:

“The fashion industry is a great contributor to climate change. The industry emits as much greenhouse gas as all of Russia. At Edinburgh and Lothians Regional Equality Council, we encourage people from diverse communities to repair and re-sew their clothes rather than constantly buying them new.

“Our clothing repair service is run by an expert Kurdish tailor who has over 15 years of tailoring experience. She has done wonders and the feedback from participants has been excellent. I invite everyone to drop in.”

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People can take their clothing to Edinburgh & Lothians’ Regional Equality Council’s weekly drop-in to ve

Elsewhere in the city, one student is pro-active in push against fast fashion. Edinburgh College of Art Jewellery and silversmithing student Daniela Groza is the curator of an annual ethically-conscious

fashion show, R Sustainable Fashion. She has recently been appointed the student ambassador for the Ethical Making Pledge, founded by the Incorporation of Goldsmiths. She explains what the group’s objectives are:

“We want to ensure that the materials used in our workshops not only come from ethically sourced roots, but also that we are creating a safe environment for ourselves, such as eliminating chemicals such as citric acid and finding substitutes.

“Also, thinking about recycling and reusing precious metals – re-melting and turning into a new piece, creating multi wearable jewellery, thinking about the material flow; where it came from, digging to its roots, but also considering where it will end up, putting emphasis on a circular economy.

“As a jewellery student who is interested in fashion, it is my responsibility to take these issues into consideration given the damages produced to our world by both the textile and the extractive industry.”

In the quick isn’t quick enough society of today where everything is available at the simple click of a button, the temptation of ‘buy now, wear tomorrow’ can be hard to resist. However, next time you are about to hit ‘checkout’, perhaps stop to ask yourself – do you really need another Boohoo dress? Your purse and the planet might just thank you for it.

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