Category Archives: Prose

The Black Merkin

Contributed a page to The Black Merkin








Laura Edbrook & Norman James Hogg invite you to celebrate the publication of a romance novel written by 170 individual authors.
This marks the culmination of a nine month project initiated as part of the New Work Scotland Programme 2010.

BAD ROMANCE was a crowd-sourced project managed by Laura Edbrook & Norman James Hogg under the transitory moniker New Society of Dilettanti. Edbrook and Hogg initiated the project during their writing commission for the 2010 New Work Scotland Programme at the Collective gallery in Edinburgh. The idea was to write an entire romance novel using a ‘tribal’ model of authorship.

The project began by randomly selecting one e-book from a downloaded bit-torrent of over 100 romance titles. This ‘template’ was then split into 170 sections of around 300 words each. An advert appeared in the NWSP newspaper, offering individuals the chance to ‘become a tribal author’ by participating in a mass reconstruction of the novel.

Participants rewrote sections in the manner and style of their choosing. They received only a few basic instructions, including a request to leave all character and place names intact. Over the course of nine months, the society managed the sending, receiving and editing of texts entirely through Google docs, until the last section was returned in July 2011. At this point, all character and place names were over¬written with new names using the ‘find and replace’ function.

The result is The Black Merkin—a ‘new’ novel bearing little if any resemblance to the donor text. It is equally a ‘broken’ novel; the unrestrained swarm of authorial impulsions hollows out narrative structure and coherence.

Step by Step Guide to Midsummer | Jo Robertson

Step by Step Guide to Midsummer

A difficult artist to grasp, it’s not my intention to elucidate the full range of Robertson’s misdemeanours and accomplishments. Others have done that both with dull employment and mischievous intensity; send them out as ambassadors! No. Where it seems appropriate, reach out to the creators, their appetites precede them. The search for a new kind of painting begins on a beach in the south of France, imagining seared peinture-mots produced by an artisan skilled in indulging barrenness.

Dabbed and squirted, a small proxy, about twice as good as it needs to be. Only a smaller piece of extra texture is displayed, and it doesn’t matter. No jaded and anonymous shills and pilferers for that mass of matter. One image on stretched canvas. The bonds rupture and the particles move on the surface of the image of an otherwise clothed body, the murmurings of the facture more delicate, magnificent, and tender than any minor historical masterstroke from the 1950s. Drawing strewn here and there. A pellucid bottle green echoes my erstwhile experience as a professional eater, one of pleasure, luxury, and abundance. A puce sluice drips and blobs sans cérémonie, producing a thrill-packed finish as it slowly congeals.

Larger pieces are fully on vapours. A thrilling picture! A dazzling series in abandoned jade and tachisme purée. A luminous emerald slathered before an indifferent public. Dilute browns (known as ‘cinnamons’ in England at the time this goes to press) are a magnificent metaphor for the poète maudit. The striations of the black surfaces, portals into an imaginary 19th-century city, recall the beautiful megalomania of one who frequently wrote to newspapers in support of her besieged friend. Technique mixte. A pillow in relief, painted in the Aquitaine region. All the curves of the model’s body whipped smooth until they turn to garlands.

Merely for diversion, Robertson goes about in odd shapes; in which she acts her part so naturally, that even those who are in on the secret can perceive nothing by which she might be discovered. For that, I’m grateful.


Dr. Mulholland reviewed for Puce Timesfor three years from 1996, during which period he exclusively covered painting in the Zlín Region of Moravia. Although his website still includes his biography, which can be found through a search engine, it no longer prominently features him.

No One Driving (Redux) at Performing Art History

performing research: Art history not for publicationA conference organised by the Performing Art History Special Interest Group
Friday 6 May 201112.00 -18.15, Kenneth Clark Lecture Theatre

The Courtauld Institute of Art

Speaker(s): Thomas Ardill (Tate), Emma Cheatle (University College London), Diana Cheng (McGill University, School of Architecture), James Day (The Courtauld Institute of Art), Martin Hammer (University of Edinburgh), Jim Harris (The Courtauld Institute of Art), Jack Hartnell (The Courtauld Institute of Art), Becky Hunter (University of York), Ayla Lepine (The Courtauld Institute of Art), Maria Loh (University College London), Carol Mavor (University of Manchester), Nicola Moorby (Tate), Neil Mulholland (Edinburgh College of Art), Michelle Rumney (Independent artist), Katie Scott (The Courtauld Institute of Art), Julian Stallabrass (The Courtauld Institute of Art)

Ticket/entry details: Open to all, free admission, but please book in advance, preferably by 12 noon Wednesday 4 May

Organised by: Jack Hartnell with Dr Katie Scott (The Courtauld Institute of Art)

Whilst the methodologies of art history have been subjected to radical critique and constant renewal since the 1970s, our conceptualisation of research aims and our expression of research outcomes have remained remarkably limited, static, and conventional.

In an attempt to address this imbalance, Performing Research will look beyond traditional methods of delivering art history, reaffirming the live lecture as a unique moment to communicate the wide-ranging subjects of the discipline in ways that redirect attention from theory in the abstract to the media and practices of art history.

Through the innovative use of image, text, sound, film, performance, and digital technologies, the papers will begin to redraw the parameters of art history through the media in which it is embedded. Showcasing radical and self-conscious experimentation with instruments of presentation that are already extending the discipline, the conference allows dynamic new relationships to emerge between the ways of presenting information and that information itself.

Glasgow Has Built This Text and This Text Has Built Glasgow | Direct serious action is therefore necessary by Joanne Tatham & Tom O’Sullivan

Glasgow Has Built This Text and This Text Has Built Glasgow


Exists only in the future. This is not a complete thought. It leaves you asking, ‘who or what exists only in the future’?


The direct serious action proposed in the Bruce Report (1945) ensured that the outer lying Greater Glasgow – the suburbs of Drumchapel, Easterhouse, Castlemilk and Pollok – absorbed the ill-housed working classes. At the peak of its population, the city’s greatest paternalist triumph, its post-war redevelopment also generated a sense of loss, loss of the density typical of Scottish towns, a loss of social space. Following more recent refurbishments of the city’s estates and the construction of large out-of-town shopping off the M8 and M77, these public schemes have been augmented with newer speculative private housing, arranged in clusters of medieval cul-de-sacs rather than the modern grid formations of the City Centre. This newest of Glasgows is atomised, a constellation of burghs and bishoprics. The Clyde is silting up. For a substantial number of the city’s residents, this is Glasgow.


There aren’t many representations of the city’s more recent signings, of its private housing estates, its freight yards, its shopping malls, its call centres, its new motorways. Perhaps it’s not that this Glasgow isn’t represented, it’s just that only an ‘iconic’ architectural view is permissible, or what Gerry Hassan calls ‘the world of the official future’:

This is a place where the sum total of public discourse of government, public agencies, mainstream media and corporate coalesce into a relatively coherent worldview. This increasingly points in one way: towards a model of the world centered on economic growth, determinism and the primacy of competition and markets.[1]


New Glasgow lies on a strip of Finnieston along Broomielaw on the north and Kinning Park on the south bank of the Clyde running up to the confluence of the River Kelvin, where shiny destinations have been erected alongside ubiquitous cheap mock dock apartments. There’s the new screenscape of the Science Centre, the ‘needle’, the BBC, Clyde Arc, and the ‘armadillo’, all of which are intended to rival Sydney Harbour as cinematic city.


Surrounded as they are by the wastelands of the Garden Festival site that still separate them from the burgh of Govan, Glasgow’s new cityscape is more reminiscent of Gateshead’s post-industrial façade. This metal jacket is promoted as uniquely Glaswegian (keep mentioning the shipbuilding) when it’s really a one-size-fits-all plan rolled out globally for one-time industrial zones. Regeneration of these spaces always involves a mixture of cultural businesses and cheap private housing designed for a new generation of cultural workers. They are ideal for building mass capacity arenas and high-density homes and office blocks without having to take local residents concerns into consideration (there were no residents in industrial estates.) This is a part of Glasgow that can be found all over the post-industrial Anglosphere. Urbanism by implicature, this city and its people is conspicuously absent in much of the art made in Glasgow today.  While Glasgow and Glaswegians are real enough, there is no real Glasgow.


Architecturally, Tatham & O’Sullivan’s photographs can’t readily be identified with ‘old’ or ‘new’ Glasgow. Their ‘Realism’ is a rhetorical strategy, a way of generating a consensus around what’s supposedly common sense and uncomplicated, what’s true, straightforward, sincere and honest. These black and white images are placed in plywood frames that the artists have carefully made themselves. The beeswaxed frames are jerry-built and homespun in a way that gestures towards the extensive, and perhaps unnecessary, labour involved in their construction. These images hang in a neat row on the walls of the galleries of the CCA, on Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow.


The Glasgows who. This is not a complete thought. When you read or hear, ‘The Glasgows who,’ it leaves you wondering, ‘What are those Glasgow doing?’ or, ‘What about those Glasgows?’

Glasgow is associated with Romanticism, the Gothic, with modernism or even with pop. Glasgow is ‘real’. In part this is encouraged by its topography. While it has many hills, it lacks open central vistas that allow theatrical perspective of the lay of the land. The Clyde Valley is, at best, glimpsed down long streets or witnessed afar from Renfrewshire or the Campsies. Central Glasgow is a dense repeating grid, a plateau that places you always in the middle. Glasgow’s Realism is also cultural. It celebrates its lack of propriety, of the propinquity that normally marks urban life, a hangover, perhaps, from Highland Diaspora. Iconoclasm, self-deprecation and schadenfreude languish from Presbyterianism. There is a marked tendency for personal space to be transgressed, for privacy to be disrupted, and unwillingness to succumb to fantasy. This ‘directness’ can be both liberating (inviting) and draining (intrusive).


Much of Glasgow’s most popular visual culture mythologised this veracity – the Glasgow Boys, Thomas Annan’s 19th century social documentary photography, the Gorbals paintings of Joan Eardley. Despite the Glasgow’s considerable riches, representations of poverty have dominated over images of affluence. The resonance of these images in the present appeals, also, to arrivistes since they give the city an ‘authentic’ ring that is still highly valued in bourgeois society. For many of its residents, Glasgow is ‘a cheap holiday in other people’s misery’. The sense of the real is socially constructed and consumed differently by people who live in the city.


Tatham & O’Sullivan have been taking photographs of Glasgow for some time. These are images of the city that they live and work in. Some appear to be almost identical, surplus to our visual requirements. They look at the underlooked, representing districts that aren’t deemed worthy of being documented or sentimentalised: an unremarkable building site in Dowanhill, a park in the East End, a council building in Castlemilk. They don’t represent iconic places or notable incidents; they generally lack a human presence or any narrative intimations that might hold our attention. They have no obvious value in a city that celebrates People’s History. They don’t appear to try too hard to impress a particular style, attitude or mythology that we are asked associate with ‘Glasgow’.


I saw Glasgow who cares. I may have wanted to write:I saw Glasgow. Who cares?’ The intended meaning can be changed, or it can be misunderstood.  Sometimes the meaning is simply incomprehensible. 


Ah’m jist a wee Glasgow pigeon

George Square is mah domain

A rent a wee hoose fae the Council

City Chambers is mah hame


Aye, Glasgow punters are jist great

They’re awfae kind tae me

Ah never ever go hungry

Cause they provide mah tea


They feed me on pie and chips

Or sometimes a loaf of bread

And I return their kindness

With a wee thank you on their head[2]


Glasgow is a deeply sentimental city, rivalled in Britain only by Liverpool. It resembles a patient in trauma. It struggles to remember, to re-examine and come to terms with its past. Glaswegian nostalgia is fuelled by the very rapid post-war destruction and much slower reconstruction of the social, economic and architectural fabric of the city. As it gradually adjusted to its future, Glasgow became an oroborous, a serpent that eats its own tail, a place that feeds off its own mythology. The built environment is central to how the inhabitants of a city construct their sense of self. The Glasgows that might have once been are again learning to share their quarters with the Glasgows of the present and the possible Glasgows of the future.

Which of these pasts are celebrated is a lottery determined by our present desires. The medieval city is marked now only by the Cathedral, the Provand’s Lordship and salvage from the Old College that made it to the new Glasgow University campus on Gilmorehill. Little of Georgian Glasgow is visible through Victorian encrustations and adjustments. But what of Greater Glasgow, of the Corporation that saw to all of its citizens needs? Who took the Greater out of Glasgow? A 1980s Heritage yarn of Victorian Glasgow towers over these earlier and more recent incarnations, with the cultural economy narrative of the ‘Merchant City’ jockeying for position.


History is not fiction, yet it takes the same form as fiction. In cryptozoology, spurious species take the forms that are comprehensible to their time. The sea horses of the medieval past are the prehistoric plesiosaurs we know of today. Similarly the art of every period is defined by a trope specific to its time and place: the café-bar, the vegetarian arts centre. The art of the past can resurface, but it will be received differently in its new surroundings. There’s the always the danger that it might not fit, that it might not mean anything to its modern audiences. Tatham & O’Sullivan recently made two large sculptures in the form of water beasts, and have now placed them in the CCA on Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow. The CCA is an arts centre, built in the mid 1970s, deliberately situated on a road that has long been central to the nightlife of the city. The cryptids bob and weave through the gallery spaces, surfacing in the Victorian ‘Greek’ Thompson vestibule, the rear galleries and in a café-bar that was refurbished in the late 1990s. Tatham & O’Sullivan’s mythological kelpies are reminiscent of art works that might have looked more at home in the Third Eye Centre, CCA’s original incarnation established by former International Times editor and poet Tom McGrath.

[1] Gerry Hassan “The Dreaming City: The First Step To A Better World Is Imagining One”, in Soundings: A Journal of Politics and Culture, ‘Tales of the City’ Special Issue, Winter 2007.

[2] Alice Mulholland ‘A Wee Glasgow Bird’, in Alice’s Glasgow Again, Glasgow: GlasgowPrint, 2007, p48.

Unveiling: Rocket MT2010 – Andro Semeiko 3 April -23 May 2010

Artist book Unveiling: Rocket MT2010, 48 pages, edition of 500, tells a linear narrative with layered visual meaning. It features images created and compiled by Andro Semeiko, and texts specially written by Neil Mulholland and JJ Charlesworth. It is edited and published in collaboration with Basement Art Projects.

Andro Semeiko
3 April -23 May 2010
Opening: Sat 3 April 2:00-4:30pm
Book launch Unveiling: Rocket MT2010, Sat 15 May 2:00-4:30pm
Free copies will be available at the launch and from:
Andro Semeiko has made the body of work to document the secret creation of a space rocket designed to fly to Mars. Built by a secret society, work began underground in the 17th Century and has been ongoing for three centuries to meet the launch date sometime this year! The secret society has employed experienced miners from the Forest of Dean, who had previously helped the English to capture Berwick-upon-Tweed from the Scots in the thirteenth century. The miners have dug tunnels that stretch under the river Tweed to the village of Spittal, which is to be the actual point where Rocket MT2010 has been constructed. Specially trained rhinos were also shipped in from India to help out with the excavations. The final preparations for the first flight of the Rocket MT2010 are about to commence. The secret society will select fifteen lucky people from Berwick-upon-Tweed to man the rocket on its maiden voyage. They will experience the lovingly crafted Mock Tudor rocket, where things are on a miniature scale but have a grand appearance! Every detail of the rocket has been considered by the secret society. For example, the crewmembers’ urine will be reworked into a delicious drink and their nail clipping will be processed into spacey porridge. The secret society has integrated itself into all levels of the community, enabling them to deny and cover up any rumours that the chimney at Spittal point is in fact the tip of their rocket. Can anyone stop the launch of this Mock Tudor rocket? What is the secret society’s unknown quest to Mars? And why are the people of Berwick-upon-Tweed being offered this unique experience?
Project Unveiling consists of an installation in the Gymnasium Gallery and an artist book publication. The installation contains paintings, sculptures, drawings, blueprints, models, a slideshow and several items from Berwick Museum and Art Gallery. It operates in contemporary art context by using mechanisms of archival documentation as well as theatrical methods of delivering a narrative. The blueprints of the Rocket MT2010 are developed in collaboration with Pierre Maré Architects. Life size model of the rocket is built in collaboration with aircraft engineer Simon Heald.

Andro Semeiko is a Georgian artist living and working in London. Exhibition Unveiling is part of his Berwick Gymnasium Fellowship 09/10. Semeiko studied at Tbilisi State Academy of Arts (1998), HKU, Utrecht (2000), Goldsmiths College (2001) and Royal Academy of Arts, London (2006). He has exhibited in New Contemporaries 2001, Camden Arts Centre and Sunderland Museum (2001); Shine, The Lowry, Manchester (2002); Sotheby’s Auction, London (2007); Two Hopes, Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theatre, Georgia (2007); Kunstvlaai, Amsterdam (2008); Expander Painting, Prague Biennale (2009). He was awarded Kunstanjer 2000 (NL) and British Institution Prize 2004.

Berwick Gymnasium Art Gallery

Berwick Barracks
The Parade
Berwick-upon-Tweed TD15 1DG
Opening times: 11am – 5pm, Wednesday – Sunday
Tel: 01289304535, Email:

The exhibition is made possible by: Matthew Walmsley, Curator of Berwick Gymnasium Art Gallery; Judith King, Curator for Contemporary Art at English Heritage; Anne Moore, Curator of Berwick Museum and Art Gallery; Jim Herbert, Cultural Development Officer at Northumberland County Council. The Berwick Fellowship programme began in 1993 and is awarded annually to selected professional artists who have demonstrated an ongoing commitment to developing their practice. This period of reflective time is intended to give artists an opportunity to produce a new body of work in response to this extraordinary border location.