Oh My God - I'm Scottish too!! (blog archive)


September 6th 2011 - January 16th 2012 This blog documents Oh My God - I'm Scottish too!!, an independent performance research project conducted by Rachael Clerke in the autumn of 2011 which aimed to examine and critique the nature of Scottish identity politics on both a personal and national level. This investigation resulted in the creation of three alter-egos as 'The Big Men of Scotland' (Alex Salmond, Donald Trump and William Wallace as portrayed by Mel Gibson in Braveheart), the publication 'Oh My God - I'm Scottish too!! (which can be viewed at the top of this blog) and a performance lecture entitled 'How to Achieve Redemption as a Scot through the Medium of Braveheart', which premiered at Glasgow Buzzcut festival on 17th March 2012.

10. Braveheart

November 20, 2011

from Glasgow


So I’ve started to become interested in the idea of taking iconic Scottish figures/figures related with Scotland and recreating them with myself in the ‘lead role’: what comment does this make, especially re. the conflict of projected image versus reality. To me, Scotland seems like a place with an identity problem. On the one hand it frustrates us that the outside world’s view of our small country is BRAVEHEART-HAGGIS-MENINSKIRTS-HAIRYWILDMEN-WHISKY-TARTAN. On the other, we do everything we can to perpetrate this image.

Here is a tester for a performance I am planning for Friday (Scotland vs. England u16s football). Other similar performances/films over the next couple of weeks will include filling the shoes of Rabbie Burns, Donald Trump and possibly even Alex Salmond.

The bike is the steed. The question? What if William Wallace were rallying the troops in Glasgow instead of Stirling, in 2011 instead of 1297, and in the name of football rivalry.

Something I’ve come across a lot whilst doing this project is people saying ‘we’re nasty about the English because they oppressed us for so many years’. Or ‘we’re the underdogs’. So does this still stand and can you link the two – the battle for freedom and the battle for… well, not loosing at football?

If you need the reference the original scene can be watched here. (youtube link)


Wallace: Sons of Scotland, I am William Wallace.

Young soldier: William Wallace is 7 feet tall.

Wallace: Yes, I've heard. Kills men by the hundreds, and if he were here he'd consume the English with fireballs from his eyes and bolts of lightning from his arse. I AM William Wallace. And I see a whole army of my countrymen here in defiance of tyranny. You have come to fight as free men, and free men you are. What would you do without freedom? Will you fight?

Veteran soldier: Fight? Against that? No, we will run; and we will live.

Wallace: Aye, fight and you may die. Run and you'll live -- at least a while. And dying in your beds many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take our freedom!!!

Wallace and Soldiers: Alba gu brath! (Scotland forever!)


my arm


 

9. Words of Menie

November 18, 2011

from Glasgow

Last week I went on a little adventure out to the Menie estate just north of Aberdeen, to say hello to Donald Trump, and to see what’s going on there and what the possibilities are for performance.

I bought a map*, hopped on the bus, and before it had even left the station had got chatting to Sarah, who had shaved her head on Sunday, “because I felt like it. The breeze feels great!” and who is living alone in her family home out in Balmedie, whilst in her first year studying mechanical engineering at Robert Gordon University.

I asked her about her thoughts on Trump’s development, and I think her response was fairly representative of a lot of people in the area. Whilst we agreed that it’s a pretty special place, and the wildlife is amazing, her argument that it would bring jobs to the area, and a much needed economic boost to Balmedie are undeniable.

“It’s a beautiful place, amazing – I hope they don’t totally ruin it, but it will be good for the area. I mean, there’s only a co-op, and a hotel. Sometimes you just want a Tesco express, or somewhere to go out in the evening, or there to be better busses. It’ll make Balmedie a much more lively place.”

Donald Trump’s website says this: “This development will offer a large number of jobs, both in construction and post opening operation.  It is estimated that during construction approximately 7000 jobs will be created, generating hundreds of millions of pounds worth of GVA across Scotland.” Although this figure has been heavily disputed by economists and journalists, especially amongst mumblings that the hotel/town complex on the site will not go ahead now, which would provide many of the long term jobs.

I walked along the beach for a couple of miles, in the cold and the rain, feeling a bit mad in myself, but good as I’ve been spending far too much time indoors lately. There was no one on the construction site, so I hopped nimbly over the (shoddy) fence and planted my feet firmly on some freshly laid turf.

Honestly, this whole coastline is too dear to me to think anything good of this whole venture. The last time I was here was to scatter my Grandad’s ashes at Newburgh beach, singing to the seals, the ash flew back in our faces, and we thought he would have laughed. He got into the sea eventually. I only hope that he isn’t being ploughed around by Donald Trump’s diggers right now.


family at Newburgh (Grandad is in the red gift bag...)

Basically, I think it is vile, and every thing I read seems to confirm this. I can’t help it. And its not only because of my Grandad.


A performance score for the Menie Estate:

One performer, live performance for any incidental viewers but primarily for camera. Attitude/Manner: that of a publicity stunt. It is a performance & an action, but is essentially for the camera & TV.


this is Donald Trump JR on the estate, same sort of thing.

Being Donald Trump: write a text, imagining being Trump – conduct ‘viewers’ on a tour of the golf course, as it is. Imagining the future. Like an estate agent (he is an estate agent) - just imagine the potential! Mimic actions/speeches from footage of DT - "he lives like a pig" text, two fingers up at the camera. Playing golf. Bad american accent because I can only do a bad one. Combover.

Costume: my French kilt, the single blue sock I found, found pink hairclip, braveheart tabard, kilt hose flashes (whole accumulated costume up to this point) + any more items acquired

------------

I'll end this with a little regional Scottish news report I made. It's mainly wind. I've subtitled it so Scots and Americans can both understand it. Also, because its really fucking windy.

*I love maps. This is probably the only reason I will never get an iPhone

 

8. Pictures from Balmedie and the Menie estate (writing to come)

November 9, 2011
from Aberdeen

   





 



 



 

7. Aberdeen

November 8, 2011

from Aberdeen


Hello from my sleeping bag on my cousin Emma’s floor, in the fine(ish) city of Aberdeen, at the end of a frosty sunny day, spent in the new Aberdeen university library. I’ve been planning from my domain of the fourth floor (Music, Art History, Modern Languages: I’d feel out of place on any other floor), by the window, what I’m going to do for the next few days whilst I prowl these streets and this area.


view from my library perch

I felt that it was important for me to come to Aberdeen, in my quest to become a ‘better Scot’, to be more committed to this ‘cause’. I feel a bit like a rubbish superhero, which is good, because that’s exactly the kind of attitude I want to apply to this whole thing, so perhaps I’m doing something right, in my head at least. I digress…

I spent much of my childhood in this area, between my Grandparent’s house in Pitcaple, my Dad regularly touring shows to the Lemon Tree in Aberdeen, holidays in Colliestone and on the sand dunes, and my Mum’s old schoolfriends in Ellon, Insch, Stonehaven and more places. And I guess, what with three out of my four Grandparents being English, this is the closest I come to the ‘father/mother-land’ in this country, as it is where my Grandfather Allan Downie came from.


(left to right) Me, Emma, Grandad, Anna, Helen with the dogs Pooch and Max, Colliestone beach c.1995

I feel like the north east is a good place for me to make work, and to develop some performance, which is what I am really finding hard to achieve in Glasgow. I suspect this is because Aberdeenshire, being the place of my childhood holidays, is one of the parts of Scotland that still holds some romanticism for me: I see it in my head as one of the ‘reasons why Scotland is great’, and if I’m honest I don’t have so many of those reasons left, often due to over familiarity or boredom. For me, unlike many people I know up here (and much more like the majority of young people in England) London was always the goal. I’ve worked hard at hating Scotland. There, I’ve said it.

But one’s childhood holds something special, because no one’s is quite like yours. Mine was here, the best bits, the highlights, this is where they happened.

1) A snapshot. Sometime in the mid nineties I attended the annual Stonehaven Open Air Swimming Pool Aqua Ceilidh with my mum and brother. The band were seated on the side of the pool and we gay-gordon’d and dashing white sergeant’d our way through the heated sea water.

I thought it would be good to try to recreate the event now, and make a film. The pool is out of season so is not open to the public – though I had originally thought it to be closed – and I liked the idea of looking at how we remember things. In my memory there is only me dancing, and the band playing, and everything else just a swirl of splashes. I thought that filming in the unfilled pool would be eerie and ghostly, which would contradict the ceilidh band. There’s also a nice echo with the way we all performed at the Aller Park swimming pool at Dartington. Anyway, I thought: there’s no harm in firing off an email…… ONE HOUR later I received this surprisingly positive reply:

---

Hello Rachael and many thanks for your interest in the Pool.

I think the water ceilidh you remember must have been the Stonehaven Folk Festival Aqua Ceilidh, which is still going strong – maybe you'll make it this July?

I hope that we will be able to help you. However, as the Pool is now operated by a partnership between the Friends and Aberdeenshire Council, we will need to check with them that this would be acceptable, and it is possible that they would need to have more information about the insurance and Health & Safety aspects.

The other thing which you need to be aware of is that the Pool is not emptied until the spring, when work actually starts on the tank (ie the pool itself) to make it ready for the new season. The reason for this is that over the winter, the water table in the surrounding ground is such that the walls of the tank could be pushed inwards. Keeping the tank full means that the water in it neutralises the pressure from the surrounding ground. So I'm not sure how much that will affect your plans – unfortunately the water is also pretty dirty now.

I'm not sure that I will manage to meet you this week. However, I'm sure we can work through this by email. Meanwhile, I will check with Council staff to see that it should be possible from their point of view.

Kind regards

Elma McMenemy on behalf of
The Friends of Stonehaven Open Air Pool

---

So, it looks like it would be in cold, dirty, seawater. But it also sounds like it just might, might be a goer. And I think I might be able to rustle up a ceilidh band! More on this soon, I think.

2) Another thing that I’m interested in investigating up here is Donald Trump’s obscene Golf Development on the Menie estate at Balmedie, just north of Aberdeen. If you don’t know about it, a quick google search will give you plenty of juice, or you can look at Andy Wightman’s brilliant and detailed report on the case. There’s also recently been a film made about the case, called ‘You’ve Been Trumped’, which I’m going to go see in Edinburgh in a couple of weeks.


I’m interested anyway in the way that many Americans identify themselves as Scottish, and also in the way that land is used/access to it under Scots law. This topic combines all of these, and I like the idea of walking through the Menie estate, through the bulldozers and diggers which are destroying this incredible land, with a golf club, wearing my kilt, and adopting a bad American accent.

I don’t know how feasible this is, so my plan for tomorrow is to go to the estate and do a reccie. Hopefully I wont get arrested for walking around/filming like Anthony Baxter and his team

There’s more, and I’m going to back date as well over the next couple of days as there’s things I’ve not written about yet (especially more about the American/Scottish thing), but for now it’s definitely time to go to sleep.


 

 

6. Every Instinct tells me Hibernate

October 17, 2011
from Glasgow


 

I am blogging because it’s too wet to do anything else. It’s raining in a real Glasgow way, which I have come accustomed to in the last ten days that I have lived here, but today tops it all, and I have managed to exhaust myself by cycling many miles in the torrents to pick up a printer from a freecycler. (but I have a printer now!!)

So it could be said that today was not as productive as it could have been. But I can tell you about some other days that were. A few things I have done this week: 

I went to the Mitchell Library, which is huge and overwhelming but wonderful. I buried my nose in books about nationalism, about devolution, about identity. And when it all got too much I spent an hour reading a crime novel sitting on the seats in the kids bit. I’ve learnt a lot, and not just all about the best way to get away with murder. I’ve added some interesting books to my bibliography.


A call out on facebook prompted some interesting responses from my friends on the idea of Scottishness. “I do not know what it means to be ‘Scottish’”  - Fereuse (see above). Rosanna who is half English, half Scottish says “I know all the words to Auld Lang Syne, yet still get itchy when Scots unite on hating on the English”. For Emily, the most important thing is the music, telling her she’s home, though she also points out “Of course, identity may just be a social construct”. My friend Luisa is called ‘the Scottish one’ at University in Newcastle, and I don’t doubt that I have been referred to likewise. The most enjoyable response came from Jack though; 

goany stert somehin the night, diny ken what, no sure if it'll be very nice or geed likesay. Ma twa shillings's: that Scotland doesnay ken how tae market itsell likesay; aw this fuckin nessy and biscuits shite, know woh'm sayin(?). When the best hings aboot Scotland are propper abstract ken - diligence, self-awareness, smeddum, backbone likesay. No tae mention aw this bullshite aboot Scottish language; it's not a language IT"S A FUCKIN' ACCENT.

Getting intae the spirit of things. 

One of the most interesting things that happened this week was a chat with a man called Stephen, who has a stall in the Barras market in the east end of Glasgow, selling kilts and tartan tat, “for ex-pats mainly”, he tells me when he finds out I don’t really live here anymore. He’s a kind man, and well experienced in this business, and has some interesting things to say about my project, and my questions, and the state of Scotland at the moment. We agree to meet again in his shop in the Savoy centre, and I hope it will happen; I think it could be an interesting element to the project if I could get him involved…

“The last time I can remember real civil unrest in Scotland was the poll tax – actually, no, it was about them raising the price of alcohol! In about ’98 or ’99. Keeping the masses quiet eh. 

“You can’t trust anything you read in the papers – I just use the internet now. The Scottish news is so closed off, like nowhere else exists. We could learn a lot from the Dutch, I lived in Holland for a bit, they’re so proud of their country. Queens day, national celebrations and they all know what it means. Here there are so many people who are poor and uneducated and they don’t know what to think 

“We’ve gone half-way with independence, there doesn’t seem much point. Either we need to be a part of Britain or sever ties completely. What was the name of the guy before Salmond? He was a joke… turning up at ‘Tartan day’ in New York wearing a girly shirt and a fancy kilt. What’s the point? And it’s all about the leaders, good leaders shouldn’t need to shout about it, they should just lead. It’s the small man syndrome again.”

In the end I bought a pair of ‘Kilt Hose Flashes' from him (“Those are £7.99, £9.99 for the tartan ones. £7.50 will do”.)

I’ll end this post with my football experience last Tuesday. I knew I must go to watch the football somewhere, what with it being such a ripe opportunity for people to express one’s nationality. Especially for men, especially in the pub. However, come Tuesday day time, whilst the players were no doubt limbering up for their gig against Spain in the Alicante heat, I found myself sat on my bed fretting about the prospect of going to the pub, on my own, to watch a sport I know nothing about. Which isn’t an irrational fear, really. Anyway, after discerning that my brother (last ditch attempt) wasn’t going out to a pub in Edinburgh to watch it, and I couldn’t hop across the country for company, I went.

And had a lovely evening. Doing things on your own is fine, is great! That’s all I had to say, but I think it’s an important lesson to learn – so there.

Watching the game at the Queen’s Park Café which isn’t a café it’s a pub,
And we shouted at the screen occasionally, my new friends and I, 4 Scots 1 English 1 Czech.
It was a very friendly pub.
We berated our national team’s lack of talent and drank lager whilst it got cold and wet outside.
This is what we are good at, I think, because we are not good at weather. Or football.
(Spain won 3-1)

I still don’t quite know how this all fits together, or what I’m trying to say exactly, but I at least feel that I am getting *somewhere*, that I am meeting people, and communicating again. Perhaps being, and working, alone is not so difficult, or bad. Hopefully it is just a chance to do the things that I think should be done, and to explore the avenues that open up.

I think that is the idea.


 

 

5. Grounding. Dériving. Drawing.

October 9, 2011

from Glasgow

SO, what’s new?

After a not inconsiderable amount of internet trawling I found a place to live in Glasgow, through the good old fashioned friend of a friend of a friend network. It’s cheap (very, very wonderfully cheap) and cheerful, and this morning I ate scrambled eggs laid by the chickens that inhabit the back garden. Flatmates: one stand up comedian, one pub quiz master, one girl who works for the home office and a postie/painter in the basement.

The past few days have been spent trying to find my feet, or indeed my whole being, in a city that I have realised is much stranger to me than I had previously thought. I have family here, and know my way around in a kind of rudimentary way, but have no feel for the place as yet. I feel a need to meet people with whom I can engage artistically and am thinking about doing a workshop of some sort, to see if I can find a way into the ‘scene’ here.

Anyway, on Friday I put on my flâneur shoes on a sunny day and drifted my way through the southside (where I now live, mail to 28 Queen Mary Drive, G42 8DT please!) and towards the city. I came across a lot of litter/ evidence of drinking, derelict buildings, a friendly man at a bus stop, a park. See photos below.

 

I managed to get my final proposal submitted on Thursday, and it was a relief to get it out of the way, although I wasn’t completely happy with the way that it represented this project. I worry that I still don’t know well enough myself, what it is I am trying to investigate/say. Keep thinking, ‘it will come’, but will it? Or do I just need to decide? Torn between knowing too much, and therefore only investigating to find answers that back up my own prejudices and beliefs; and knowing too little, and drifting around in an aimless, erratic kind of way. 

An idea that has interested me from the start has been that of ‘possible futures’. Ways that Scotland could go. Not necessarily likely, or realistic, but ones that aren’t too much of a stretch of the imagination.

Inspired by the mass over-Atatürk-ing I experienced when living in Turkey, I plan to create a similar Alex Salmond version. Could he be the FATHER OF SCOTLAND? Billie, amazing lady that she is, who is still living out in Istanbul sent me a box full of merchandise. In it was a flag. And today I did some drawings...

 

The next few days will be spent in libraries trying to get more background... There are too many words, so I’ll write more when I’ve read more of them. Good night.

 

4. Facebook

October 3, 2011
from Edinburgh  






etcetera, etcetera.


 

3.

September 18, 2011
from Edinburgh (re. London)



Tartan Spotting outside the British museum, Saturday 17th September:


 

2. Research

September 18, 2011

From the London to Edinburgh train

On Tuesday I went, for the first time, to a place that has been previously mythical for me: the Live Art Development Agency study room in Tower Hamlets. I say previously mythical, because it was the sort of thing one has heard endlessly of, been on the website of, bought books from, attended talks by people who work there, but I didn’t have any friends who’d actually been (is this the true definition of myth?). Just tutors. And the Internet. And the people who work there, but they don’t count.*

It is, without a doubt, the place most resembling the Dartington library that I have ever been to, although smaller, and with less pop CDs. Its been a while since I’ve enjoyed perusing shelves as much as I did in there this week, and despite my vague worries that ‘I don’t really know where to start with performance art/ live art’, I whiled away a very enjoyable 5 or so hours digging, reading, and watching DVDs.

Amongst other things I got the chance to look through a very nicely produced book about the work of Marcus Coates, devoured a chapter on nationalism from the book Blasphemy: Art that offends, and watched the film The Yes Men Fix the World in its entirety. I also started reading Nadine Holdsworth’s Theatre & Nation, which I was just getting into when it hit six o’clock and I was politely reminded that, well, I had to go home now because they were closing. I’ll probably buy the book though, so I think it’s okay.

--

A ‘sub-project’ that I’d like to accompany this one/ be a part of this one, is to make a series of merchandise for an imagined future in Scotland. The idea comes from living in Turkey, where there is so much Atatürk ‘merch’ everywhere: flags, wristwatches, t-shirts, wallets. The list is never ending, but what is more surprising is that people actually wear it. The prevalence of Atatürk worship over there has to be seen to be believed. So what if in fifty years time we worshipped Alex Salmond like that – The Father of The Scottish Nation. Unlikely, yes. Impossible? I don’t know.

I was therefore very excited to come across an artist previously unknown to me, with a similar project. Zbigniew Libera’s LEGO sets offer opportunities for users to build ‘popular Holocaust sites’ It made me think about the way some very gruesome or appalling things can be made acceptable by the form they take. Atatürk, for example, was actually a really nasty piece of work. He was responsible for enormous massacres: Armenians, Kurds, Greeks, Atatürk didn’t want ‘em, and so they had to go. Whatever it took. But it’s ok, because basically, he won and got away with it. Hitler on the other hand, well it all fell apart in the end, therefore his massacres aren’t ok. If he’d ‘won’, would holocaust lego be ok?

 

I’ll probably write a whole load about this another time, it’s very interesting, and I think relevant somewhere down the line.

Alexandra Zierle, who is my supervisor for this project, suggested I take a look at the Yes Men’s early project of creating a false website for George W Bush, saying that my Void project reminded her of it. Alas, the website is no longer online, but this has made me interested in hacking and the web as a space for performance. We once had a lecture at Dartington from Stephen Hodge, who uses the online ‘world’ – Second life as a performance space for Avatars, but here I mean performance more in a sense of live happening, rather than of people performing. Anyway, it’s a fascinating platform…

This is getting long, so I’ll end here. I’d like to leave you with a guide on how to be a fox, that I found in Marcus Coates’ book.

 

STEPS A HUMAN COULD TAKE TO BECOME AN ANIMAL OR BIRD
From notes made by school pupil’s visiting Marcus Coates’ ‘Wild Animal in it’s Den’ billboard in Grizedale Forest (see below)

FOX.

1.     First go down onto your hands and knees
2.     Buy a mask
3.     Place a tail on yourself
4.     Practice your howls
5.     Practice hiding behind rocks
6.     Drive to a shop and buy some ears
7.     Get some brown trousers
8.     You have to learn to catch a rabbit
9.     Dig a hole in a wood and live in it

*I actually found out afterwards that my friend Sebastian has been there ‘quite a few times’ and ‘loves it’.

 

 

1. The pen is mightier than the laptop

September 6, 2011
from London


For the last few weeks I've been trying to force myself to think about this project, and given that things have become fairly quiet on the employment front (the pub has evidently got a bit hacked off with my, "Oh, I'm in Edinburgh that week... oh actually, no I'll be here, oh wait ! A festival? No... I'm getting laser eye surgery that day. Yep, really. Oh but can't you give me some shifts for the weekend? Oh, I can't do that" attitude) this should have been more successful than it has been.

But, it's been quite a while since I've been a proper University student, if I ever was, and really feel like I've had to re-realise the best ways of working. For me. Just me.

So, number one is definitely that the computer does not and will not do the trick for 'stage one thinking' - putting loads of ideas down, writing scrappy blurbs etc. The other day I scrapped this:



for this:



And got an enormous amount of work done. SO, happily - final proposal is now well underway, and I'm beginning to get a better idea of how this project actually might work. I'm also going to go this week to the Live Art Development Agency study room in Tower Hamlets to do some research on theatre makers and performance artists who work with similar subject matter. At the moment most of my references seem to be more popular culture based, but is that a bad thing?

This, for example, is a big reference for me. It's also well worth watching, by the way, because it's very funny.

 
 





© Rachael Clerke 2011-2014

Make a Free Website with Yola.