Thursday, 14 February, 2013. Here we are in Edinburgh. This morning I’ve delivered a talk for the Artwriting module that Susannah Thompson runs for second and third years at ECA. I thought it went quite well, but am now wiped out. Kate thought it went well enough too, but names a few people that she knows in Dundee (Jonathan Baxter, Morgan Cahn, Tracy Mackenna) who seem to be able to do ten times more than me without running out of steam. I’m too tired to argue with her. Instead I ask Kate why we’re standing on this bridge.

“The new billboard has just gone up at the Ingleby. I shared an image on Facebook last week. Didn’t you see that?”

“I must have missed it.”

Kate narrows her eyes and stares at me. “Have you not been checking your Facebook on a daily basis?”


She keeps staring. Was the question not rhetorical then? Oh, I get it, she’s engaging with the piece. We know from last autumn’s London visit that John Stezaker, who is responsible for the new billboard, is into collage. In the work of his we saw at the Saatchi Gallery, he juxtaposed part of someone’s face with another part of someone else’s. But this time there appears to be just one face.

“Can’t you see that it’s two?” asks Kate. “One woman’s face from top of head down to eyes. Another woman’s face from chin up to eyes.”

“Ah, so it may well be! You could use that idea. A picture of Lady Gaga from top of head down. A picture of your own Gaga from chin up. You could choose where you liked to have the join. Mouth, eyes, forehead...”

“What a great idea!” says Kate, sarcastically. “Pity I’ve already put something in for the Generator members’ show that opens tomorrow, cos that would have been perfect.”


Friday, 15 February. Well, here we are at Generator’s premises in the middle of an industrial estate close to the University campus. Kate is delighted the way her piece has been displayed on a plinth in the centre of a gallery. (That’s her standing beside Lucas, an undergraduate who makes sure he gets himself to all the shows.) Kate first got involved with Generator just a few weeks ago. Jonathan Baxter was in residence, sleeping in part of the premises and organising various events to commemorate the death of D-AiR (Dundee Artists in Residence), something he set up and steered for several years.


That’s Jonathan on the right, doing what I’m doing, as Kate talks to Gerard O’Brien, whose work I’ll be looking out for. One of the events Jonathan organised involved people doing performances on the subject of death. Kate presented a photograph of a dinner party that took place by a friend’s grave. She spoke a few words about how she missed her friend, Roz, and how Roz’s partner, Annette, was not coping (and yet coping) with life after the death of the love of her life. Katherine Murphy, one of the new committee at Generator, was particularly warm in the remarks she later made to Kate about her contribution.

The new committee - Katherine, Alexander Storey-Gordon (see the Drive-In-Theatre page on this site), Yvonne Billimore, James Lee and Holly Keasey - have kept faith with the traditional members’ show. That is, anybody who has paid their £5 membership fee was able to submit a piece knowing it would be included here. But while the show is open - over the next month or so - the committee is putting together a program of events geared towards communication and engagement on various levels. In the middle of tonight’s handout is a calendar showing what’s already been arranged, and where there are slots that are still up for grabs. That is, days where a member might put forward something. I know Kate is going to propose a discussion in connection with
Silver Action, the large-scale event - involving hundreds of older women - organised by Suzanne Lacy that took place earlier this month at Tate Modern.


But back to tonight. Kate’s piece, 4711, stands on a plinth surrounded by three lower plinths, each of which is supporting a piece by another member of Generator. But from the remarks I’m overhearing, some viewers think it’s a four-plinth installation by one Kate Clayton! Kate’s grandmother surrounded by three tributes. Not gold, frankincense and myrrh, but Dundee Cake, a wooden pineapple and an ambiguous lump of acrylic. It’s been suggested that the pineapple was sent in anonymously, so Kate - or rather Gaga - may be able to lay claim to it.


Nope, less is more. 4711 is the name of the perfume Kate’s grandmother used to wear. Recently, when Kate saw in a chemist’s window, a glossy piece of packaging advertising the perfume Fame by Lady Gaga, she just had to go in and ask if the promotional stand could be held back for her when its commercial use came to an end. Kate must have asked in the right way, because the shop assistant promptly dismantled the display and gave the key component to her non-customer. Then all Kate had to do was insert a tea light in the space where a bottle of Fame was supposed to stand, and paste a photograph of her Gaga over the supposedly cool head-and-shoulder shot of Lady Gaga.


The framed photograph of a young woman on the wall behind Gaga, is called
Jessica, Barcelona, a work by Ross Fraser McLean. Kate rather likes it. In particular, she likes the juxtaposition of the slouching young woman in the colour photograph with the glowing face of her own grandmother. Kate also likes Eilidh McKay who is standing in front of the painting headed ‘Istanbul’, indeed almost merging into it.

One young woman and a group of lads? Or two young women with an older woman’s portrait in between? The viewer has quite a choice of what to see in this shot, which I took without thinking much about it.

Eilidh runs the Roseangle Arts Cafe where last Friday’s opening, ‘Fun a Day Dundee’, was held. She put on a strong degree show last year and remains part of the arts scene in the city. It’s healthy that talented individuals like Eilidh hang around instead of making for Glasgow, Edinburgh or London. Tonight she has her puppy, Pip, with her. Pip seems to love the Dundee art scene as much as anybody on two legs.


That’s Anna Orton and her mother, can to can, who have come within Gaga’s orbit. Anna has two sisters, Sophie, practising art in Ediburgh, and Katie, who’s based in London. So the elder Orton can congratulate herself on spreading so many artist Ortons around the world. Ortonandon as the sisters themselves put it on their website. They regularly meet up to make art together, recently curating a show at Embassy in Edinburgh. Anna was on the committee at Generator but is now doing the MFA at Dundee full-time. She’s shown work at the members’ show for the last seven years but is taking a well-earned break this year.

Gaga speaks. “Isn’t it all marvellous?” she says. “I thought I was going to a dinner-dance at the masonic lodge with Percy. Instead, Kathy’s taken me to this marvellous place! Have you seen what’s next door, Duncan?”

I realise I shouldn’t get fixated on Kate’s piece. I should explore. Though I’ll be back in due course to find out what Gaga thinks of the show from her respectable middle-class perspective, circa 1960.


This is Deirdre Robertson’s piece,
Join the Party. Cans and bottles laid out on a map of Scotland. Something to do with the forthcoming independence vote, I suspect. Are we drinking to a Scotland going it on its own? Or are we toasting the union? Well, as I have an English partner, have live connections with London, and have many English friends, I’m not sure that I, personally, am attracted to the idea of splitting up the UK.

There is a video that goes with the installation. Kate’s told me that during a performance workshop, Deirdre, also on the MFA, got a group of students to perform a ritual around the drink-festooned map. Deirdre asked for everyone to lie on the floor at one point, but Kate wasn’t up for lying on the cold hard floor of Generator. Instead she walked around looking at the faces, perhaps trying to guess whether they were pro- or anti-independence from the way they were lying in relation to the map and the booze.


There is Deirdre, in the next photo, talking to a male member of her performance team. As well as Deirdre and Kate from the MFA, there are pieces by David, Yumi, Susanne, Bonn, Claire and Nicole, all of which I must hunt out, either tonight or when the place is quieter and more conducive to looking at contemplative work.


But right now my vision is blocked by Morgan Cahn’s giant painting,
Painting. Trust Morgan to hog the limelight! Last Friday evening her piece - a collection of tiny specimens in specimen jars - was located bang in the centre of ‘Fun a Day Dundee’. But then why not? - she’d organised the show. This time her piece has a dominant slot because other people - the committee at Generator - have given it one. They must be as impressed as I am by Morgan’s friendly creativity, her laid-back, healthy attitude to being a crazy-young-American in crazy-old-Scotland.

Katherine Murphy points out
Missy Duckface to Kate, telling her its one of her favourite pieces in the show. Kate picks it up. What looks like a tea cosy is in fact half a pillow, with the stuffing pushed away from the centre so that it can be worn as a head-piece.

“I’d really like to try it on,” says Kate.

“You should,” says Katherine, “Mary would like that.”

Missy Duckface reminds me of the billboard at Ingleby, the only difference being that it’s Gregory Peck’s face from top of pillow down to eyes and Blubbery Peck’s face from bottom of pillow up to eyes. No-one else gets a look in.

“Where is Morgan’s painting?” asks Kate, once the head is on.

“It’s right behind you,” I say. “Can’t you see?”

“I can see all right, I just can’t see Morgan’s painting because it’s so small. So I lead her by the hand until her beak makes contact with the the B side of

“You could give it a blubbery peck now,” I say to Kate.

“I thought I was blubberly pecking it.”


With Kate still wearing
Missy Duckface, we approach the work of Gerard O’Brian, who Kate was talking with in front of her own piece earlier. Gerry’s work is called My Life in Gaydar 1. It consists of three drawings, this being the one closest to eye level:


“He looks like a duck doing DIY with his beak,” says Kate. “What does it say along the top?”

“Married bi guy who likes kissing and cuddling.”

“Isn’t that what I just said?”

Gerry had work in ‘Fun A Day Dundee’, and Kate and I ‘bought’ a couple of lovely pieces which are now hanging up in our living room at BCCA (Blairgowrie Centre for Contemporary Art).


Next, we get chatting with Lada Wilson, a fourth year undergrad who is applying to join the MFA next year, when Kate will be in her second year. Lada is not very pleased that her piece, Seeds of Tradition, has been hung in a relatively dark corner of the gallery, but she also knows it is impossible to hang 80-odd pieces in a way that is ideal for all. I can see an orange ribbon around a semi-transparent flower bag. Inside the bag are wheat seeds (or weeds, I don’t quite catch what the artist says).

With Lada chatting to another friend, Kate tells me that when Jonathan Baxter was doing his
Post Mortem show here, both galleries were full of things that he’d collected during the years of DAIR. People who dropped by during his residency were able to take stuff away, provided they could convince Jonathan that they had a use for the material. Lada obtained a drawer, which she lined with white fabric (from a crib). She cut a hole in the middle of the sheet and lined the bottom of the drawer, making use of her sewing skills. In the hole she placed a circle of dark plastic which had seeds inside it. I haven’t seen the work myself, but Kate likes it. And I can see that it relates to Seeds of Tradition.

Talking of which, time we got back to Gaga. I want to check just how carefully Kate has cut out the silhouette of her grandmother. I want to check just how skillfully she has placed yesterday’s Gaga over the Gaga of today.


In passing from one room to the other one has to duck down in order to pass underneath a box. Apparently, this is where Jonathan slept when he was doing his residency, though it has been relocated. As I pass underneath, I notice there is a place where one can stand up. On doing so, I can see a screen showing the naked loins of a man. He’s not touching himself, but his penis is moving about as an erection comes and goes.


We ask Gaga what she thinks of this piece. Gaga says that for a moment she thought she was back in the back room of Percy’s butcher shop!

She asks me what I think of it. I come up with: “A man thinks of Lady Gaga as she advertises Fame... in flows the blood to his penis. The same man thinks of the bi DIY guy... out flows the blood from his penis. The man thinks of Lady Gaga as she poses naked for the camera... in flows the blood to his penis. The same man thinks of the bi DIY guy who likes kissing and cuddling in his underpants... out flows the blood from his penis.”

“Can I interrupt that rather conventional, male heterosexual perspective,” says Gaga. “Looking at the list of work, it would seem that
Erections is by Ana Hine. I wonder if the artist may have rigged up a device that looks like and acts like a penis but is completely independent of the male. A living dildo, as it were.

“Moreover, while I have no objection to the work itself. I don’t think it has been located very sensitively. As I understand it, Mr Baxter has been sleeping in the space now occupied by
Erections. And I believe he was sleeping there for several weeks. I hardly think he will be impressed by the juxtaposition. He might even think that whoever chose to locate the piece there was being rather naughty. And if not naughty, then naive.”


It surprises me just how quickly Gaga has picked up the language and the concepts of postmodernism, the politics and humanity of art. But perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised. Like grandmother, like granddaughter.

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