Art has been set free from its usual home in studios and galleries and has hidden itself all over the city, awaiting discovery from passers by who wonder what might lie behind the open doors and marker flags of the Open House Art Festival. For all those who may be starting to think that they have seen it all… this is the festival to make you see space a little differently. As a part of the West End Art Walk, we set off from The Project Café in Renfrew Street, under the careful guidance of committee member Jack and volunteer Angel. With over 50 installations and performances all over Glasgow, if can be difficult to know where to start. We head to Carnarvon Street but at some point seem to have fallen down a Wonderland-esque rabbit hole because we are greeted at number 54 by An Abode for the Absurd: afternoon tea with eccentric queen Ms Jackie Cockless, who hands out signed photographs and jam scones like they were going out of fashion.
Her bath contains a television and her hallway has light up pot plants. If you want to know why, I suggest you get down there and find out. You may even get some wine and cakes out of it if you’re lucky, she certainly knows how to throw a tea party.
The walk goes on, and we are told we are on the look out for Bat Neighbours. Upon arrival at West Princes Street, we start to wonder if we had misheard when we are greeted by a black and white moggy instead.
We climb the stairs until there are no more, just a precarious looking ladder with a sign pointing UP. After five flights, it seems a little unwise to give up here, so the only thing to do is keep climbing and hope that the attic floor is sturdier than it looks.
We are greeted with the promised bats, cushions, and a variety of instruments for a jamming session with a heavy dose of echolocation involved, of course. I am offered a Pipistrelle mask and the glorious oddness of the whole situation continues for the duration of the visit to the attic. I never thought I’d be recommending sitting in a tenement loft dressed as a bat with a rock band guitar, but the whole thing was wonderfully surreal and unlike anything I’d done before during a Saturday afternoon stroll, that’s for sure. It also shamed all previous Hallowe’en costume efforts into obscurity and I made a mental note to try harder this October.
The next stop on the tour is the first which resembles anything like what I’d been expecting from this afternoon: art displayed in a home with doors wide open, and no jam or ladders in sight. Willowbank Crescent plays host to the work of five artists who take advantage of the distance between them, from Paris, to Norway to Glasgow, to critique each other’s work. They occasionally meet up to create art too, such as the Glasgow Open House Festival which brought them together this time to see their pieces displayed. The art itself is not linked together by any common denominator; here the links have been formed between five women who each create something totally different, but who use their art as a point of discussion which brings them together.
Downstairs we are privy to another exhibition tucked away behind a small door in the garden.
This tiny underground space is transformed for 3 days only into ‘Below, the other things we can talk about’. Art is being displayed in a wee basement behind a tenement, and all we need to do is go out and find it. Are you feeling inspired yet?
Then let us go on.
The final stop for me on the walk is The Plinth, which actually remains a permanent exhibition in Flat 1/2, 31 Windsor Terrace. At this stage of the tour, I got to talking with the inhabitants of the flat, was left behind and got slightly lost in Maryhill, only to be rescued by a kindly bus driver, but that is a story for another day.
The Plinth is a constant feature in the flat living room, but the exhibit changes every week, and the three flatmates live alongside it, even those audio exhibitions which play all night and get into your head. The only rule is, the Plinth must be used in some way in the exhibition. As an Open House special, there were not one, but four plinths and four pieces on display, all of which had been approved by the flat cat before viewing was opened to the public.
I’m looking forward to returning to see what’s on next.
There is something altogether uncanny about displaying art in a private space which has been opened up to you. We are so accustomed to seeing art in galleries, which are generally quite neutral, quiet spaces, gently stepping back to allow the art to speak for itself. Sometimes we forget that something far more wonderful happens when you reintroduce art to the outside world which inspired it, allowing it to enter into a different dialogue with its lively surroundings in homes, attics, basements, you name it. The Festival runs until Monday 4th May and you can get more information on planning your visit here:
Whatever you do, don’t miss it.