Simply enough, the staid expression of giving someone the ‘time of day’ comes from the gesture of telling a person what time it is when asked. It’s a basic mark of respect or show of empathy. Generally it is used to suggest that the request for the time has been refused, that a kind of disrespect has been shown that is below the level of acknowledgement.
I’m not sure how much everybody is aware of what is going on at the moment with the Centre for Contemporary Art, Glasgow. In the last couple of weeks, articles on the subject have been published and shared online and I think that this has helped to draw attention to the issues that the CCA is experiencing. However, I think more attention needs to be drawn, sooner rather than later. What makes this difficult is that nobody seems to know exactly what is going on. The Glasgow City Council seems only recently to have discovered that the CCA has not been open. This, months into its closure following the fire at the Glasgow School of Art. Along with the lack of clarity or evidence of a sense of urgency in providing clarity on the subject, this shows a remarkable disregard for one of the most inclusive spaces in Glasgow.
I have lived in Glasgow for three years. My knowledge and understanding of its politics, governmental functions and social workings is limited to the short period of time that I have spent here and to the circles I move in, which run fairly small. But in the spirit of shooting your mouth off that seems to characterise the present moment, here I go.
I moved here because of what I had learned of Glasgow’s sustained culture of independent, artist-run initiatives and it’s commitment to public engagement in the arts. This, I understood to be epitomised and stimulated by the Centre for Contemporary Art. I heard about the CCA from its Director, Francis McKee when he visited Cape Town in 2015. Coming from an art scene that is moved almost exclusively by commercial interests, the alternative model for a creative economy presented by the CCA sounded like magic to me.
Of course there are conditions that enable this kind of culture to develop and be sustained. I also moved to Glasgow because of its minimum wage, cost of living and healthcare and what all this can mean for an artist.
Suffice to say that a large part of what drew me to Glasgow was the notion that the kind of place that could enable a place like the CCA to exist was the kind of place that I’d like to live in.
I started working in the café at the CCA shortly after I moved here and have done so up until now. In that time I have witnessed the building as one of the only spaces in the city centre where, at its most basic, anybody can spend time, free of charge, out of the rain. It’s an open and social space where you can sit and read your book or a book from the open library or just sit or stand or look around for hours and hours without having to spend money. And if you do want to spend it, the offering of gigs, screenings, books, design objects and fresh vegan fare from Saramago café are winning options.
The events programme is dedicated to including as wide an audience as possible. Its open-source model is aimed at providing space and support to practices that can’t find the same in venues elsewhere in the city. This is managed through regular open calls for interdisciplinary residencies, exhibitions and projects in the available spaces. From what I understand, the CCA makes up its programme from proposals submitted by anyone, with its selection based on merit and multiplicity, and simultaneously maintains an international reputation for its cultural output.
This is not to suggest that the organisation is as diverse in its staff, programming and audience as it could or should be. Accessibility is mediated by so many things and is hard to measure. For one, from the time I’ve spent there it’s clear that the audience stems largely from an economically mobile class. However, the CCA’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity in contemporary cultural practices combined with the scale of its operations and position in the city centre make it something rare and valuable that is hard to match with another venue in Glasgow.
This, I believe, is largely due to the consistent efforts and energy of Francis McKee, its Director since 2006. And ‘Director’ is an incongruous title for McKee’s practices at the CCA, which seem to be motivated by the opposite of ‘directing’. Since the start of his tenure at the CCA, he has promoted and managed to sustain the open-source programming mentioned above, with the aim of encouraging a sense of ownership over the space by the community and permitting access to a wider audience.
In my experience, Francis McKee and the CCA makes a good effort to give everybody the time of day. The obvious conclusion I’m drawing here is that it’s time that GSA, Glasgow City Council and the arts community return the gesture.
More practically, I think it’s worth trying harder to get clarity on what’s actually going on. Information is hard to come by and it’s difficult to know who to demand clarity from. As I see it, the options are: GSA, Building Control and Glasgow City Council. GSA is commissioning the rebuild and restoration of the Mackintosch by Building Control. Glasgow City Council is in charge of ensuring the safety of its citizens.
The current provisional date for the removal of the safety cordon and subsequent reopening of the CCA is the 15th October. There have been several dates proposed before this, all of them passing by with little notice or acknowledgement from any of the stakeholders.
The vagueness of this timeline means that it’s impossible for the CCA and all the businesses and organisations it houses to make any plans, including the securing of the financial support required from insurers. It’s understandable that the movements of a twice-burnt-out masterpiece are hard to predict. But it has been three months. The CCA and the 17 business it supports are at risk. And we know next to nothing about almost everything to do with the fire and its consequences.
Here’s what I would like to see:
- More clarity around the reopening dates. When and Why.
- A clear and public acknowledgement of the impact that the restoration of the Mackintosh is having on the CCA and subsequently, the cultural community in Glasgow by the Glasgow City Council and by GSA.
- An assessment of the effect that the preservation of the legacy of one man (Jesus-like though he may be) is having on the livelihoods of staff, residents and businesses within the safety cordon as well as its effect on the contemporary cultural life of Glasgow.
- Proactive solutions from GSA and the Glasgow City Council on how to keep the CCA and its businesses going, in the event that the opening date is postponed even later.
- In spite of having rather sensationally just compared his treatment to that of Jesus, I am not particularly interested in debating the value of Mackintosh’s legacy to our past and future endeavours. A lot of physical and mental space has been dedicated to that subject. What I would like to hear and see is the Glasgow City Council and GSA giving the time of day to the arts right now, here, today. This goes for the current students at GSA as well, whose education has taken a back seat to the preservation of the Mackintosh since the first fire in 2014.
For more specific information on the subject: