Nichol Wheatley: ‘Alasdair’s Practice’
A short paper about Alasdair Gray’s approach to making visual work and his complex relationship to artistic intent, problem solving and delivery, as informed by his very personal view of the world.
Alasdair Gray was famously prolific but also well known for his idiosyncratic relationship to deadlines and the practicalities of artistic practice. This paper will look to shed light on his working methods from inception to delivery. What made Alasdair’s practice and finished work so remarkable? How did he create work? What was his approach to technical problems? How did he develop artistic ideas in practice? And what was the approach of such a unique talent to the imposed structures of working with large organisations and in collaboration?
The paper will be drawn from my many years of friendship and the fifteen years we spent working on various projects, from the cycle of murals in the Auditorium at Òran Mór, through the commissioning and fabrication of the mural at Hillhead Subway station, to his floor mosaic at Glasgow’s historic Western Baths. Among many other projects, we also also collaborated on the designs for his proposed mural for the outside of the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood, on which he was working when he died. The paper will also draw from Alasdair’s project notebooks and sketchbooks, and I would like to discuss in particular, his uncanny ability to examine and interrogate an artwork as an intellectual / practical idea.
Nichol Wheatley - Biography
I am a Scottish Artist, mainly interested in painting, large scale murals and mosaics. I graduated from the Glasgow School of Art’s drawing and painting department in 1993.
I worked alongside Alasdair Gray as a collaborator for 15 years. During that time we became close friends, often unpicking artistic and practical knots over regular games of chess. I ran Scotland’s largest commercial fine art studio from 2000 until 2012. I am best known for my series of murals depicting the tale of Tam o’Shanter in ten panels at Òran Mór and for my landscape painting. I have also worked on several feature films, including “Trainspotting 2” and “Outlaw King”. I have made many murals and mosaics in my own name.
Federica Giardino: ‘Fictio and Facta: A Reading of the Dear Gray Place’
The paper examines the relationship between the notions of fictio and facta within the literary universe and place-making practice of Alasdair Gray. It holds that the perspective representation – understood in an architectural sense – may be recognised as the literary and artistic device employed by the author to transform and distort physical, urban, and social realities within the Glaswegian geographical framework. Areas of specific interest are the dialogue between the real and textual dimensions and the literary word understood as a political act, with its capacity to represent and/or knowingly misrepresent the city’s civic and social identities.
The study equates fictio and facta with the ideas of ‘truth’ and ‘falseness’ that arguably permeate and guide Alasdair Gray’s artistic oeuvre. This terminology aligns with the one expressed by the author in separate contexts, and forms the basis of the inquiry into Gray’s experiential conception of the city and his positionality as its map-maker. Theories from the sociological domain (Goffman) will serve to introduce the processes of multiplication of perspectives as they were applied to Gray’s artworks as well as notable passages from Lanark. These will aptly facilitate the investigation of the capacity of poly-perspective illustrative and narrative tools to elicit an authentic experience of space that refuses the single vanishing point to privilege complexity, distortion, and the coexistence of uncertain viewpoints.
The discourse forms part of a wider comparative study of late twentieth-century literature from Genoa and Glasgow. The discussion is thus informed by case studies that reinforce similarities and differences between distinct literary practices, highlighting the unique position of Alasdair Gray with respect to the wider post-industrial urban and cultural phenomena.
Federica Giardino - Biography
Federica Giardino is a PhD researcher in her 3rd year of study at the Mackintosh School of Architecture. She is the recipient of a SGSAH AHRC DTP Studentship. With a critical focus on the antithesis of ‘real’ and ‘imaginary’, her PhD presents a comparative analysis of late-twentieth-century works of literature from Glasgow and Genoa, exploring the extent to which the imaginative portrayals of the cities have articulated, and been informed by, the continuously evolving urban phenomena associated with these specific localities. Her analysis draws from the works of Scottish authors Alasdair Gray and James Kelman alongside the poetry of Italian writers Edoardo Sanguineti and Eugenio Montale.
She was a contributor to the 2021AHRA Symposium (Hallam University) and the 2022 Scotland in Europe Network Conference (National Galleries of Scotland, University of Edinburgh). At the Glasgow School of Art, she delivers a syllabus of classes centred on the relationship between urbanism and literature and is currently undertaking an internship of the Alasdair Gray Archive as part of her ongoing Scholarship.
Petra Burianova: ‘Towers are Notorious for Falling Down: the Architecture of the Axletree’
This paper focuses on the eponymous structure at the heart of Gray’s two tales, “The Start of the Axletree” and “The End of the Axletree.” Gray’s short stories have received far less critical attention than his novels, an oversight I attempt to remedy by showing that not only are they valuable texts in their own right but they also help shed light on arguments developed in the novels. The argument I delve into here is, indeed, situated “across space and form” as it unravels through an interdisciplinary approach combining literary and architectural theory, focusing on both the text and the paratext.
The axletree is an amalgamation of the Vitruvian man and Hobbes’ Leviathan, incorporating architecture, the embodied existence, and the body politic in the form of a tower. It cannot be classified as a mere background for events to unfold, or simply as an iteration of The Tower of Babel myth. The colossal structure alters its surroundings both physically and politically, by its need for space and resources, affecting any area deemed as ‘the periphery.’ Gray thus uses architecture as a vehicle to point out inequalities within the system—the relationship between the axletree and its subjects can be viewed not only as an analogy with colonialism but also with the less obvious instances of unequal distribution of power, such as devolution.
The axletree presents an embodiment of statehood enabled through its architectural form and the parallels we may draw from it, with regards to the question of the building of the nation—both in terms of its political and social structure, and also concerning the physical structures that house the powers of the state—are just as relevant today, post-Brexit and facing a potential second referendum on Scottish independence.
Petra Burianova - Biography
I am a Wolfson Foundation-funded PhD Researcher in Scottish literature. I am interested in the ways in which architecture, power and the individual intersect in the works of contemporary Scottish authors, in relation to the condition of Scotland from the 1980s to present. I focus on Alasdair Gray’s Lanark, Iain Banks’ The Bridge and Ali Smith’s Hotel World, as well as her current tetralogy: Autumn, Winter, Spring, and Summer. From the institute in Lanark to the detention centre for immigrants in Spring, we can trace how the ideas with which these authors concerned themselves developed over the last 40 years of significant political and social changes, through their characters’ relationship with architecture and the institutions which it houses.
David Hasson/Andy Campbell: ‘Archiplags’
In the Epilogue to “Lanark” Gray offers an “Index of Plagiarisms”: Block Plagiarisms (Blockplag), Imbedded Plagiarisms (Implag) and Diffuse Plagiarisms (Difplag). We propose a 4th category: Architecture Plagiarisms, abbreviated to ARCHIPLAGS.
Our thesis is that there are parallels in Gray`s real and imagined cities with architectural discourses during the time he was writing “Lanark”. We propose an examination of these ARCHIPLAGS in text and drawing. We acknowledge that an ARCHIPLAG may be a species of Difplag, but we don´t think that is important. Architecture is. As people who are, perhaps unhealthily, obsessed with architecture we will take as our model Gray´s description of the following Difplag:
Difplags in every chapter. Only a writer unhealthily obsessed by all of Dr. Freud’s psycho-sexual treatises would stuff a novel with more oral, anal and respiratory symbols, more Oedipal encounters with pleasurereality/ Eros-thanatos substitutes, more recapitulations of the birthtrauma than I have to summarise. (See also DISNEY, GOD & JUNG)”
We will proceed by writing and drawing.
David Hasson – Biography
David used to be an architect and remains on the register of architects. However, about a decade ago gave up practising as an architect for a living to be an academic: teaching, thinking and writing about architecture for a living.
When he was an architect, he worked mostly in London and Glasgow, and has designed, or helped to design, pretty much every type of building, from wee house extensions to Royal Opera Houses. He especially enjoyed designing schools and housing. As well as working in Glasgow, for several
years he worked for Glasgow, and in that capacity managed to contribute, if only a little, by helping form some aspects of policy and by the things he designed, to changing (he hopes improving) the form of the city he most loves.
As an academic he has taught at Strathclyde University and (currently) at the Grenfell Baines Institute of Architecture, University of Central Lancashire, where among other things, he is subject lead for History and Theory.
He has taught in cities as typologically and geographically distinct as Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia and Hong Kong. Wherever he teaches he advocates for the efficacy of stories and other literary forms as a useful means for architects to engage with the hugely complex nature of “The City”, and in places where it might be expected to be incongruous, he has always found that Gray´s work, and especially “Lanark” has some resonance.
He is currently researching the life and work in Glasgow of a Hungarian refugee from pre-war anti-semitic persecution, as well as the struggle for egalitarian policies, especially in relation to Housing, that were the context for his work here.
He is also writing and drawing on the subject of the connections between Music, Maths Literature, Philosophy and Architecture. In particular, but not only in the context of cities. At the moment his focus is on Glasgow and the works of Alasdair Gray and Edwin Morgan.
Andy Campbell – Biography
Andy Campbell is an architect and co-founder of Dress for the Weather and has led the studio for over 10 years to become an established and alternative model of architectural practice. Dress for the Weather were listed in the Architects’ Journal ‘40 Under 40’ list in 2021and as a ‘Disruptor’ practice in the AJ100 awards in 2020.
The practice design buildings, interiors and objects that are responsive to their locality. This involves experimentation with materials to connect craft, ecology and construction. The practice also conduct research into existing buildings, imagine new architectural typologies and walk and tour the city as a social practice in architecture.
Current and recent projects include concept proposals for refurbishment and extension of a Multicultural Centre in the city centre of Glasgow; residential work to Victorian properties in Conservation Areas; interior strategies in 2no. new major hospitals and research into material re-use practices in architecture.
Andy’s work as an educator in architecture schools has developed alongside the practice. After initially tutoring at University of Strathclyde he has since taught at Newcastle University and Glasgow School of Art. At Newcastle he ran an ‘Experimental Architecture’ studio with Professor Rachel Armstrong and at GSA he tutored large scale housing and masterplanning projects in Stage 4. After a spell leading Year 2 as maternity cover Andy is now Year 1 Leader at University of Strathclyde.
Andy is currently responsible for reviewing the Design Studies curriculum against a Climate Framework to assist staff and students with climate literacy in architecture.
John Purser: ‘How Lanark Ends’
As a composer, poet and friend of Alasdair’s we often discussed cross-disciplinary artistic endeavours. Peacock’s The Misfortunes of Elphin was one area of collaboration of sorts. I was attempting to make an opera out of it and he and I discussed how to structure the libretto. We never solved the problems and the opera’s only performance is on page 474 in Lanark. Alasdair assured me it went down very well. The most tangible visual record of our interdisciplinary endeavours is a sketch of a bit of my concerto for cello and orchestra over which I had spilled whisky. Alasdair turned the pattern of the stain into an elaborate allegorical ink drawing of impenetrable symbolism which I treasure.
There is, however, one much more significant collaboration, if that’s the word. The concluding poem of Lanark is modelled on a published one of my own called In Winter. Alasdair characteristically asked permission in a letter which I still have.
The big difference between the two poems is that mine is impersonal whereas Alasdair’s is personal. The impossibility of being unable to move and its being time to go reminds me of the end of Beckett’s The Unnamable - “you must go on. I can’t go on. I’ll go on.” It is an existential dilemma which, along with the prevalence of Christian imagery in Gray’s work, suggests that the winged child within the skull is just about the only hope.
The ‘paper’ will discuss the contrasts and similarities between the two poems and what they reveal of Alasdair’s courageous and generous nature.
John Purser - Biography
John Purser is well known as a composer, writer, broadcaster and musicologist. He has published five books of poetry and his poems have appeared in many magazines and anthologies. There Is No Night –[ New and Selected Poems was published by Kennedy & Boyd in 2014, and This Much Endures by the same publishers in 2020. Of his six radio plays commissioned by the BBC, Carver won a Giles Cooper Award and a New York International Radio Festival Gold Medal in 1991. Carver was published by Methuen.
In 1992 his book Scotland’s Music won him the McVitie Scottish Writer of the Year Award. An expanded edition of Scotland’s Music was published by Mainstream in 2007 to accompany his second eponymous radio series for BBC Scotland.
In 2013 Purser brought out 3 CDs of his own music which have been critically acclaimed here and in the USA. A fourth CD, Consider the Story is now out and has been equally well received.
Purser is a Researcher and Lecturer at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the Gaelic College on the Island of Skye, where he lives and crofts with his American wife, Barbara.
Sorcha Dallas: ‘How to build a model of an archive: preserving the legacy of one of Scotland’s most important cultural polymaths’ including a presentation by SGSAH funded placement student Christopher Silver on his research project podcast, ‘Unlikely Objects, Mostly’ at the Alasdair Gray Archive
In this paper Sorcha Dallas will discuss the challenges faced in managing Alasdair Gray’s estate posthumously and planning a robust future for his work via The Alasdair Gray Archive. She will explain the journey in creating a collection that can offer a new and sustainable model for what an archive can be and its significance for wider learning. The Archive exists to tell the story of the life and work of Alasdair Gray. Stories are powerful and are what make us human. Sharing them via podcasts, oral testimonies, books, events and readings allow us to better understand ourselves and each other. They also allow us to connect to each other and create a community, another key focus of the Archive. Dallas will discuss the extensive collection of works sited there and future plans for presenting Gray’s work in a number of different contexts; through exhibitions, new commissions, research projects, public visits and via the developing website. She will explain the values of the Archive (developed in line with Gray’s own principles) and its aim to empower others to tell their own stories inspired by Gray’s work. In line with this she will include a presentation from SGSAH funded placement student Christopher Silver on his research project podcast, ‘Unlikely Objects, Mostly’. Silver’s research is brought together in a new podcast series which journeys through the life and work of Gray guided by everyday objects that surrounded him. A chair, a chessboard and a rug: these three objects followed Alasdair Gray for long periods across the different rooms of his life, often appearing within the imagined worlds he conjured up as familiar motifs and devices. They now occupy prominent places within the Alasdair Gray Archive. In this new podcast series, we use these objects to draw together memories from Alasdair’s friends, colleagues and collaborators in order to explore the connections between the artist’s own assembled world, his day-to-day life and practice. the streets of his home city, and his commitment to socialism.
Sorcha Dallas – Biography
The Alasdair Gray Archive is managed by Sorcha Dallas. Dallas had worked as Gray's gallerist and representative for over 12 years. Since then she has researched, archived and accessioned his works into a system which allowed her to then devise and curate The Alasdair Gray Season, a city-wide festival celebrating Gray’s visual practice, the highlight of which was a large retrospective exhibition which she curated at Kelvingrove Art Galleries and Museums in 2014/15. She has also delivered and published papers on Gray’s visual practice at conferences including ELIA, Glasgow 2014; The World Congress of Scottish Literature, Glasgow 2014 and Alasdair Gray International Conference, Brest, France, 2012. She has been responsible for Gray’s work being bought by major museum collections including Glasgow Life, Scottish National Galleries of Modern Art in Edinburgh, The Arts Council of England and The Tate. She was responsible for securing Gray’s works posthumously and overseeing their safe removal and relocation to The Alasdair Gray Archive which she established after Gray’s death in 2019 with support from Gray’s family, The Scottish Government and Creative Scotland. She has gathered and amassed a deep knowledge of his practice, maintains international connections that promote his work and has unrivalled expertise on the historical and social significance of Gray's work to the cultural profile of Scotland.
Christopher Silver – Biography
Understanding, sustaining and promoting memories of Alasdair Gray in the public sphere
My SGSAH project will support the Alasdair Gray Archive to deliver public engagement activities throughout the first half of 2022. While undertaking these activities, I will also use material from the archive to develop aspects of my own research interests on memory, craft and the role of culture in the Scottish public sphere. As an oral historian, I also hope to use this opportunity to explore how my own academic practice can be applied in an archive setting.
Arianna Introna: ‘The Ill, the Crip and the Mad: Alasdair Gray’s Disability Imagination’
Alasdair Gray’s 1997 play Working Legs: A Play for People without Them is set in a world in which the majority of people sit in wheelchairs and the social structures, norms and relations along which society is organised are devised to suit their needs. The protagonist, Able McMann, who cannot comfortably remain in his wheelchair, is therefore diagnosed as hypermanic by the Social Welfare Services and subjected to the same treatments disabled people have routinely experienced in times of welfare state retrenchment. Not only does Working Legs overturn the naturalness of normalcy, or the system which allows the able-bodied accrue prestige and power on the basis of their bodily configurations (Garland-Thomson 1997, p.8). Most importantly, Gray’s play intensifies the ways in which in most of Gray’s fiction it is non-normativity which provides the criterion by which the ‘normal’ is defined. Drawing on critical disability studies and considering Gray’s entire fiction oeuvre, my essay will explore the different forms that Gray’s non-normative worlds take, specifically engaging those organised around representations of non-normative bodies and minds, whether ill, crip or mad. It will suggest that while Gray’s disability imagination crafts a subtle and sophisticated critique of exclusionary social structures and power abuses, it grounds its power in a focus on the disruptive mattering of non-normative bodyminds, in ways that powerfully speak to the call by disability studies scholars to rescue disability as the ‘active, dynamic, and substantive materialization that is is’ (Mitchell, Antebi and Snyder 2019, p.4).
Arianna Introna – Biography
I have published several articles and book chapters in Scottish studies outlets. These include an article in the HJEAS special issue Scottish Studies: Where is the Field Now? (2015), one in the special issue of the Journal of Scottish Thought, Vol.8: If Scotland ...Conjecturing 2014, one in the special issue of Humanities, Environment, Ecology, Climate and ‘Nature’ in 21st Century Scottish Literature (2019), a chapter in The Blackwell Companion to Contemporary British and Irish Literature (2020) and an article in the Humanities special issue Writers and Intellectuals on Britain and Europe, 1918-2018 (2020). While firmly located within the disciplinary framework of Scottish literature, my work seeks to bring into conversation Scottish and disability studies and has been well-received in the latter field too. My disability studies publications include a chapter published in the collection Disability, Avoidance and the Academy: Challenging Resistance (Routledge, 2015), a chapter forthcoming in the collection The Productive Body: Critical Perspectives, and a monograph titled Crip Enchantments: Autonomist Narratives of Disability in Scottish Writing, forthcoming in the Palgrave Macmillan Literary Disability Studies series.
Siobhan Healy: ‘Adapting Gray: creative, hybrid and performative responses’
Research question: An exploration of making imagined objects in collaboration with Alasdair Gray and the Alasdair Gray Archive.
This research reflects on the the process of collaboration that began in 2009, in which Siobhan Healy invited Alasdair Gray to contribute a design with the theme of Migration. They worked together to develop a large Stained Glass public artwork proposal for Clackmannanshire Council and the 'Imagine Alloa' Project that was located in Alloa Library. This large work (2mtres × 2mtres) went missing when the library moved location and has not been found to date. An aspect of this research will be to find what happened to this original artwork which is the only stained glass design that Alasdair created. The 'Migrate' design was then further developed into a rug and also the cover of the Scottish independence book.
Further to this project, in 2017, Siobhan Healy invited Alasdair Gray to contribute text to an ongoing project entitled- Biodiversity. This project combined Alasdair Gray text, written specifically for the project on the subject of biodiversity and the importance of the natural world and how we must protect it. The work took the form of sculptural objects made in glass and metal and also were carved into Caithness paving stone as part of the new Woodside Health and Care Centre building. This project was then further developed in 2021, in collaboration with the Alasdair Gray Archive for the Garscube Link at the Claypits and became very large scale text works carved into sandstone blocks.
These existing projects will be discussed in detail and further reflection upon future creative, hybrid and performative possibilities will be available for discussion in a Q&A with participants in the symposium.
Siobhan Healy – Biography
Siobhan Healy MLitt, BA (Hons) Artist & Designer.
Alumni of Edinburgh College of Art/Edinburgh University. Public Collections & private collections of note: Harvard University Herbarium, USA; The Scottish Parliament Art Collection; Glasgow City Council; NHS; The Luciano Benneton Collection. Sir David Attenborough.
link to my website-
Harvard University Herbarium Collection- https://hmnh.harvard.edu/news/glass-orchids-glass-artist-siobhan-healy-opens-december-2-harvard-museum-natural-history
Scottish Parliament Art Collection- https://www.parliament.scot/visitandlearn/74934.aspx
Luciano Benneton Collection- http://www.imagomundiart.com/artworks?orderby=random&order=11374745&limit=24&q=Siobhan+healy&collections%5B%5D=47998
The Guardian press cutting- https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2018/jul/20/what-to-see-this-week-in-the-uk
Anthony Remy: ‘Alasdair Gray’s Shades of White: Iconotextuality and Beyond’
In 1981, Lanark, Alasdair Gray’s first and seminal novel, illustrated the author’s propensity to blend his literary and visual practices into iconotextual artworks. Besides the patent socio-political dimension of his writing and his playful deconstruction of the ideas of form and content, another binder inherent to his work has to do with the colour white – out of which his created “things”, as Gray would have it, appear to come to life. Although he mainly produced black-and-white literary and visual works throughout his life, for budget reasons among others, Gray resorted to a variety of metatextual and drawing techniques in order to nuance these two extremes of the spectrum, thus underlining the materiality of his oeuvre. His idiosyncratic manipulations of black print on white paper yet voluntarily implied paradoxes, which were part and parcel of his vision as a “maker of imagined objects”. The clear-cut outlines of his artworks (A Life in Pictures, 2010), the ambivalence of the colour white in his metafiction (Unlikely Stories, Mostly, 1983), and even his proofreading of his own archived pieces of work using correction fluid (The Alasdair Gray Archive) are but a few examples of Gray’s white representing more than mere blankness or effacement. Indeed, his is rather the cradle of new possibilities, new meanings and, above all, beauty.
Anthony Remy - Biography
Anthony Remy is a senior teacher of English currently working as a teaching assistant at the University of Western Brittany, France. He is also currently writing his doctoral thesis entitled “Writing-Unwriting: The Paradoxes of the End in Contemporary English-Language Metafiction (Mark Z. Danielewski, Alasdair Gray, Lance Olsen, Will Self)”, under the joint supervision of Professor Camille Manfredi and Professor Emeritus Marie-Christine Agosto. Anthony Remy has published one article in the online journal Motifs (HCTI), in which another of his articles is being published, and one article in the online journal Sillages critiques (VALE). He was also part of the organising and scientific committees of the first international colloquium to be organised by the HCTI doctoral students, “The Out-of-Frame and the Unsaid in Texts and Images”, which was held in 2019.
Petra Pugar: ‘Alasdair Gray, a Postmodern “Graphic Novelist”?’
Previous studies have primarily addressed the literary elements of Alasdair Gray’s work, with a cursory or partial interest in the non-textual dimension of his novels. Having in mind Bakhtin’s theory of the novel as a continuously forming genre, this paper looks at Gray’s novel Lanark from an intermedial perspective. Using the theoretical apparatus of intermediality studies, namely authors such as Christina Ljungberg and Claus Clüver, who define intermediality not merely as intertextuality transgressing media boundaries, but also as media relations within a single multimodal/heteromedial text, this paper focuses on Lanark’s visual-verbal convergence, visual and graphic capacity. As a step further in this intermedial approach, and using W. J. T. Mitchell’s concept of nesting, this paper argues that although Gray never created a graphic novel in any strict sense, some elements of Lanark (verbal and pictorial images, sequentiality, closure and juxtaposition) reveal particular affinity with the postmodern graphic narrative, which is here called graphicality.
Petra Pugar - Biography
Petra Pugar is a PhD candidate at the University of Zagreb, Croatia, writing her dissertation on intermediality in Alasdair Gray’s works. As a literary and audio-visual translator, her translations into Croatian include novels by Colson Whitehead, Douglas Stuart, Guy Gavriel Kay, as well as various television programs for the Croatian national television. In 2020, she contributed to the international anthology Seven New Strawberries – new translations of the Edwin Morgan poem. She was the recipient of the AMAC-UK Academic Award and the Saltire Scholarship for the Scottish Universities’ Summer School.
Kat Rolley and Anita Sullivan: ‘Across Digital Space and Form: what might Alasdair Gray’s creative output and practice have looked like as a digital narrative?’
A speculative conversation in which Anita Sullivan and Kat Rolley explore their own thoughts on this question, share contributions from Alasdair’s peers and collaborators and facilitate discussion with session attendees.
Alasdair was famously disinclined to use digital technology himself but happy to engage with it through others such as the Glasgow Print Studio and muralist Nichol Wheatley. And many aspects of his work also anticipate or embrace qualities that have come to define digital experiences (immersive, experiential, multiple narratives and voices etc.).
This session is an informal and speculative (but informed and structured) discussion about what Alasdair’s output and practice might have looked like if he’d been born later and fully embraced digital technology. Combining our own thoughts and observations with those of his collaborators and peers such as Nichol Wheatley (Oran Mor, Hillhead Underground), the Glasgow Print Studio, Sorcha Dallas (gallerist, The Alasdair Gray Archive), Rodge Glass (biographer, assistant, writer), Francis Bickmore (editor, Canongate) and inviting thoughts from session attendees.
Anita Sullivan is a storyteller who will make imagined objects with words. She will describe what it might be like to experience Alasdair Gray’s work as a multi-disciplinary, multi-sensory, interactive digital experience. Where might his polymath creative mind have gone if digital technologies had been as powerful and accessible when he was a student as they are today? Let’s imagine…
Kat Rolley is a digital learning and engagement consultant and Alasdair Gray’s niece. She will add her own thoughts and observations to Anita’s narrative along with contributions from Gray’s peers and collaborators.
Anita Sullivan – Biography
Anita Sullivan is an award-winning playwright, digital storyteller and creative facilitator. She’s had over 60 dramas staged or broadcast. Live projects are often site-specific and multimedia. She is writer in not-quite residence with Freewheelers disability theatre company. She is also a digital learning designer, specialising in branching narratives and gamification.
Most recently Anita adapted ‘Heart of Darkness’ for Radio 4 (broadcast 2021). ‘End of Transmission’, co-created with people living with HIV, will be broadcast in July 2022. She is currently developing an interactive VR training course about rapport and a rural touring show (no-tech storytelling) with New Perspectives Theatre. Life is varied!
Kat Rolley - Biography
Kat Rolley is an independent learning and engagement consultant with over 30 years experience defining, designing and developing digital, blended and face-to-face learning solutions.
She is also Alasdair Gray’s niece and the creator of the Alasdair Gray ReReads podcasts (https://alasdairgrayrereads.podbean.com) and related Instagram account
@alasdairgrayrereads. This personal project was started in the year before Gray’s death and features him revisiting and rereading excerpts from some of his own work and favourite books.
Before moving into digital learning Kat worked in higher education and museums as a lecturer, writer and researcher in the field of fashion studies and as a costume designer and art director for short films. During this time she published a book on Fashion in Photographs 1900 – 1920 together with a number of essays and articles on lesbian dress and identity 1920- 1940 and the suffrogettes relationship to fashion and femininity.
Daniel Cockburn: ‘An act of flight, an Active light: word and vision in Lanark’
Gray’s writing in Lanark dismantles space by describing the impossible in detail, and dismantles form by pointing playfully at the undescribable. The outline traced by that writing is that of a thought-pattern resulting from (and enabled by) Gray’s parallel practices as novelist and visual artist. It’s a thought-pattern which affords us, as readers and as persons, the opportunity to consider how we write pictures and how we see writing.
An Act of Flight, an Active Light will be a performative video presentation, following the above line of thought, riffing with wordplay and imagistic puns. It will attempt to shed some light on the ultimately generous tactics of Alasdair Gray, thinking the word through vision and vice versa, using as a framework Gray’s versions of the imagined impossible.
Biography – Daniel Cockburn
Daniel Cockburn is a Canadian moving-image artist living in Glasgow. His works deal with language, rhythm, and thought experiments. Often performing in them himself, somewhere between fictional character and autobiography, he uses gesture, repetition, and a heady quantity of voiceover in an attempt to detail the shape of thought. Humour and wordplay are key elements in the work, which draws on video games, philosophy, power ballads, literature, and sci-fi/fantasy/horror. His feature film You Are Here (2010) played Locarno, Toronto, Rotterdam, and 40+ other festivals, and has been compared to the work of Charlie Kaufman, Jorge Luis Borges, and Philip K. Dick. He is currently Research Fellow in Film Practice at Queen Mary University of London.