GSA Students are Rediscovering Mackintosh

‘Rediscovering Mackintosh’ is the first class to meet inside the Mackintosh building since the fire, with special permission from Kier Construction.

Last Thursday was a another milestone for the Mackintosh Restoration: the first class met inside the building since the time of the fire.

Since taking on the role of Mackintosh Research Fellow, I’ve done the occasional lecture here and there for our students, generally talking about the project. But before I was the ‘MRF’, I was a lecturer in history & context for FoCI and HAUS, teaching Mackintosh studies (amongst other things) across the school. And I must confess: though I love research, I miss teaching.

So I am absolutely delighted to be ‘back in the saddle’ offering a Mackintosh Restoration elective, ‘Rediscovering Mackintosh’, to our Fine Art and Design students this semester, and to Architecture students in semester 2. And while I certainly plan to incorporate what we have learned from the project into future teaching at GSA, this course provides a unique opportunity to witness and engage with a live conservation project on our very own world-class work of cultural heritage.

Throughout the project, we have strived to provide access where possible for students and staff, however, with this being a live project, this has not always been feasible. ‘Rediscovering Mackintosh’ is a landmark then for the school and our students: it is the first class to meet regularly in the building since the fire. It should be made clear, however, that we are doing so with the kind permission of Kier construction, both adhering to their Health & Safety guidelines (and our teaching team have all been inducted); and the students will actually only have one site visit to the construction areas. We are incredibly lucky that in the first term we are able to hold some of our classes in the old furniture gallery, which is currently part of the construction office.

Nonetheless, students will have unprecedented access to the restoration project, with a view to using it as a source of inspiration for their own creative practice. They will engage with the project through research and careful documentation of primary source material, critical analysis and, based on this, through proposing a creative response related to their own studios of practice. Because this is a context & critical studies elective, their assessments need to be written submissions, but I hope that they find the process gives them inspiration for their studio work as well. Finding unusual ways to engage with both historical material and the Mackintosh building is something I’ve had success with before, and I am looking forward to seeing what comes of the current enthusiastic group.

Students from the 2012 ‘Artistic Dress’ FoCI elective perform a Tableau Vivant ‘Students in the Art School’ in the Mack Library.

The only downside is that due to the nature of the timeable and practical aspects of the course, we can only take a limited number of students for this elective. But I welcome any studio tutors to contact me if you’d like either a visit/talk from me, or advice on how we can make more research-teaching links with your curriculum. I do hope we will find more ways to incorporate Mackintosh, in history, philosophy and spirit, into our curriculum well into the future.

GSA at Glasgow Doors Open Days Festival

After last week’s exciting announcement about the progress of the Mackintosh Library, we are pleased to present a series of events on this week for the Doors Open Days Festival, from staff across the Glasgow School of Art. Several talks relate to the project, while others talk about the wider heritage of our ‘dear green place.’

It’s actually Doors Off Days in the Mack, as our doors are lined up awaiting conservation. Photo: Robyne Calvert

Today (Monday), our project Conservation Skills Co-ordinator Thomas Simmons has planned two very exciting events, Craft: A Case Study at 2pm, and Conservation: A Case Study at 5pm.

Our Senior Project Manager Liz Davidson will be giving her annual update talk on Friday at St Andrews in the Square, the festival hub. Always an inspiring speaker, it’s worth taking your lunch break to head over for her 1pm talk, Re-building the Mackintosh at Glasgow School of Art.

Still mostly on the topic of Mackintosh, Dr Robyne Calvert will also be giving a talk at St Andrews in the Square on Rethinking Glasgow Style: Symbolism in Scottish Architecture in Designon Thursday evening at 7:30pm.

Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh’s ‘The Heart of the Rose’, seen here after its 2015 conservation treatment, will feature in Dr Calvert’s talk.

And if you were up for being truly entertained, come along a bit earlier on Thursday because the fantastic Prof Bruce Peter will also be giving a talk, Entertainment Architecture in Victorian and Edwardian Glasgow, at 6pm. If you don’t get enough of Bruce’s style of ‘edutainment’ there, he is talking again on Sunday afternoon on some his new fabulous book on modern hotels, The Modern Hotel is Scotland.

Continuing to branch a bit further away from ‘strictly Mackintosh’, our Creative Ecology Fellow Helen Kendrick will be talking about her wonderful research on Glasgow’s Historic Interiors on Saturday. You can also catch our own ‘Bringing Back the Mack’ PhD fellow Rachael Purse, also one-half of the dynamic duo The History Girls Frae Scotland with GU/GSA PhD student Karen Mailley-Watt, at their talk on A HERstory of Glasgow.

And that’s just the GSA folk! There is so much on this week, on Mackintosh and so much more, with the highlight of course being Doors Open Days itself this weekend. Don’t miss the chance to have a poke about some of the incredible spaces we’ve got in town, some only open to the public for the festival! Check out the full schedule here.

Ash to Art

Ash to Art at Christies King St , 8 March 2017

Today, 25 truly remarkable artworks – all made with or from burnt fragments of the Mackintosh Library – will be auctioned at Christie’s for the benefit our campus appeal.

Having seen the works in the catalogue, the emotional response I had upon entering the small preview exhibition was rather unexpected. I was reminded of walking into the library for the first time post-fire: the punch in the gut, the lump in the throat, the tearing eyes. And perhaps most surprisingly, while standing in front of GSA alumni Martin Boyce’s wonderful ‘Spook School’ piece, a faint scent of smoke. A smell mostly long-vanished from the Mack, yet those of us who frequent its halls for the project still catch the occasional unexpected whiff.

Rachael Purse contemplates Martin Boyce’s work.

This was an experience shared by some of the contributing artists, as GSA alumni Chantal Joffe noted:

“Receiving the box was quite upsetting, like receiving the ashes of a dead friend. The charcoal was softer than I’m used to, it was hard to get an edge. As I drew, it released the smell of the fire.”

Rachael and I are in London for research, but we timed the trip to take in the auction, which will no doubt be very exciting. But from an academic perspective, it is bittersweet as this will be the only time this collection will be exhibited together before dispersed to fortunate private collectors – though there is always the hope that a savvy public collection will bid on some of these pieces, which are all rather reasonably priced, if you’ve got that kind of budget. My own lottery ticket didn’t come in, so sadly the Grayson Perry urn, poignantly preserving a bit of library-charcoal, won’t be coming home with me.

Grayson Perry, ‘Art is dead Long live Art’. Charcoal from the Mackintosh Library in glazed ceramic. 21 x 10cm.

As a body of work, the lot is worth a much more considered analysis than I’ll offer in this quick post, but the range of responses is truly impressive. From Anish Kapoor‘s minimal encasement of an unaltered fragment in rich red Perspex to Tacita Dean‘s dreamy charcoal drawings, the variation in approaches is reflective of the manifold artistic practices taught at the Glasgow School of Art.

One GSA alumni, Alison Watt, offered and exquisitely minimalist canvas that to my eye looks very like an elegant detail from a piece of Mackintosh furniture. The work reflects the loss Watt felt, as many of us did, at the fire:

“I cried when I heard of the fire. The Glasgow School of Art has a particular hold over those who studied there, not only through its remarkable physical presence, but also as an idea. The idea of creativity coming from the wreckage resonated with me. I delicately shaved small slivers from the charred wood and ground them to a powder mixed with Payne’s Grey and Burnt Sienna oil colour, creating a particularly intense black. It’s a darkness which is hard to define.”

Alison Watt ‘Deep Within the Heart of Me’. Oil & charcoal from the Mackintosh Library on canvas. 46 x 46cm.

Some pieces are not such emotional responses, even irreverent, and I was particularly delighted by Joseph Kosuth’s ‘O.M.C.’ – of which he said:

The title ‘O.M.C’ signifies ‘One Mackintosh Chair’, which is a semi-ironic reference to that well-known early work of mine. So, potentially, the charcoal used in the drawing is the remains of the chair being depicted.”

Joseph Kosuth ‘O.M.C’. Charcoal from the Mackintosh Library on paper. 92.5 x 79.5cm.

Referencing his iconic 1965 ‘One and Three Chairs‘, a piece that opened my young art student mind to semiotics and conceptual art, it rang a doubly personal note.
But perhaps my most favourite piece – and surely I am biased here – is Sir Peter Blake’s velvety composite image of the library before and after the fire. The classic Annan photo hovers at the surface, in which the artist has employed his charcoal.

Sir Peter Blake, ‘Untitled’. Inkjet graphite and charcoal from the Mackintosh Library on paper. 57.7 x 71cm.

The caption reads:

“Charles Rennie Mackintosh in the Library at Glasgow School of Art, both before and after the fire (his cravat is drawn in charcoal from the burnt Library).”

While my fingers are crossed for a massive return on the time and heart these artists invested and gave us, I confess a bit of sadness thinking these pieces will not be seen together again. Perhaps they might be gathered once more in another 100 years, when even the reconstructed areas of the Mack will again be viewed as historic cultural icons.

And here we go…

EDIT: What an exciting event! The final results can be viewed by clicking here (lots 240-264), but a quick & dirty calculation shows that the auction realised just under £570,000 for us! Deepest thanks to all the artists who gave time, care, and effort to support the Glasgow School of Art.

Five Questions With… Liz Davidson

Our Bringing Back the Mack PhD student Rachael Purse recently sat down with Liz Davidson, the Mackintosh Restoration Senior Project Manager, to conduct the inaugural five questions interview.

[Originally posted on the Mack Restoration Project blog by Rachael Purse]

Today we are launching a regular feature on the blog, a series of interviews entitled Five Questions With… During these informal chats we will be asking members of the interdisciplinary Restoration Design Team five questions, to give you a personal insight into the work of the individuals responsible for the success of this vast project.

Our Bringing Back the Mack PhD student Rachael Purse recently sat down with Liz Davidson, the Mackintosh Restoration Senior Project Manager, to conduct the inaugural interview.

What does an average week consist of for you?

Contemplating the library timbers. Photo by Robyne Calvert.

There are a lot of meetings, but what we always try and fit in is a daily walk around the Mack building.  There’s nothing better. The progress is now massively rewarding, and it’s exciting to see happy builders working on site, you see good craftsmanship even on things like a stud wall partition. Well better than I could do, otherwise I’d be up there doing it! The project is moving fast so this walkabout with the plans is important.

There are two of us [with Project Manager Sarah MacKinnon] and we must use our time as wisely as we can. One of us will go [to a meeting], and then come back and we’ll have a chat about it. Quite often we do have different opinions, but I think we come at things differently. Sarah is a conservation surveyor and project manager and much else besides, I come from a history and architectural conservation background. I think we quite often come at it from different directions but invariably, 99% of the time we come to the same conclusions, and it’s good to have both of these approaches.

The other way in which our careers have coalesced, is that we also both have building preservation trust backgrounds, Sarah with Strathclyde Building Preservation Trust, and myself from Glasgow, and what you learn when working with a BPT is that you need to know how funding and construction and design teams work, but crucially it’s all about how the building will work, the functionality and the reuse of the building, so there are solutions and compromises that have to be made. We know that this building needs to work for the client or otherwise this project is pointless, they have to be able to put students back into the Mackintosh Building. Architects, quite rightly sometimes, exist within a more purist bubble.

We both probably describe ourselves differently, both as conservationists, but we are still the client representative. It’s the BPT training we have had that has given us a pragmatism in terms of end use. Here we are a part of the amazing creative client group, and we are trying to hold fast to good conservation principles whilst flexing them to make it function.

Both of us are trying to keep under control is the sheer amount of hours that this project demands, which is way beyond a normal working week. It just is relentless.

To be fair to the entire project team are all working incredibly hard. With this building, everybody feels as though they are going way above the call of duty, it couldn’t be any other way. I think Mackintosh laboured into the wee small hours when he was designing it and I think it was his labour of love.
Liz on a typical walkabout with HRH Prince Charles, the school’s Patron. Photo copyright Alan McAteer, 2015.

What was your relationship with the Mack before this project?

Well, I live in Glasgow, so it was usually coming up every year to go to the Degree Show and the odd exhibition. Experiencing the Mack during a degree show is such an exciting night, when you come up and it spills out onto Renfrew Street and you have this incredible ability to run wild through the building, packed with people, looking at things you wouldn’t normally be able to, and just feel all that amazing energy. Bumping into people on odd half landings you haven’t seen for years, and just talk about art that you might one day buy. The sad thing is then I would probably leave it alone for the rest of the year because it’s a working school. Let the students get on with what they’re doing. I think it’s fair to say I am by no means complacent about this building, it’s still a thrill, it’s still a privilege to walk around it and be in it, but Degree Show night was always a special night.

One of our challenges is to keep pushing our awareness and knowledge of the building, so the work being done in the archives and by the research team is constantly feeding that understanding of the building. But also you have to be strong because Mackintosh I don’t think was overawed by this building or by the occasion, I think he thought ‘I’m at the top of my game and I’m going to come in and deliver what this client needs.’ What we need to do collectively as a project team is come in and be strong and confident in what we are doing, and not let the platform or the world stage that we are on over-awe us. The School is not a bashful client and it needs to be able to project the fact that it is a confident and risk-taking and even anarchic client at times, and all those words don’t necessarily resonate with a conservation project.

Work starting on the roof. Photo copyright Alan McAteer, 2016.

What have been the most professionally and/or personally fulfilling moments for you on this project so far?

The most personally fulfilling thing so far which has happened to me was the other night when I got a Happy Meal delivered to my door by a security guard! (laughs) How good is that?!

There is a huge amount of information that’s coming in and you constantly want to feel you’re on top of it. It’s constantly shifting and constantly moving and growing, and you only need a day or two outside that because you’ve had meetings or student  – so in the space of 48 hours you can completely lose grip because so much has happened, it’s as fast moving as that, and then it takes you about 8 days to catch up.

It’s quite a dull answer because you want to say it’s when the finial was gilded and put back on the roof or whatever…

But at the moment the most professionally fulfilling moment for me is when I go to bed or get up in the morning and I can say I’m on top of it.

Walkabouts aren’t just for inside the building. Photo by Sarah MacKinnon.

Describe the Mack in one sentence

Oh, flip. I don’t think I can describe it in one sentence!

If you had a Tardis, what point of the Mack’s life would you go back to and why?

Well, it should obviously be right back to about 1909, that’s what I should be saying. Purely selfishly, I’d love to go back to the late 40s because that’s when Joan Eardley, who’s my favourite ever artist, was here. I would have loved to have met that woman and I would have loved to have painted like her. The answer I should be giving, for Kevan Shaw [the Design Team’s lighting consultant], is to go back and look at those black and whites and say is that blue or green or yellow?

There’s no doubt that [Mackintosh is] still an enigma. I’ve just read a fictional piece about Mackintosh living in Suffolk with Margaret by Esther Freud, when he was living there over the first world war period, and they talk about this dark Glaswegian who stormed over the moors and the sand dunes at night with his binoculars, picked flowers and then took them down to his little hut to paint them. There’s this thing of constantly trying to find out who he is. We know so little about the man, he had no children so there are no direct descendants and there were still people from William Davidson’s family who did remember him until recently, but there’s so little you really know about who he was as a person. Was he a nice person? I think we know that he was. A bit of a hell-raiser, who absolutely adored his wife Margaret MacDonald, and it must have been reciprocal.

How extraordinary it would have been to have met him… I’ve never seen a film of him. Such a beautiful man in those early photographs, who is the contemporary equivalent?

Stay tuned for our next 5 Questions With… featuring Restoration Project Manager Sarah Mackinnon.

Celebrating Mackintosh

October is the month of the annual Mackintosh Festival. GSA staff have organised several great activities including talks by several of our Restoration Research Team members.
Charles Rennie Mackintosh, ‘Autumn’, 1894. From ‘The Magazine’, November 1894. GSA Collection MC/G/6.

In addition to the delightfully cool, crisp autumnal weather, we especially welcome October at Glasgow School of Art as our students return and the campus becomes a hive of creative activity. We therefore thought it a particularly felicitous time to be launching this blog, which will highlight some of the research and activities related to the restoration and reconstruction of the Mackintosh Building (which we will refer to henceforth with our affectionate sobriquet ‘The Mack’).

October is also the month of the annual Mackintosh Festival. Each year the Glasgow Mackintosh group celebrates Charles Rennie Mackintosh (and company!) through a programme of talks, events, tours and exhibits. GSA staff have organised several great activities for the Mackintosh Festival, including talks by several of our Restoration Research Team members.

Our Mackintosh Curator Peter Trowles kicked things off with an enlightening talk on the evolution of the Mackintosh Building over the past 100 years. Walking tours will also continue to run every Saturday in October: these 2.5-hour perambulations around the city centre are given by our very own students and provide insights into Glasgow’s architectural and design history.

Indoors, the ground floor corridor of the Reid building is currently hosting an exceptionally beautiful exhibition, “The Mack” Digital Recovery Begins Physical Re-imagining. On display until the 29th of October, the exhibit features the astonishing laser scans of the Mack created by the GSA’s School of Simulation + Visualisation (formerly DDS). Cross-sections of the Mack post-fire have been enlarged and printed onto fabric to reveal the interior and exterior of the School in intimate detail, highlighting just how advanced laser scanning has become, but also providing a crucial record of the building that is being used by the Restoration Design Team as they bring back the Mack.

Laser scan of the Mackintosh Building, 2014-15. School of Visualisation and Simulation, The GSofA.

On Monday 17th, we will be hosting an evening of short talks in the Reid’s main lecture theatre from 18:00-20:30. Entitled ‘State of the Mack’, this event will provide an excellent opportunity to hear from the experts working on the Mack Restoration & Collections Recovery projects. Speakers will share up-to-the-moment stories from our overarching reconstruction and conservation approaches, including the ground-breaking research being developed to restore the school’s scorched plaster casts and iconic library lights; as well as sharing news on the recovery of the library collection, the laser scanning project, and new discoveries about the Mack that have arisen from this important endeavour.

The following week, on Tuesday the 25th at 12:30, our Archivist Susannah Waters, will not only be discussing what life was like for the GSA’s 19th century students, but she will also be providing attendees with the opportunity to see original Mackintosh sketches and watercolours from the period.

We hope you will visit us during #MackintoshMonth, and follow this blog to keep up with us on our journey with this unique project. You can also follow us on Twitter @MackRestoration.
Design for Glasgow School of Art: east/west elevations, 1897. GSA Collection, MC/G/60

Tableaux Vivants Redux!

GSA Tableaux Vivants 2013: 'More than just a Punk'. Photo by Paulina Brozek.
GSA Tableaux Vivants 2013: ‘More than just a Punk’. Photo by Paulina Brozek.

Last week was the second annual Artistic Dress Tableaux Vivants at the Glasgow School of Art. Performed by (fantastic) students in my ‘Artistic Dress: Fashion, Style and Identity’ elective course, this year was just as clever and fun as last. I talked about last year’s event briefly in this post, which includes a bit of background on how tableaux vivants, or ‘living pictures’, played a role in the more didactic activities of those associated with the Artistic Dress movements. Because it is end of term, and it was a tiring one, I’m going to take a bit more of an informal (even chatty) approach to this post so I can simply share the stellar job my class did this year.

Students in the 2012 Artistic Dress class recreated the heyday of the GSA. Mackintosh lives!
Students in the 2012 Artistic Dress class recreated the heyday of the GSA. Mackintosh lives!

I must say, first, that last year set the bar very high. For never having done this before, the students pulled it off without a hitch, and everyone loved it. I was excited to see what my students might dream up this year, and was not disappointed. Before I share the results, however, I must really say how fortunate I feel to not only teach a subject I love, but to do so a place full of history, with a staff that supports creative approaches to learning, and students who dive in and take their study beyond the classroom, enthusiastically engaging with the material. The GSA is an amazing place.

My class was tasked with the following project: to create research-based tableaux vivants that expressed notions of Artistic Dress, whether examining historic fashion movements, or exploring new possibilities of what the term could mean. To achieve this, they had to do more than simply find a fun example and dress up, but they really had to research and justify their choices (their grade is actually based on a journal that is a sort of essay/portfolio of their work on the project). So while it might just look like a fabulous fancy dress night, there is actually a great deal of consideration behind these tablueax. The results were so well done that I honestly can’t pick a favourite (and shouldn’t anyway), so I’ll relate each in the student’s words, then give a few thoughts about them.

I was pleased to discover that one group did in fact want to explore more traditional notions of Artistic Dress, perfectly suited to use the beautiful Mackintosh Library:

The Artistic Dress — Different Times, Different Places Mackintosh Library

Artistic Dressers:
Anna Broger
Paulina Brozek
Kelly McEwen
Sophie Warringham

Exploring different varieties of ‘artistic dress’ from the late 19th to the early 20th century. Focusing on what influenced the artists and designers and how they represented it in ways of dress and fashion. From the Pre-Raphaelites to the Symbolism in Poland to the Kunstkleid from Vienna, we exhibit the results of our research.

GSA Tableaux Vivants 2013: 'The Artistic Dress - Different Times, Different Places'
GSA Tableaux Vivants 2013: ‘The Artistic Dress – Different Times, Different Places’

This was comprised in three quietly beautiful scenes: Pre-Raphaelites sketching and embroidering (above: Rossetti and Siddal come to life in the Mac Library – goosebumps much?); the Arts & Crafts evoked by the adoption of folk costume (modelled on the student’s own Polish national dress, below):

GSA Tableaux Vivants 2013: 'The Artistic Dress - Different Times, Different Places'.
GSA Tableaux Vivants 2013: ‘The Artistic Dress – Different Times, Different Places’.

…and a re-imagining of a Secessionist after research on Gustav Klimt and Emile Flöge – and here I must give extra kudos to Anna Broger as it was the first dress she has ever attempted (below), and she even did her own hand embroidery. It was lovely!

GSA Tableaux Vivants 2013: 'The Artistic Dress - Different Times, Different Places'.
GSA Tableaux Vivants 2013: ‘The Artistic Dress – Different Times, Different Places’.

I must also note that the Mackintosh Library currently houses the GSA Special Collections (we have a more functional concrete library across the street). It is often thought of as a ‘mere’ museum space, frozen for the tourists who pass through on tours several times a day. But I use it regularly for sessions with my students where, under staff supervision, they sit and view original design periodicals and sources in this magical environment. So yes, that is an original Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration Anna is (very carefully) holding and reading (being Austrian, she is doing a better job than I would). Not a bad way to spend two hours, is it?

I should mention that this two-hour event is always open to the public, and before our visitors reached the library, they had to pass through the rather bohemian recreation of Weimar’s inter-war avant-garde, constructed in the famous niches of the first-floor corridor:

GSA Tableaux Vivants 2013: 'Totentanz Weimar'
GSA Tableaux Vivants 2013: ‘Totentanz Weimar’

Totentanz Weimar Germany. Weimar, desperate optimism.
First Floor, west corridor

Artistic Dressers:
Christopher Barton
Jamila Brown
Erin Colquhoun
Zsofia Dukai
Hilary Macaulay
Mylene Podvin

He becomes she, she becomes he, art becomes life, and life becomes art. Playing on the symbiotic relationship between Art and Weimar’s transgender community we will explore the life death dance and sex in interwar war Berlin. By recreating Berlin’s infamous Eldorado club we hope to illustrate this golden age of social liberty and sexual freedom through tableau. We hope to represent the exploitation of the androgynous nature of 1920’s clothing (straight lines and suppressed femininity) by the transgender community, and how performance costume explored these blurred roles and pushed the boundaries of sexual representation through dance.

GSA Tableaux Vivants 2013: ‘Totentanz Weimar’

The images really don’t do justice to this scene, for which the students built café tables and researched some rather unique and specific characters to portray. In addition, Christopher Barton made a short film which was projected onto the opposite wall, creating a darkly rich mood for the scene. If you love this period, take a moment to view it here:

From here guests wandered down two flights to the Mackintosh lecture theatre in the basement… if they were brave enough to pass directly through the rather questionable-looking punks congregated on the lower landing.

More Than Just a Punk
West stairwell between ground floor and basement

Artistic Dressers:
Rachel Blair
Amy Bond
Hannah Dykes
Franz Maggs
Elinor McCue
Yoshimi Tanaka

We are expressing and displaying a variation of the diversity of “punk” through Glam Punk, Horror Punk, Street Punk, UK Punk, and American Punk, with political and musical influences. A controversial yet confident stance performed through artistic sartorial expression.

GSA Tableaux Vivants 2013: 'More than just a Punk'. Photo by Bruce Peter.
GSA Tableaux Vivants 2013: ‘More than just a Punk’. Photo by Bruce Peter.

I was excited by all the tableaux for various reasons, but this one was of course a bit more personal… every time I walked through, I felt like I was  heading back into my youth, to the club… they looked like old friends, and with the Ramones and Sex Pistols blaring, the effect was bold.

GSA Tableaux Vivants 2013: 'More than just a Punk'.
GSA Tableaux Vivants 2013: ‘More than just a Punk’.

In some ways, it was a simple set up, with an array of DIY posters simply stuck on the wall. But what was really great is that every time you passed through, the group had changed positions, arranging themselves so you had to step over and around them to make your way past. It really evoked that sense of potential threat, and they commented later that more than a few people hesitated before proceeding up the stairs with caution. Fun!

GSA Tableaux Vivants 2013: 'The Factory'. Photo by Paulina Brozek.
GSA Tableaux Vivants 2013: ‘The Factory’. Photo by Paulina Brozek.

Finally, the last tableaux was perhaps not as intimidating as the punks, but it was every bit as edgy. With just a bit of aluminium foil, the dark-panelled lecture theatre was transformed into Andy Warhol’s Factory.

The Factory
Mackintosh Lecture Theatre, West wing basement

Artistic Dressers:
Ruth Crothers
Ruth Leslie
Checkie Leong
Ava Marr
Olivia Qi

A representation of the distinctive, artistic dress within Andy Warhol’s ‘Silver Factory’. Particularly focusing on the Avant-Garde and bohemian style of members such as the artist Andy Warhol himself, socialite and actress Edie Sedgwick, photographers Billy Name and Gerard Malanga and artist Brigid Berlin.

GSA Tableaux Vivants 2013: 'The Factory'
GSA Tableaux Vivants 2013: ‘The Factory’

Again, pictures don’t do justice at all, but like the others, these students carefully researched and chose the ‘characters’ they wished to recreate, and incorporated sound and video to really bring the artistic party of the Factory heydey to life.

Every group really outdid themselves this year, and I am very pleased. My only disappointment – and I moaned to them about this – was that there was no Steampunk! Perhaps I’ll get lucky next year.

GSA Tableaux Vivants 2013. Well done everyone!
GSA Tableaux Vivants 2013. Well done everyone!

Oh yes, and I decided to join in the fun too… I attempted to do my best Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh. I need more colour in my wardrobe to truly pull it off.


See the complete set of this year and last over at flickr.

Special thanks to the generous support of the following GSA staff: Jenny Brownrigg, David Buri, Duncan Chappell, Delphine Dallison, Juliet Fellows-Smith, Rachael Grew, Talitha Kotze, Nicholas Oddy, Bruce Peter, Sarah Smith, Peter Trowles, and Susannah Waters.