I swallowed a clock and planted a seed | Alkmini Gkousiari & Isobel O’Donovan

Hello Everyone! It’s Hollie here. It’s been a little while since you’ve heard from us, the 2020/21 GoMA Youth Group. Since our last post, a brand new group have come together and hosted a lovely event in the GoMA Studio. Keep an eye on the GYG social media channels [Twitter & Instagram] and Eventbrite for their next event.

Over summer, the 2020/21 cohort took the opportunity to contribute to a curated series of performance works hosted by GoMA. Each member had the opportunity to suggest a performance artist, and GYG member Ben introduced us to the work of Isobel O’Donovan and Alkmini Gkousiari.

Ben had seen a collaborative performance by Isobel and Alkmini in Pollok House in 2020 which explored the role of sound and the relationships between family and servants at Pollok House. Ben spoke highly of the performance, and as a group we felt that their site-specific exploration of a historical house would work well within GoMA, considering its origins as tobacco merchant William Cunninghame’s mansion and its ties to the transatlantic slave trade. Although Isobel and Alkmini both have a developed individual practice and our budget was intended for one artist commission, we found their performance together in Pollok House so compelling that we decided to approach both of them.

We reached out to Isobel and Alkmini and arranged to meet online. We knew that we wanted to explore the history of the GoMA building, and their suggestion to research the site’s agricultural past fascinated us.

Some of the GYG had experience of commissioning artists or being commissioned themselves, but for me, this was a first.It was great to be supported by GoMA in this experience. I learned about Artist Union Rates and negotiating a budget while ensuring that you work with artists ethically and transparently. It helped me to understand the crucial role of the artist in shaping our programmes as I saw first-hand how Isobel and Alkmini transformed our idea of exploring the building’s difficult past through their own research. Their careful exploration of the agricultural history of the site, and their partnership with Glasgow Seed Library highlighted to me what venues such as GoMA stand to gain through thoughtful collaboration with artists.

The artists met with GYG online at a later stage in their development of the work and devoted a period of time in August to work together on the performance. Rehearsals in the space were tricky to organise due to pandemic, but also the space they wanted to work in. So in lots of ways the final performance was quite experimental, but also had to be more scripted than the artists would normally work with. Saral Leal, Learning Assistant at GoMA supported GYG for the performance of I planted a clock and swallowed a seed in GoMA, working with the artists on the risk assessment, how the performance could be documented and also invites for the audience who were on the top balcony witnessing the work in the ground floor ellipse.

We are grateful to Glasgow City Heritage Trust and an Art Fund Respond and Reimagine Award for the support to make this commission happen for GYG to be part of the programme for GoMA at 25 and the resulting intimate performance for us was moving to watch and carefully considered in the complex space of GoMA.

Photographs by Gavin McCourt

I planted a clock and swallowed a seed explored the agricultural history of the site upon which the Gallery of Modern Art now stands. Before the sale of the site to tobacco merchant William Cunninghame in 1778, the land was home to a few farm cottages and a crossroad where cows were herded towards their grazing pastures in Cowcaddens. Using materials such as soil, vegetables, ceramics and sound, the artists invoked how previous bodies might have moved through this rural landscape, rather than the concreted heart of the city that we know today. By exploring the body’s movements through feeding, harvesting, herding and planting, they wanted audience witnessing this performance to experience a connection to the soil beneath the GoMA’s foundations.

Alkmini Gkousiari and Isobel O’Donovan are artists who are both living and working in Glasgow. They enjoy creating collaborative performances in response to the social, geographical and emotional histories of places.

Alkmini Gkousiari is a Greek artist with a practice that attempts to encapsulate the myth of creation or coming-into-being through storytelling and engagement with the conflicts that arise from multiple cultural identities. Alkmini’s practice spans drawing, sculpture, writing, sound and performance.

Isobel O’Donovan is an Irish artist whose practice explores ephemeral by-products of being, such as breath, dreams, memories and language. Isobel’s practice utilises sculpture, video, drawing, writing and performance to investigate these sprawling and intangible experiences of embodiment.

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