A Spot of b)other

Article by Amy Birchard | 19 Oct 2009
  • Penny Stenhouse

There is already a wealth of material for artists to address on issues surrounding the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, but GoMA's upcoming show A Spot of b)other also harnesses the experience of another marginalised group in society - those within deaf and disabled cultures.

b)other is the title of the artists' collective formed in July 2009 by GoMA's artist-in-residence Sandra Alland comprising artists Stuart Crawford, Nathan Gale, Y. Josephine, Jennie Kermode, Rebecca Pla, Alison Smith, Penny Stenhouse and Kristiane Taylor. Spanning a variety of media this exhibition features text pieces, photo works, Fingers - a British Sign Language filmed poetry performance by Alison Smith, and Here - Alland's documentary that deals with LGBTI immigrants in Edinburgh. Accompanying this are 9 portraits of b)other members. Studio work by the group is also on display including poems, videos, digital art and paintings.

The show aims to broaden perceptions about gender and intersexuality and force individuals to rethink their ideas about ability. Alland pointed out to The Skinny that "the majority of art presented in galleries is still by straight, white, able-bodied, cissexual men". But in case you were about to dismiss the exhibition as an angry outcry about the exhibiting artists' plight, she firmly sets the record straight: "this show challenges a lot of assumptions about what kind of art you might assume an LGBTI disabled or deaf person would make (or what they might look like). Although b)other ask some difficult questions, we lean more towards the celebratory than the screaming banshee".

Addressing the notion of 'otherness', a label that haunts these communities, the exhibition and accompanying 'zine' (an independent magazine available at GoMA's front desk) function as an exploration into the shared experiences of these groups. b)other, as is perhaps self-evident, refers to various aspects of the group's artistic intentions and standpoint. This collective have bothered to tackle the issues faced by these communities but acknowledge the arduous task of attempting to overcome prejudice in the face of engrained discrimination. Although their identity might render them 'other' they seek to highlight their differences rather than comply with any definition of 'normal'.

Exhibitions which confront ongoing, underlying prejudice are a necessary interlude to the vast array of self referencing and self involved exhibitions that speak solely to people within the art community. Whilst this show may not whip up quite the media frenzy some of its recent predecessors at GoMA have, it does defiantly tackle LGBTI and Deaf and Disabled issues head on without taking itself too seriously. Kristiane Taylor's drawings, not least, are sure to draw a smile, if not a few resounding guffaws.

Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art, open Monday to Wednesday 10am to 5pm, Thursday 10am to 8pm, Saturday 10am to 5pm, Friday and Sunday 11am to 5pm, free.

Alland is giving an artist's talk at GoMA on 10 December about this project and the collective's future plans.