New Weather Coming: Public Art

Part of GENERATION, Jacqueline Donachie's New Weather Coming is touring Scotland in a bid to engage the communities and day-trippers

Feature by Adam Benmakhlouf | 27 Aug 2014
  • New Weather Coming, Jacqueline Donachie, 2014

Getting driven up and down the country until the end of next month in the name of the GENERATION festival, three itinerant neon green sculptures made from trailers are making stops all along the length of Scotland. Though a particularly artificial shade of green, their artist Jacqueline Donachie colour matched the exact shade against photos of a very specific moment in Scottish weather when despite a backdrop of dreich skies, a ray of sun collapses on a patch of land

In Kyle of Lochalsh, one of the neon green trailers was covered in seaweed in a relatively endearing instance of youth rebellion, only for it to be cleaned up by some of the staff from the hotel whose carpark it occupied. Donachie’s work has before been defaced by one group only to be restored by another, the 1999 work The Disk a circle of coloured concrete disc in Darnley, was covered in mud and grass and broken bottles, before some girls restored it good as new so they could roller skate on it.

Accompanying the sculptures, a book of Stories and Pictures is being given out by a team of travellers to day-trippers on ferries, trains and coaches. The Stories of the first part of the book are fragments of text encountered by Donachie, whether in overheard speech, public notices or posters. Phil Collins/Poly Bags/Plockton is one example of the book’s juxtapositions: a familiar shifting of subject matter and tone that comes with what’s overheard on the bus.

The primary audience are the holiday crowd, who in the face of cheap flights to everywhere are spending their annual leave taking the long train or coach ride to another part of Scotland. It’s an older idea of holidaying, and part of the romance is breaking the usual first rule of commuting: no eye contact. Donachie’s encouraging strangers to encounter one another with the work. A certain suspicion on the part of the public is often the response at the sight of a smiling person with a well-bound, nicely produced book. First guess: proselytism. Second guess: moneygrabber. After a few sentences of explanation, the limited edition book is received with appreciation – and a trace of bemusement.

New Weather Coming coheres well with GENERATION’s decentring logic, with books being given along routes to outskirts of Scotland. In doing so, it’s another example of the festival organisers paying more than lip service to a push to connect with the 16-25 year old audience nationally, not just in cities. Left in car parks and locations where a brand new bright green sculpture wouldn’t be expected, they’ve to be happened upon by surprise as a bright spell after a downpour.

Thinking of the sort of artistic landscape facing young artists now, GENERATION is one more formal acknowledgment of a shift in Glasgow’s status. No longer does it feel like the underdog, or a surprising inclusion in a list of art centres of the world. Asking Donachie whether there’s any danger of a complacency amongst the next generation, she draws attention to the fact that it remains difficult to earn a living as an artist in Glasgow and that the fuss about fame and wealth only applies to a handful of artists. She stakes a lot in the new generations that “aren’t tied down with kids, mortgage, middle age to come through and question what the ‘established’ artists are doing.” And thinking of this next generation, Donachie hopes that a bunch of teenagers are given a book, see a sculpture, and begin to think about their own environment

Catch the sculptures in Mallaig Harbour until 7 Sep