Displays of Solidarity: Transmission Gallery

For five weeks, Transmission Gallery will give over their large street-facing windows to local community groups for them to create displays of the work they do

Feature by Adam Benmakhlouf | 07 Mar 2019
  • Transmission Gallery Glasgow

For their latest project Transmission Gallery in Glasgow will activate the huge windows that run around the gallery. These will become something like billboards for the activist, charitable, artistic and protest groups that have been commissioned to create some kind of visual representation of the work completed by their collectives. These groups will create a window-based vinyl display for Transmission’s large street-facing shopfront, and each will have access to the space throughout the five-week period for which the project will run to put on workshops, performances and other public or closed events.

Yon Afro Collective are one of the collectives that have a pivotal place in the project. They are a Black-led collective for women of colour in Scotland, who previously featured in our Showcase. Speaking about the importance of this kind of collective energy that extends across the exhibiting groups, they describe the importance of “a safe space of solidarity and camaraderie where we can express our struggle but also work towards changing the narrative and realities for ourselves and the lives we want to live within a predominantly white oppressive culture and society."

Yon Afro Collective also speak passionately about the place of Transmission Gallery currently within Glasgow. “Transmission Gallery has become a beacon of connection and solidarity for people of colour (POC) by giving a safe space for POC to meet as collectives. Not only do they offer support, exposure and opportunities to POC to express creativity in art but also offer this to groups and people who would otherwise not have the opportunities and exposure, in the mainstream, for their artistic and creative expression. [Thus] not only does it offer the space to POC but also gives further marginalised groups and communities such as trans, queer and non binary folk a space of expression.

“This collaboration with Transmission… comes at such a pivotal time for POC in Glasgow and Scotland as we are facing increasing hostility in a pre Brexit political arena.” Within their meetings, Yon Afro Collective describe the sharing of experiences that are usually undocumented: “the pain and suffering that is caused by the hostility and everyday racism and oppression faced by POC.”

The organising committee at Transmission describe the show as coming out of already existing relationships with the groups involved. Many of the members of the four groups involved also frequently participate in events around Transmission and often provide indispensable practical support for activities running in the space. Speaking for the Transmission committee, one member says: “We’ve been making a loose commitment to these groups for while and this is a new iteration of those relationships – we hope to continue it at different points in the future.”

The Transmission committee describe a sense that these groups are doing work that needs to be done that is not being done by others in the city. For example, the Ubuntu Women’s Shelter. This group is the first of its kind in Scotland, and provides accommodation for women without recourse to public funds. Groups that do not have access to public funds can include those on spouse visas, as well as students, adult dependents of a person with settled status, asylum seekers who have been refused refugee status, or are in the process of working on an appeal. Ubuntu is also unique as it is run by women with direct and lived experience of the difficulty of surviving under the 'hostile environment' policy. Spearheaded by Theresa May, this policy attempts to make it so difficult to live for certain people who the government cannot force to leave the country, that they voluntarily leave.

There are also two student activist groups, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland People of Colour Society (RCSPOCSOC) and the related group, the Glasgow School of Art People of Colour Society (GSAPOCSOC). The Glasgow School of Art POC Society describe the residency at Transmission as “a really valuable opportunity to continue building a network of support and collective care.” In particular, they consider it “crucial” that they are “able to access spaces that operate and function independently from elitist and exclusive institutions.” The Glasgow School of Art POC Society will allow for them to “create a communal open studio for people of colour.” Describing their intention, they say: “We hope that this will be a caring and supportive space that can adapt to the ongoing needs of its occupiers. Creating a temporary studio set-up will allow us to escape the pressures and hyper-visibility we face as people of colour in white institutions.”

The GSAPOCSOC’s ambitions are related directly to the development of their organisational aims and relationship with the Glasgow School of Art itself. For the Society, their initial aims have changed over their disappointment with the institution's lack of engagement with their critique. “Instead, we are choosing not to react, but to build the infrastructure that we need to flourish. As the collective is now led by black womxn and black trans folx, we feel that countering anti-blackness and enacting care are real priorities, amongst the uncertainties of the current climate.”

The students from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland describe similar institutional attitudes at the RCS that formed the conditions for their group to come together. RCSPOCSOC say, “Our existence as a collective is owed to the sheer lack... of any real discourse.... taken to address issues surrounding race, whiteness and post-coloniality within the RCS." For them, the objective is to “mobilise people of colour who work and study at the RCS towards a critical awareness of self-hood and agency, one which inadvertently poses a threat to a white institution which co-opts and instrumentalises us to serve their own agenda of ‘equality and diversity.’”

Yon Afro poignantly describe the ultimate ambitions of their group, and in doing so give voice to some of the resilient optimism that is at the heart of the work of the groups involved, as well as the entire project itself. “At Yon Afro our work on this collaboration represents our vision for the future but it also represents the syncing of our pained histories and present existence. Our vision is to have a future lived with dignity without the oppression for being born in the skin we are in, for our and future generations in Scotland and beyond borders. “

Yon Afro, GSAPOCSOC, RSAPOCSOC and Ubuntu Women's Shelter will be in residence in Transmission from 9 Mar-6 Apr