Glasgow International announces details of 2021 programme

Glasgow International announces details of 2021 programme

Glasgow International, one of the UK’s largest and most influential visual arts festivals, has announced details of its ninth edition, which will take place across the city from 11 – 27 June 2021. Comprising over 70 exhibitions and events, performances and talks at over 30

spaces across the city and online, and showcasing work by over 100 artists; the 2021 festival - originally scheduled to open in April 2020 – will highlight Glasgow as a centre for the production and display of innovative contemporary art.

The festival comprises a Commissioned Programme of larger-scale commissions and exhibitions in collaboration with partners and venues, as well as Across the City, a wider programme of exhibitions and projects, selected from proposals by artists, curators and producers who live and work in Glasgow. This year’s Glasgow International will also present a Digital Programme through its website, giving artists an alternative space in which to present work.

Highlights of the 2021 programme include: 

  • New commissions by Martine Syms, Georgina Starr and Jenkin van Zyl 
  • The first posthumous solo exhibition of work by the late Scottish painter Carol Rhodes (b. Edinburgh, 1959; d. Glasgow, 2018) in her homeland, with previously unseen drawings and paintings displayed at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
  • A new film by Alberta Whittle, co-commissioned with Glasgow Sculpture Studios as part of the Canal Programme in celebration of Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters 20/21
  • A new commission by Turner Prize-winning artist Duncan Campbell at Glasgow’s legendary Barrowland Ballroom
  • New work by Ingrid Pollard at Glasgow Women’s Library, developed in response to its Lesbian Archive and Information Centre, the largest of its kind in the UK
  • Across outdoor sites in the city, The Common Guild presents Sam Durant’s Iconoclasm – a series of drawings depicting acts of destruction enacted upon public statues and monuments.
  • A hybrid programme curated by the Roberts Institute of Art presents performance work by Paul Maheke, Nina Beier and Lina Lapelytė
  • GI2021 premieres its first major Digital Programme, featuring work by over 30 artists

Press accreditation for Glasgow International is now open via the Festival website

The theme of this year’s Glasgow International is Attention. Our relationship to attention has changed radically in the past twelve months, even if its significance has not. The festival is a special moment, a crescendo in the creative rhythm of the city, and GI2021 seeks to step outside the everyday and open up a new space for looking, thinking and spending time with artists’ work, and to see afresh the intent behind it. 

Visitors will encounter certain commissions and exhibitions which involve a forensic concentration – deep and ongoing investiture in a single concern or set of concerns. In others, there is evidence of an exacting attention to the crafting and honing of artworks. Others might involve intensely personal examinations of the self, or explore social and political concerns such as the making of coloniality or the navigation of prejudice.

Highlights from the Commissioned Programme include: 

A Tramway and GI co-commission, Martine Syms presents S1:E4, a new episode in Syms’ project SHE MAD (2015-ongoing), in which the artist incorporates elements of the sitcom format and past TV series to explore ‘the sign of blackness in the public imagination’. A video installation in Tramway’s largest gallery follows the central character of Martine, an aspiring artist, as she experiences a flashback to the summer of 2000, and her experience of an empowerment programme for teenage girls founded by a supermodel and business mogul.

On the upstairs balcony of the Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow-based artist France-Lise McGurn presents a sculptural installation that responds to the painting Reading Aloud (1884) by Albert Moore, which hangs in the museum’s stairwell.

An immersive sculptural installation by Jenkin van Zyl in Tramway’s T4 Theatre invites viewers into a scenario invoking claustrophobia, sexual ecstasy, hysteria and ‘folk horror’. At the heart of the work is In Vitro, a new film in which characters enact looped rituals of reproduction and self-pollination in an effort to achieve community, individuation and re-enchantment.

One of the most in-depth presentations to date of work by the late Scottish painter Carol Rhodes (b. Edinburgh, 1959; d. Glasgow, 2018), whose drawings, paintings and reference materials, many previously unseen, will be displayed at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. This first posthumous solo exhibition of Rhodes’ work in Scotland focuses on her rarely exhibited drawings, alongside key paintings, and invites close examination of her artistic processes and preoccupations.

The first presentation in Scotland of Total Recall (1987), a monumental multi-channel video installation by the pioneering American artist Gretchen Bender (1951-2004) at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. Sourced from US TV commercials and Hollywood films, the work comprises 24 stacked TV monitors and three projection screens to present a compelling 18 minute performance of moving images.

Turner Prize-winning artist Duncan Campbell presents a new work, cinematic in scale, at The Barrowland Ballroom. The work marks the culmination of several years of research and planning by the artist and combines film, audio and sculpture. A giant electromagnetic mechanical display, akin to a message board at a railway station or airport, creates highly pixelated moving images alongside a recorded audio monologue. Inspired by the artist’s interest in the novels of Samuel Beckett, the work interrogates the relationship between memory and what appears on the screen. Supported by Art Fund.

Brazilian artist Ana Mazzei’s first commission for a public institution in Scotland, Drama O'Rama: Other Scenes, is a large-scale site-specific installation at The Pipe Factory which sees the artist present work over two floors, filled with abstracted sculptural forms: each pertaining to states of mind and which, taken together, suggest an open-ended narrative.

At Tramway, a major new film commission by Georgina Starr, Quarantaine, continues Starr’s preoccupation with the otherworldly and the occult, as well as her longstanding interests in the visionary aspects of experimental cinema, furthering her exploration of the hidden recesses of the creative imagination. The work is co-commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella, the Hunterian and Leeds Art Gallery, with Art Fund support.

A new work by Glasgow-based artist Sarah Forrest at Maryhill Burgh Halls takes the detective novel as its starting point in order to unravel how our attention is shifted when we are on the trail of a sleuthing mystery.

An Immeasurable Melody, Medicine for a Nightmare at Gallery of Modern Art is the first solo exhibition in Europe by Canadian artist Nep Sidhu, whose body of work is embedded in Sikh metaphysics and histories; and incorporates a wide variety of media including tapestry, metal, earth and video.

Yuko Mohri’s new commission incorporates elements of chance, involving whoever might be visiting on a given day. The Tokyo-based artist’s installation involves microphones and a Yamaha piano to create a new sculptural and sound work which echoes the work of the pioneering composer John Cage.

Canal Programme

business as usual: hostile environment is a new film and series of audio works by Alberta Whittle, co-commissioned by Glasgow Sculpture Studio’s Learning & Engagement Programme and GI, which explores the colonial history of the Forth & Clyde canal and the role of waterways in the voluntary and involuntary movement of people. Informed by collective thinking, making, and discussion between a number of artists and communities in North Glasgow, including Maryhill Integration Network’s Joyous Choir, business as usual: hostile environment reflects on waterways as sites of renewal and regeneration; focusing our attention on how the architecture of the city continues to shape and impact communities and our understandings of austerity, poverty, race, and class. The Canal Programme is supported by EventScotland in celebration of Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters 20/21.


Highlights from the Across the City programme include:

The Across the City programme celebrates the diversity, depth and vibrancy of Glasgow’s visual arts community It encompasses exhibitions, film screenings, dynamic public performances and community learning. 

Solo exhibitions include: new work by photographer, media artist and researcher Ingrid Pollard at Glasgow Women’s Library, developed in response to its Lesbian Archive and Information Centre, the largest of its kind in the UK. The new work offers a vital challenge to the marginalisation and erasure of LGBTQ+ history and culture.

Across multiple outdoor sites in the city, The Common Guild presents Sam Durant’s Iconoclasm – a series of drawings depicting acts of destruction enacted upon public statues and monuments. Based on images gleaned from various historical and contemporary sources, including newspapers and television reports, Durant’s graphite drawings render moments of intense disruption and call on current debates about how we relate to symbols in public space.

Artist-run gallery Celine plays host to the first ever ‘solo’ presentation in Scotland of the late Donald Rodney. A leading member of the BLK Art Group formed in the early 1980s, Rodney made work characterised by pioneering engagements with new technologies and the appropriation of mass media and pop-cultural imagery in order to examine and critique racialised identity and its socio-political consequences. The exhibition is supplemented by a screening of a video portrait of Rodney by Trevor Mathison and Edward George and an in-conversation event with artists Keith Piper and Alberta Whittle, alongside a screening of The Genome Chronicles by John Akomfrah.

You’re Never Done, a group exhibition featuring works by local and international artists including Adelita Husni-Bey that explores the invisible narratives of labour within our cities. Since the outbreak of Covid-19, the sudden shift in the working practices of many people has highlighted the dependency of both world economies and daily lives on the invisible and often unpaid labour of women. The show is a gesture towards reclaiming spaces, reimagining the labour of women, and politicising the lack of art resources within communities in Glasgow North.

Glasgow-based artist Andrew Sim explores Queer love, relationships and community-building through figurative and landscape pastel drawings. Sim uses culturally familiar 'monsters' such as Bigfoot and werewolves as subject matter, using them as archetypal representations of aspects of Queer love and divinity and exploring the stresses placed on Queer lives by the duality of the Queer experience. The exhibition includes Sims’ first presentation of new, large-scale works on canvas.

Edinburgh-based Sekai Machache and Glasgow based Thulani Rachia come together in two exhibitions The Divine Sky and Wathint’ Abafazi, Wathint’ Imbokodo which share an interest in quantum superposition – a state in which a particle or wave can exist in two positions in space simultaneously. As Africans who live in the diaspora, this state of being, of occupying multiple spaces, is fundamental to the experience of both artists. Sekai Machache has also collaborated with Awuor Onyango on Body of Land, an intimate exploration of African diasporic femininities in Scotland and Kenya presented by Street Level Photoworks.

Glasgow-based artist Jacqueline Donachie presents a project which engages directly with the city’s architectural heritage, questioning issues of access for all. The Step is based on the simple structure of a step, how it both limits and provides access. Donachie’s research informs new sculpture and drawing inside the gallery at Govan Project Space, as well as a modular concrete cast piece sited in Govan.

Tobacco Flower is a major body of new work by Jimmy Robert, made especially for Glasgow International. Taking tobacco flower textile designs by Charles Rennie Mackintosh as a key point of departure, Robert explores multiple traces left by Glasgow's role within colonialism. Working across several mediums, including film, photography and sound, Robert engages directly with The Hunterian and its historical collections in order to examine the cultural framing of identities and desires.

Between 2019 and 2020, the Nigerian artist Ndidi Dike developed a new body of research towards her first presentation in Scotland, a site-specific installation titled Hushed. The artist’s presence in Scotland was imperative to the creation of the work, however, and, as a response to the pandemic, a publication of the same name will contextualise Dike’s research into the colonial cloth trade, paying particular attention to plants that have been used as sources of the blue dye indigo.

The Outside is Inside Everything We Make, a group exhibition conceived by Glasgow-based artist Laura Aldridge, who explores collaborative ways of working to challenge the limiting systems of value that are imposed upon creativity. Alongside new sculptural works by Aldridge, the exhibition includes objects methodically wrapped in layer upon layer of fibre by Judith Scott and painted mantras and slogans by Leanne Ross that describe specific moments remembered from the artist’s daily routine.

Group exhibitions include: Don't Let The Bastards Grind You Down, an exhibition of exhibitionists, starring Liv Fontaine, Paul Kindersley, and Huhtamaki Wab. Known for creating larger-than-life personae, these artists explore the surreal, the political, and the outrageous within their own lives and wider society. Their diverse practices also span painting, performance, film, and social media.

Fabric of Society is a self-organising collective of four UK-based artists of colour; Rabiya Choudhry, Raisa Kabir, Jasleen Kaur, Rae-Yen Song which in a group exhibition draws on associations that fabric has with constructions of womanhood and identity, creating and interrogating narratives which are – variously – personal, collective and universal.

At The Modern Institute’s gallery on Aird’s Lane and expanding onto the green space outside are new works by Eva Rothschild that extend the artist’s interest in reinvigorating conventional sculpture. And at The Modern Institute’s gallery on Osborne Street are two 16mm films by Luke Fowler which mark a turn away from Fowler’s previous focus: both take as their subject matter the domestic archives of letters and notes created by the artist’s parents.

Songs for Work brings together moving image, sound, performance, poetry and installation by three Glasgow-based artists – Aideen Doran, Beth Dynowski and Susannah Stark – to examine the effects of work on subjectivity, community, and wider social, political and ethical imaginaries. 

Graham Fagen works across a range of media to explore relationships between identity and cultural context in Ping Pong Club. The starting point is an archive collected over 20 years that includes letters, notes, name tags and invitations all bearing Fagen’s name, spelt incorrectly. This archive raises questions beyond simply bureaucratic ineptitude; it touches upon the socio-political and cultural formation of identity, and the relationships between archives and subjectivity, fiction and the law.

For a full list of projects in the Across the City Programme please click here


Digital Programme

The Digital Programme features artists from both the Across the City and the Commissioned Programmes, representing their in-person exhibitions as well as work made for the widely available online programme.

In partnership with the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, Annie Crabtree’s online presentation is a dual screen, moving image work, Tell me, how do I feel?, which is grounded in the artist’s own experience of ill health and hospitalisation, and challenges the positioning of people as unreliable witnesses of their own bodies. 

In addition artists who have made work purely for the Digital Programme include Megan Lucille Boettcher, Mio Harada and Shoko Imai, Nile Koetting, Tomoko Konoike, Jessica Ramm, Hanna Tuulikki, Shizuka Yokomizo, Rosie’s Disobedient Press, Catalina Barroso-Luque, Daniella Valz Gen, Zoe Walker and Neil Bromwich, Mathew Wayne Parkin, Leontios Toumpouris, Ashanti Harris; Zephyr Liddell; Patricia Panther, Adam Christensen, SAGG Napoli, Jeanne Tullen, Nora Turato, Christian Noelle Charles, Liv Fontaine, William Joys, Wassili Widmer, and Ilana Halperin. Nina Beier and Lina Lapelytė will also feature in a performance programme curated by the Roberts Institute of Art.

It also features a commissioned film from Anne-Marie Copestake in which artists from across the GI2021 programme converse, whether filmed in person around Glasgow or electronically over long distances, creating a prism through which to view the city’s visual art scene and its associated protagonists at a time like no other.

Digital Programme live from 11 June.


Events and Performances 

How has attention shifted in the light of the global pandemic? What does it mean to be constantly connected digitally, but physically isolated? Who should we be listening to now?

Newly conceived for Glasgow International 2021 is a programme of conversations and workshops, panel discussions, performances and a range of other online and offline events produced with Art Fund support. The GI Events Programme builds upon the curatorial theme of Attention in order to open up dialogues and share ideas that might help to shape new forms of togetherness and connectivity.

The GI events programme is a partnership between Glasgow International, Performance Network (which consists of GI, Liverpool Biennial and Block Universe) and the Black Curators Collective (a collective for Black women and non-binary curators in the UK). Both initiatives were founded in 2020 and highlight the urgency to work together across the regions, always considering locally specific contexts, infrastructures and audiences.

The programme will also include a partnership with the Roberts Institute of Art (formerly David Roberts Art Foundation) to present a hybrid programme of live and digital events bringing the performance work of artists Paul Maheke, Nina Beier and Lina Lapelytė to the festival.

More information on the GI events programme will be announced on 12 May.

Across the City events include a presentation by the not-for-profit gallery Civic Room:  Hubris is a programme of performances exploring the human and the nonhuman, featuring new work by Christian Noelle Charles, Liv Fontaine, William Joys and Wassili Widmer.

In a digital, collaborative ‘group-show-as-performance’, Jumbies weaves together the practices of visual artist Ashanti Harris, textile designer Zephyr Liddell and sound artist Patricia Panther, who have produced work in response to Jacques Derrida’s concept of ‘hauntology’: an interrogation of the ways in which people, places and things are ‘haunted’ by histories which are simultaneously neither present nor absent.

Richard Parry, Director of Glasgow International said: “It is notable that given all of the changes, emotions and earth-shattering events of the past year, the theme of Attention has retained its resonance, adapting and shifting in emphasis as the world has morphed around us.

“Many of the exhibitions are three years in the making now. We have sought to present the festival originally planned for a year ago as faithfully as possible, but also allowing space for re-appraisal. Many exhibitions have in a sense lain suspended in time for a year, others taking on changes and tweaks in the interim. Some exhibitions in the Across the City programme have shifted fundamentally – whether to an online format or simply in response to a different world today.

“Although we will work hard to ensure Covid safe physical exhibitions we also appreciate that many will not be able to or feel comfortable attending in person and so we have put together a substantial digital programme involving artists from across the programme. We hope that you will join us here in Glasgow or from around the world.”

Dr Bridget McConnell, Chief Executive of Glasgow Life said: “More than a year later than originally planned, the wait for Glasgow International is almost over. We can look forward to enjoying shows and works by many of the finest contemporary artists working today and to seeing them in places we haven’t been able to go to for quite some time. GI is always thought provoking, challenging and above all a fantastic celebration of artists and their work.”

Amanda Catto, Head of Visual Arts, Creative Scotland commented: “It’s very exciting to see the long awaited programme and dates set for GI 2021. Rooted in the city’s rich, diverse and progressive visual arts scene, GI 2021 will offer audiences a moment of reflection and new perspectives at a time when we need it most. 

“Audiences from across the city will once again celebrate the vibrancy of Scotland’s visual arts scene in some of Glasgow’s most iconic venues and unique outdoor settings, complimented by a digital programme welcoming audiences from across the globe. Congratulations to GI on creating and ambitious programme that responds to the current times and will certainly demand and reward attention.”

Paul Bush OBE, VisitScotland’s Director of Events, said: “The rescheduled Glasgow International is a positive step forward as we re-emerge from the restrictions and challenges of the last 12 months. The programme, including Alberta Whittle’s film in celebration of the Year of Coasts and Waters 20/21, and the embracing of the hybrid event format, will allow people to engage and enjoy the festival in a way they feel comfortable - whether that’s in person or online.”

Jenny Waldman, Director, Art Fund said: “Glasgow International, Scotland's world-renowned festival for contemporary art, has an outstanding programme this year which will prompt thought-provoking discussion and broaden interest in today’s most relevant issues. We are particularly pleased to be supporting the major new film by Georgina Starr at Tramway and an epic new work by Duncan Campbell - it will be thrilling to see this presented the iconic setting of The Barrowland Ballroom. We are also delighted to be able to provide funds for paid work opportunities for twelve students at the festival.” 

Core funders and major programme supporters for Glasgow International 2021 are Glasgow City Council, Glasgow Life, Creative Scotland and EventScotland, part of VisitScotland’s Events Directorate and Art Fund. 

GI is also delighted to be creating new positions for young people with Art Fund support. 12 paid roles will see students working across the venues, digital and events aspects of the festival.