By Robin Baillie, Senior Outreach Officer, 4 May 2017
Since January 2017, eight young people on a Tomorrow’s People/Galashiels Works employability skills course, have worked with the Outreach Team at the National Galleries of Scotland to explore the paintings, prints and photographs in the Galleries’ Scottish art collection. They were particularly interested in landscape scenes revealing the historic past of the Borders region. In response to these images the young people created a set of eerie characters and landscapes of their own. They wanted to prove that living in an environment they didn’t create, is just about possible for Borders’ youths… if only because they can put sacks over their heads and disappear into the landscape.
On a visit to Dryburgh Abbey, the young people assumed the disguise of the monks who had prayed there in the Middle Ages. They saw the monks as a weird cult, which they could mimic by wearing sacks over their heads. The participants now became interested in
photographs and sepia prints of the Abbey, in which Victorian tourists strolled amongst the cloisters and the graves. Soon, via the magic of the ‘green screen’ filming technique, these photographs and prints began to rustle with life. The sack-wearing youth were now appearing in these images from the past, and in their own drawings. They had discovered how a simple intervention (a head-covering) could animate an everyday setting. Next, they went to the Asda Superstore in Galashiels… and made mayhem.
The young people published their manifesto –
The Cult is Demanding
The Cult is Overwhelming
The Cult is Everything
The Cult is Society
The Cult is not Us
Mapping the town
Our participants made a model of the ‘forgotten’ town of Galashiels, in the Scottish Borders, and in that model the heraldic foxes, from the town’s coat of arms, returned to eat ‘soor plooms’ , and hang out with the ‘cardboard people’. (The ‘soor plooms’ refer to an incident in the Middle Ages when an English army stopped at Galashiels in 1337, and a group of its soldiers were killed after stealing unripe plums, and suffering the consequences.)
The young ‘Sackheads’ have also invited the people of Galashiels to search the shelves and record bins of the Tomorrow’s People Charity Shop, to find the hidden treasures they left behind. Shoppers were invited to find rebranded LPs, DVDs, books and framed photographs showing the activities of those who seek an alternative reality.
When they visited the Scottish National Gallery these young people managed to uncover something of use to them in the old paintings and photographs. They have taken this inspiration and produced a surreal intervention in a world that usually renders them invisible.
The exhibition continues in an empty commercial property in Douglas Place, off Channel Street, Galashiels.