Staying with the Troubles, Royal Glasgow Institute 

“Trouble is an interesting word. It derives from a thirteenth-century French verb meaning “to stir up,” “to make cloudy,” “to disturb.” We—all of us on Terra—live in disturbing times, mixed-up times, troubling and turbid times. The task is to become capable, with each other in all of our bumptious kinds, of response. Mixed-up times are overflowing with both pain and joy—with vastly unjust patterns of pain and joy, with unnecessary killing of ongoingness but also with necessary resurgence. The task is to make kin in lines of inventive connection as a practice of learning to live and die well with each other in a thick present. Our task is to make trouble, to stir up potent response to devastating events, as well as to settle troubled waters and rebuild quiet places. In urgent times, many of us are tempted to address trouble in terms of making an imagined future safe, of stopping something from happening that looms in the future, of clearing away the present and the past in order to make futures for coming generations. Staying with the trouble does not require such a relationship to times called the future. In fact, staying with the trouble requires learning to be truly present, not as a vanishing pivot between awful or edenic pasts and apocalyptic or salvific futures, but as mortal critters entwined in myriad unfinished configurations of places, times, matters, meanings.”

The premise of this new exhibition - presented to you here as the inaugural event in a fresh approach to programming at the RGI Kelly Gallery - borrows heavily from the critical thinking of Professor Donna J Haraway and in particular, her current book, ‘Staying with the Trouble – Making Kin in the Chthulscene’. On a global level, the text outlines the possibilities and potential to think and build more liveable futures together, dependent on our ability to learn how to stay with the trouble of living and dying together on a damaged earth. If we adopt this thinking and apply some of these ideas on a local level to the work on display here in this exhibition, we begin to allow ourselves to have an opportunity to find connections and parallels forming between what could at first appear to be two divergent creative practices.

The artists shown here – together for the first time - are bringing, not only their formal language, knowledge and experiences from two distinct creative communities in one city; but also the exciting potential to develop original discourse, forming new dialogues between these communities. Martin Darbyshire is a recent graduate from the Master of Letters Programme at the Glasgow School of Art and Neil Macdonald is an Elected RGI who completed postgraduate studies at the Glasgow School of Art in 1980. The artists are collaborating to present a body of work that allows space and time for an unexpected kind of conversation to begin between different generations of artists who are living very much ‘truly present’.

Sharing an interest in exploring absent presence within the context of this exhibition, the artists also implicitly reference the historical contexts essential in the underpinning of their practices. Darbyshire employs ceramics and steel - materials used from the earliest civilisations to the Industrial Revolution – combining these traditional materials with everyday 21st century objects to create anthropomorphic forms within new landscapes. The anachronism is a deliberate comment and questioning of the processes of craft and labour in a digital age.

Macdonald creates new perspectives in his work, which is inspired by historic and mythical places from where he develops imaginary scenes of powerful shapes against unforgiving landscapes in order to create ‘a poetry of place’.

The work of both artists displays an ambiguity of time and place. References to living human beings are oblique as the artists produce works that sit between one thing and another in imagined landscapes. This ‘between’ state is the essence of the exhibition, which resonates in an age of political uncertainty; the familiar becomes less and the new embraced in an accelerated world. Words: Joanna Baxter Wilson

 © 2020 by Martin Darbyshire

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