Morgaine Das Varma
The artist and part-time lecturer at Dundee University, Ellie Harrison, has revealed that she did not need the publicly-funded grant given to her to complete her year-long “Glasgow Effect” project, which saw her relocate to the city of Glasgow at the start of 2016.
Revealed in an interview with Radio Scotland earlier this month, Harrison stated she “didn’t need to get that money”, explaining the £15,000 provided to her by Creative Scotland was originally for the University of Dundee, and that she would be provided for by the university through paid leave.
However, the university withdrew their support in March after controversy surrounding the nature of the project and potential “critique” of the university itself. Harrison responded by stating on her website that she would then use half the money from Creative Scotland to support herself and the rest on the project.
In the interview, Harrison admitted she had not actually needed the grant from Creative Scotland and had applied because she “had something in [her] contract that meant [she] had to submit significant research grant applications in order to keep [her] job.”
She said: “To me it was illustrating a system in which more privileged people are more likely to get more opportunities and rewards, and I was one of them because I was in this more privileged role teaching at the art school so I was more likely to be able to access this public funding and that’s wrong.”
In addition, Harrison admitted she had “led on” Creative Scotland slightly in what the project would entail.
Harrison received considerable criticism during the project, with many critics accusing her of wasting public money on unclear goals, as well as implying she was embarking on a “poverty safari.” According to her website, which includes a background photograph of chips, the Glasgow Effect was “part psychological experiment, part protest, part strike.” It allegedly sought to “explore the relationships… between the individual and the institutional structures, communities, and economies within which they are forced to operate.”
The Courier, a Dundee-based paper, stated that the project had been “depressingly ineffectual” and had failed to add anything new to the ongoing process of observing and criticising social inequalities. Paul Malik, writing for the Courier, concluded that Harrison’s observations of social privilege, environmental issues, and economic inequality were “baseline concepts” that every politician had already observed and talked about, and that Harrison’s project had done nothing for either public knowledge of social problems or appreciation of art.
Harrison will be returning to her job as a lecturer at the University of Dundee.