An open letter to whomsoever it may concern regarding: Scotland
Thinking about the things that people forgot about because they weren't written down in history books.
The year is 2083 Anno Domini and Transmission Gallery
is one hundred years old today. The
place is The Peoples'
The Path to Freedom?
At the Stirling Bridge Referendum of 2061, a handsome majority of the Scottish people decided that they wished to secede from the United Kingdom of Great Britain. There were five million or so inhabitants in this poor, damp, country, for so long under the sword of one conquering invader or another. And this populace eventually decided, once and for all, to leave the Union in order to implement a novel plan to completely re-invent the Nation in a manner never before heard of anywhere in the world. The new official name they chose for the re-invented
In 2062, almost overnight, a big fence was built along the border with
Most people north of Hadrian's Wall were initially very enthusiastic about this new development, as
Officially they did not even exist. By the 2040's they had become such a problem that large walls were built round the major cities to keep them out and the people who lived inside them tried to forget about those poor wretches who were outside.
When the idea for the theme park was first mooted in the mid 2050's it fired up the Scottish people's imagination, galvanising them into an intense debate and direct action not witnessed for many decades. The publicity generated by these debates slowly encouraged many ex-patriots to return home. There were at least twenty million people around the world who considered themselves Scottish by ancestry, but had never actually been 'home'; this turned out to be quite fortuitous as some of these folk were very rich and brought back their fortunes with them to invest in the park. It was the first good idea anyone in
At this point in the 2050's, before the park was built, the Parliamentary Monarchy of England had many problems of its own. Its coffers were much depleted after protracted wars with
Most poor parts of the world were really wasted with wars and famines while diseases and bad planning had made millions of people unhappy. Everywhere had been discovered, nowhere was remote or savage anymore.
The basic idea for
All Scotland's most spectacular battles and events were re-enacted daily in the hills and glens of the Highlands; tourists would flock to the most barren and remote places searching for the theme park's most authentic experiences. Thus a visitor from
The Scottish people appeared to be quite happy in their new occupation as Real Life extras in this simulated version of history.
The Main Cities of the Central Belt,
The City of Edinburgh elected to represent the pre-industrial Enlightment period of the city's history, while
There was a major problem though. The educational establishments which taught people from 5 years old upwards had, at this time in the late twentieth Century, stopped telling people anything about art and culture because it couldn't get you a job in an office when you left school at 17. So, it came to the point where nobody felt they really knew anything about art and culture anymore, which was a great pity as
The flaw in this 'renaissance' was the approach the city fathers took to make culture more accessible to the public. They made all the culture so simplified and banal that it would appeal to everyone, even those who knew nothing about any form of cultural activity beforehand. Productions of plays which dealt with complex and difficult issues were discouraged, in favour of Busby Berkley style musical extravaganzas - everyone loved these. Visual art was reduced to greeting card designs, though painted in oils, naturally. Glaswegian literature, which was once incisive, politicised and independent, was now produced by the city itself, in defence of its own strategies. This New Glasgow Culture (as it became known) was very easy on the eye and on the ear, and provided a cosy hour or two of distraction out of the rain, and everyone - even those who stood against the imposition of this cultural equivalent of flock wallpaper - agreed that all these places of culture had lovely coffee bars.
...The initial appeal and excitement of this era quickly-dwindled when the people began to understand that they were being patronised. By the end of the first decade of the twenty-first Century this period was already seen by anyone who knew anything about life and culture to be truly daft. It eventually stupefied the locals by patronising them into thinking that they couldn't understand any kind of culture that you had to think about for more than ten seconds. This led to the Scottish people becoming lazy. After being fed this sickly sweet culture mulch for many years they could no longer digest any kind of solid cultural food. They faded away to mere shadows of their former, robust selves, becoming thinner and paler and lethargic. They were losing the ability to think for themselves. Internationally, New Glasgow Culture was an embarrassment.
The Trongate Affair
This period ended for good in 2013 in what became known as The Trongate Affair. By this time various members of Transmission Gallery and other independently minded cultural spaces located in the area, had succesfully infiltrated over the years various committees and held numerous important positions in the local and national culture councils. From these positions they were able to undermine the whole sorry system and eventually brought the whole New Glasgow Culture crashing down around the ears of those who had been too deaf to listen to the detractors, who had foreseen this moronisation of the people.
This 'coup' was unfortunately deemed to be illegal and resulted in Transmission becoming a proscribed organisation and being forced underground. Here it flourished under the patronage of a local artist who had become very rich and famous by selling his work outside
So, ironically, although the period of New Glasgow Culture is now wholly discredited, and has in fact become an aphorism to describe the banalisation of culture, it is this period the new city fathers chose to represent in Scotia - The Living History of a Small Nation, fifty years after the debacle itself. This was simply because it was the period that had garnered the most global media attention and everyone remembered it, for better or worse. Some say there's no such thing as bad publicity, but I'm not so sure.
Thus, as it was in Real Life, now it is in the theme park.Transmission is still a proscribed organisation but continues to flourish to this day, presenting thoughtful, challenging exhibitions in temporary, out of the way spaces. Some aspects of its exhibition structure resemble the popular rave culture of the late twentieth Century, where you hear of a new exhibition from a complex grapevine of friends and acquaintances. People gather illegally on their days off from working in the theme park arranging to meet at a particular ferry terminal somewhere, desperate to see something new and real and engaging. For although the park is fascinating to the tourists, it is, of course, very, very boring for those who live and work there. Transmission events and exhibitions have become somewhat vogueish with the more intrepid tourists who vie with each other over the most obscure and exciting shows they have seen, but it is mainly the indigenous population who enjoy them. Unfortunately these exhibitions get closed down with great rapidity as they are illegal. Records are always kept in the old book form and these get distributed widely although they are banned and destroyed if found. Sometimes these books are produced in such a way as to look like a relatively innocuous text or history book, so they can be surreptitiously inserted into public library collections. A strategy currently popular is to place these books into public collections of times gone by, using a standard linear time shift document transferral. Thus the books and information of the future are already in circulation decades before the actual events described have happened.
If you hadn't guessed already, this is how you are able to read this history now, almost one hundred years early. This document transferral technique usually doesn't change much of the course of history because the future always seems too fantastic to believe before it actually happens. I mean, who would have believed the incredible history of the twentieth Century if you'd foretold it in 1899? Thus it is with the twenty-first and twentieth Centuries. So let us take a moment to join together, raise a glass and make a toast to Transmission. Happy hundredth birthday, here's to the future...
(To be continued...)