This posting is not meant to be a negative reflection on the people involved but merely an observation on how people behave. The Highlands of Scotland have this effect of making people want to be Victorian tourists given the opportunity to do so. In the Highlands you see, we want to be ushered in to a large grandly situated mock Baronial house by helpful staff in kilts, shown to a sumptuous drawing room surrounded by stags heads and oil paintings, and hang out with pleasant company to the sound of a roaring log fire. Don’t we?
All this happens in spite of ourselves so pervasive has Highlandism become. So it was with little surprise I witnessed, from a safe distance, two separate artist hosted events in the Highlands within days of each other that appeared to buy in to this designer romantic colonial past, lock, stock and single malt barrel. What did surprise me was that the artists involved have a track record and manifesto that could be placed in the progressive or even avant-garde reaches of the arts. The hospitality and locations were as described above, the images and first hand descriptions of the events along with the sometimes breathless social media reports were straight out of a visit scotland tourist brochure. But how could it have been otherwise? What were they thinking of?
Can artists do better than this? Do we have to aspire to be landed gentry colonising and overseeing swathes of degraded landscape for sporting leisure? Can we avoid falling into this trap? Can we address issues of land use and land reform through our work? Can we look closer at what life is like in the Highlands for the 99% of people who don’t live like this? Can we look at the ecology and economics and society that impacts us all on a daily basis?
And most of all – can we just be a bit more real about this and not revert to cliche and play acting?