To keep from burning history…

Seasons of gasoline and gold. Which song (and it’s not a new one) are those lines from?

The Glasgow School of Art burned down. It was a mighty fire but was it art? Worthy of a Turner prize perhaps? Critics are divided.

It might have been an accident but… shortly afterwards there was another fire. In Dundee. Which isn’t all that far from Glasgow as the crow flies. It isn’t all that far if the crow is drunk and has to take the bus.

This fire was in the Jordanstone College of… art and design. One fire might be considered an accident but two fires within a day, both in similar institutions, smacks of something darker.

I am no great art afficionado. Once I went to the big gallery in That London, it had a name which I cannot recall now (there was drinking involved later) but it was close to, or possibly on, Trafalgar Square. Seeing the old paintings in real life is not the same as seeing images on the Web. In real life they are amazing, some of them almost seem 3D and they were created with nothing more than brush and paint. They are stunning and they are a big part of this country’s history. I was most impressed, but as I said, I couldn’t give any kind of artistic critique. I like it or I don’t like it. That is the limit of my art knowledge.

Why target art collections and colleges? They have no power over anyone’s day-to-day lives. They do, however, house collections of truly wonderful creations that show the world what humanity is capable of achieving.

It’s almost as if someone wants to erase all that achievement, all that history, and make this country even more bland than the last few Governments have already made it.

I bet it gets blamed on UKIP.



26 thoughts on “To keep from burning history…

  1. Wasn’t there some churnalism thing a while back about some nebulous group suggesting local councils divesting themselves of millions of £££s of art treasures they keep in storage? A quick Google notes that it first turned up in January in a South Coast local paper, but that it made the national press/24hr misinformation channels in April.

    A suspicious mind would wonder where this particular philistine thunk originated. A paranoid one would call recent events step 2 in a protection racket (“You should split that collection up. Be a shame if it all went up in smoke…”).


  2. Tis true I have been suspected of arson in the past. My old alma mater, Tipton Secondary Modern, did mysteriously burn down weeks after I graduated with CSEs in geography and woodwork (double honours). But I had a cast iron alibi. And it is also true that I have an unnatural and unhealthy preoccupation with burning stuff. However, the art galley conflagration cannot be pinned on my perfectly formed blond bonce as I was burning down a chip shop in Wellington New Zealand, at the time. Honestly officer.


  3. The GSA has been close to my heart for a very long time. To see it in flames was horrendous. You see the GSA was different. It was a living and used building. Works of art worth hundreds of thousands of pounds were treated like everyday objects. For example doors with fabulous glass windows worth a fortune were scraped, dented, paint spotted, kicked, slammed and dirty. It was a better place to visit because of it. You knew that this was what CRM would have wanted. It also had its share of pretension, elitism and crap. I’d have been going to the degree show next weekend. If I had been lucky I might have seen a couple of examples of fabulous art. I have some hanging on the walls of my house.

    I’ve been overseas and spoken to people in art galleries who all held the GSA with signicant reverence. They wanted to know what it was really like. They wanted to go and see it and they wanted to feel what it was like to walk within it. The building was/is about one thing only… Light. CRM designed it as a fabulous place for artists, as he was, to be able to recognise and use light to great benefit.

    Every time I have left the building I’ve been exhausted. Caused by the assault on my senses by the art created inside, not just the building but the output of the students. It’s not a total loss although much of it has been lost. It may never be the same as it was but it will still be a world renowned building that people will want to visit.


  4. That’s the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square you are referring to Leggy. Went round it back in January with the wife. Brilliant place. We went to the Tate Modern the day before. Great location but most of the contents could burn tomorrow and nobody would mourn or even notice much.

    Ah but the National is different, the whole world and history of Art is there! I could stare at the Caravaggio’s all day just on their own. We were in there for three hours and when we came out onto the frontage it was pissing down. I lit up a fag and the wife was trying to get a shot of Nelson’s Column off the balcony type thing, when this cunt of a Curator in a grey suit with umbrella came out to tell me that smoking vas Verboten! (didn’t see any friggin signs!) I almost stubbed it out in his sanctimonious hand, there was only us there! Ruined an otherwise very enjoyable afternoon. I like Art you see, pretty good one myself.


    • I didn’t bother with the Tate. The Transport Museum was more interesting.

      The National Gallery was incredible though. I did expect it to be dull, I admit, but seing those paintings in real life was so different to seeing reproductions or photos. Most of them were better than photos and yet they were painted by people with enormous patience and unimaginable skill.

      What do we get now? An unmade bed. I have one of those at home.

      Sometimes the Tate does get it right but really – an unmade bed?


  5. Sometimes wonder if what we see in a painting is what the artist was trying to present.

    Optical illusions have kept me knowing that what I see is not always reality.

    Even math can be confusing.
    Below is simple math, statistics can be much more complex.

    Consider 2 vs 7
    1. 7 is 3.5 times as large as 2

    2. 7 is only 250% larger than 2

    If we are talking about parts per 10,000:
    USA smoker lung cancer death rate per year is 7/10,000

    USA never-smoker lung cancer death rate per year is 2/10,000

    So, the claim is made that smoking ’causes’ lung cancer because smokers are 3.5 times more likely to die from lung cancer.

    But, let’s look at the chances of not dying.

    Never-smoker = 9,998/10,000 per year

    Smoker = 9,993/10,000 per year

    9,998 divided by 9,993 = 1.0005 times = no statistical difference

    This shows that smoking does NOT ’cause’ lung cancer; because, smokers and never-smokers have the same chance/probability of not dying from lung cancer in any given year.


    • You have a good point there about theoretical probability. But there’s another side to the probability coin. IMHO, the application of probability (which is a statistical concept) to individuals of the population is nonsensical. I mean, it is perfectly sensible to say that about 75% of people with blue-nose will die before Tuesday, but it makes no sense whatsoever to say that an individual with blue-nose has a 75% chance of dying by Tuesday. Dying is not something you can three-quarters do (i,.e. the actual probabilities of an individual dying are 1 or 0, we don’t know which). If Fred has blue-nose, what odds should I accept against him dying by Tuesday? 3 to 1? Nope. Fred’s had blue-nose for 6 weeks, now. How does that influence the odds? Are they worse because he has lasted so long, so far, with this dreadful condition? Or are they better because there are 6 Tuesdays he hasn’t died by and the one coming up is just another Tuesday? A traditional (frequentist) statistician might claim the former, a Bayesian might claim the latter.


  6. Sometimes wonder if what we see in a painting is what the artist was trying to present.

    Well there are good grounds to believe that Monet thought that what he was doing was ultra Realism rather than Impressionism. But he had a case of killer cataracts that was so bad he could barely see his hand in front of his face. And he has been misinterpreted ever since.


    • I visit museums and galleries in London and Edinburgh a lot because I work for them for a few weeks each year. A few years ago I was working with the state government in Boise, Idaho. They had a small gallery in a park and I went to have a look around.

      Amongst the art were a few pieces of paper stuck to the wall. They looked like someone had handled them with wet hands. I asked a curator what they were about. She brought out a torch and shone it on each one at the same angle. The shadow they cast was of the profile of a face. Only, for as short period each day the scrunched up paper had a message and a value.

      The artist was a Japanese girl who was planning to go to the GSA. The curator was in awe of the GSA and she got a few of her workmates to come over and hear about the building and what it was like to be in.

      The Tate is a great place to go but the Modern is there to shock. The portrait I’m not keen on and I’ve never had enough time to do the national properly. The V&A isn’t that great.


      • I spent many a lunch hour in Cardiff Museum when I was a student there. It’s not the sort of place you’d expect a microbiology student to visit but it was a fascinating place. It probably still is. My fondest memory is of staring at a scaffold structure in the modern art section for a little while before realising it was the window cleaners’ mobile scaffold. By this time, a small crowd had gathered and were studiously examining it too. So I found the sheep-like mentality of people before I was even 20.

        There was a display of sunflower seeds at the Tate. A whole layer of many thousands covering the floor. I had no idea what it was about but still appreciated the work put into it. Every seed was porcelain and hand painted. Every one. Then Roobedoo sent me an explanation. When you look at it as one whole thing, all the seeds look the same but if you examine the seeds closely, they are all a little bit different. Every one is an individual.

        Governments look at their people as if viewing those seeds from above. They see us as a homogenous mass. People, the seeds, see the differences. When it was explained it became quite a powerful artwork in my mind.

        The unmade bed thing is still crap though.


  7. It is tragic about the inferno at GSA, but I read in the MSM it is a steel framed building clad in stone, and the interior structure was all wood. The MSM also said it had “no functioning sprinkler system”.

    Was the “sprinkler system” non-existant, or out of order?

    I mean FFS a wood interior building without a working sprinkler system?

    And as a funny schadenfreude payoff, I chuckled much at the 2 pictures of Muriel Grey weeping at the scene,a very vocal supporter of Gaulitier McConnell’s 2006 smoking ban.

    It’s a pity smoking was banned inside the building by at least 2006, or she and the other tartan taliban loveys and MSM would no doubt have blamed an extinguished fag end filter as the cause…


    • If smoking wasn’t banned, there would have been a fire risk and therefore a call for a sprinkler system to be installed. Since nobody was allowed to smoke, and smoking is the cause of everything, there was no perceived risk of fire. The antismokers did that.

      I still think it highly suspicious that two art institutions went up in flames within a day. Is it an entry for the Turner Prize, or some anti-art maniac?


    • The woman has no brain at all, has she? It’s just random neurones firing in there and they aren’t even listening to each other.

      Those ‘repugnant comedians’ of old – Laurel and Hardy, the Marx brothers, Les Dawson, Morecambe and Wise, Mike and Bernie Winters, the Two Ronnies, none of them resorted to vicious attacks on dead politicians to get laughs. None produced jokes anything near as vicious as Jimmy Carr or that ginger git with the thick glasses whose name escapes me for the moment. But they are okay because they are Socialists. They just happen to be among the Socialists who have all the money and will surely redistribute it all… one day.

      If I was ever in conversation with her, I would stay silent, shake my head and walk away. There is no point reasoning with the mind of a tic. All it wants to do is suck your blood and it has nothing to discuss.


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