Socialist Worker

Histrionics: drawing out the poison of sectarianism in Scotland

by Beth Armstrong
Issue No. 2054

Roderick Buchanan’s Mixed Marriage

Roderick Buchanan’s Mixed Marriage

Histrionics is a huge triangular installation by artist Roderick Buchanan at the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow. It deals with the issue of sectarianism.

As you enter the exhibition you are met with a wonderful wall of photographs of international Celtic and Rangers players entitled Revolver. They are holding up football tops displaying their names – Kyrgiakos, Nakamura, Sebo, Du Wei.

How wonderful to see how far we’ve come from the days when only a good Catholic or loyal Protestant could be signed to the respective teams. What’s the problem, you may ask? Surely this proves that the Protestant-Catholic sectarianism that has divided Scotland for years is now a thing of the past?

But the fear and dread soon return as we are reminded how alive and polarised these two traditions are. The sound of a flute band draws you in to the exhibition, and you see that the wall of photographs is one side of a triangle which you enter through an archway.

Once inside you find yourself in a dark space divided in two. On the left is a film of a Loyalist flute band, the Black Skull Corps of Fife and Drum, who state that their aim is to “celebrate and preserve our proud British heritage”.

On the right the Parkhead Republican Flute Band claims to “actively campaign for the removal of the British presence in Ireland”.

My friend Linda, a lapsed Catholic single parent who came to the exhibition with me, became noticeably nervous. “If anyone comes in wearing a football top we’ll have to leave,” she said, and then angrily added, “You can’t rip this apart from poverty – that’s where it thrives, in the poor housing schemes.”

The problem with sectarianism is that, just like racism, our children are attacked on a daily basis and our communities are held to ransom with the hatred and violence that it breeds. Linda does not relax when her two boys are out on a Saturday night.

For me the real hope lay in the Reflection Rooms, where you are encouraged to stay and discuss the exhibition, look through the resources, and watch a short film entitled “Apart Fae Yer Jersey Yer Jist Like Me”, made by young people in Glasgow.

Buchanan does not attempt to explain or resolve the issue of sectarianism in Scotland, but the exhibition brilliantly opens up the debate on its poisonous nature. If you are a teacher, take your class. If you are a parent, take your children.

by Roderick Buchanan
Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow
until 28 October

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Tue 5 Jun 2007, 19:11 BST
Issue No. 2054
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