Talented Grants — Broadside, Glasgow, 2023
What does it mean to count words? or to spend the majority of a writing life within small word counts of funding applications?. To live in the speculative framework of life deferred.
The project Talented Grants began with an essay about funding applications within the structure of funding applications. It tracked the changing language of the national funding body Creative Scotland, whilst critiquing the privatisation of public funding of arts in Scotland, trying to undo notions of “no clean money” and pointing to something outside of a general mathematical flattening – the faux transparency of limited transactional desires.
The performance ‘Talented Grants’ ended with an indefinite collective counting exercise. Here the counting of the word count is an abstraction of labour spent. What then does counting word count together do? At once a nonsense action it was also a liberating, somewhat cathartic exercise. Does it ‘bundle the horror away’, akin to deaths counted as a statistic, or does it hold to account for the hours of surplus labour we collectively have, marking them, making them ‘count’.
Originally commissioned for Good Work, Bad Money zine edited by Rosie Roberts.
[Give cue card to audience member to read out]
Me: An earnest, open voice please.
Audience member: How will your project or activity contribute to your ability to engage with people as audiences or participants in the future? (approx 300 words)
[Tipex face onto stomach area, the following is spoken while ventriloquising from belly button]
Me: The future, the future, approaching middle-age, mid-career, mid-riff creased, with the awkward smiles, of the middling success, of the moderately middle-class. More than a decade later I apply for around the same amount of money. I do not have institutional backing, I do not have anyone helping me, I do not have any fixed outcome, I have shown in many of the major institutions in Scotland, I am grateful to receive the amount, I am humiliated, I am privileged, I have no audiences or participants, I have 600 followers on Instagram, I have many rejection emails. “I’m very sorry to say that your application was not selected . we have made a decision to only programme 17 applications to ensure the right level of support.” The ‘right level of support’ would be a commune of creativity without the Creative, where I didn’t need to be looked after.
The people who are the participants who are the audience would be my peers who would be the general public, counting together the word count that can never be adhered to.
[Begin counting, motion to audience to join me in counting, end at 600]
End of the project, and the activity, and the idea.