Ross Sinclair

6 November 1997 - 20 December 1997
Opening Reception 6 November 1997 8pm

Main Gallery and Windows:

The Invisible Insurrection of a Million Minds

Musings on Real Life and Ross Sinclair

Artist Ross Sinclair wrote an engaging essay entitled, Scotland – A Brief and Fractured Introduction to the History of the Period 1983-2083,. In this text, Glasgow-born Sinclair weaves a tale of a semi-fictitious Scotland of the future in which the people have voted for independent them park status. The history of the theme park development is outlined in the paper, which cites events such as the Stirling Bridge Referendum of 2061, when Scotland seceded from the United Kingdom of Great Britain, followed in 2062 with the opening of “Scotia – The Living History of a Small Nation.”In Scotia, each area of the country would adopt and enact the look and lifestyle of a certain epoch in Scottish history.

Sinclair writes that “the Scottish people appeared to be quite happy in their new occupation as Real Life extras in this simulated version of history. Scotland became very successful and prosperous and everyone agreed that re-inventing itself as a theme park had been a really great idea. Everything was free for the Scottish people, although tourists paid frankly outrageous prices just to breathe the same air as the Scots. From the outside it might have seemed like a bit of an odd situation: the Scottish people were basically providing a service for these tourists while achieving just about the same standard of living as them. But the Scots were tied to this way of life in the theme park. They could never go home to somewhere real or do a normal job-it was twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.”

His essay continues to describe in some detail the intricacies, both cultural and political, of the new nation prompting readers to ponder their position in such an outrageous construct. he concludes that “…the future always seems too fantastic to believe before it actually happens. I mean, who could have believed the incredible history of the twentieth Century if you’d foretold it in 1899?

With these thoughts in mind, I considered a comparable scenario for a Canadiana theme park. Certainly the lack of Canadian history would limit the element of re-enacting numerous historical epochs, making the structure of such a park comparatively simple. Unlike the Scots and ex-patriots that have settled all around the world and think of themselves as Scots, Canadians (who are we anyway?) do not retain a strong sense of their own history. I would have to give more thought to the question of who, in terms of nationality, would be represented in the Canadiana theme park. I, for example, am described as and considered to be of Scottish descent, although both of my grandparents were born in Canada. Canada is surely a nation of people from elsewhere.

Imagine. A simple yet pointed diorama comes to mind…including a stereotypical cowboy and Indian conflict, a lone Inuit living in a styrofoam igloo, a group of settlers living in a quaint log cabin with Group of Seven landscapes as backdrop and “Snowbird” by Anne Murray playing softly in the background. Such are the perceptions and the thought processes that play into the work of Ross Sinclair. he embraces Hollywood movies, music, and popular culture as sources for interpreting our cultural identity. For example, in his pivotal piece entitled Real Life Rocky Mountain(1996), Sinclair constructed a platform of rolling AstroTurf, fiberglass rocks and a dwelling house as well as indigenous flora and fauna of Scotland (synthetic and stuffed).

On this stage, Sinclair performed at regular intervals songs intended to reflect the Scots’ wealth of musical tradition, ranging from Edwyn Collins to Teenage Fanclub. He did, however, include some American tunes in the mix. Sinclair states, “I feel a distant sense of pride, history and passion when I hear the ‘skirl o’ the bagpipes’. But why do I get the exact same feeling of empathy and belonging when I hear song by Pavement or Nirvana or indeed Jimi Hendrix playing the “Star Spangled Banner?”

His work is emphatically about Scotland, but at the same time about anywhere elsewhere. It is the internationalism of Ross Sinclair’s work that strikes a chord with the viewer who is called to place himself or herself in the diorama. He produces a cultural prototype in which viewers, regardless of nationality, can get a glimpse of the future while reflecting on their role in the present.

In the essay’s ‘Epilogue’ Sinclair writes, “thus, as is was in Real Life, it is in the theme park… People gather illegally on their days off from working in the theme park, …desperate to see something new a real and engaging. For although the park is fascinating to the tourists, it is, of course, very boring for those who live and work there.”

If the project is “Real Life and how to live it,” Ross Sinclair takes it further than most by permanently tattooing the slogan on his back: Real Life. Thus he inscribes his commitment to participate and his call to us to engage.

Nancy Campbell