Personal Union 11th September, 2014


In 1603, under the rule of James I, the crowns of England and Scotland became united under what is known as a ‘Perfect Union’. The referendum, only 1 week away, is challenging this 400 year union, with a very real possibility that Scotland will again be an independent country.

Personal Union was created by a group of artists and staff at the Glasgow School of Art Students’ Association (aka The Art School), the project was headed up by Winnie Herbstein and Josh Hill who wanted to provide the school with an independent poll that created a simulated experience of voting within a hedonistic celebratory context.

The Art School played host to the official Reid Building opening party earlier this year, over 900 people flowed into the venue to celebrate the return to Garnethill, it was a perfect opportunity to find out the opinion of its patrons. This certainly wasn’t the most accurate poll, people were drunk, people were making out in the booths -there was no registry and no invigilators- but this was the intention: it was an opportunity for people to try out new behaviours in a voting booth.

Personal Union (2014)

Personal Union (2014)

Personal Union (2014)

The first part of the installation, installed in the Assembly Hall referenced the heraldic motifs of the two countries. Two banners, one on either side of the booths framed the voters, in much the same way they would sit either side of a cathedral alter. Centre stage hung a mirror ball built to the proportions of the new one pound coin, due for release in 2017 and modelled on the old threepenny bit. Its relationship with the two flags highlighted the currencies spectral influence over the referendum; economics and finance as the central debate in the referendum. It also alluded to a future beyond the referendum.

Four polling booths sat in between the banners, they were adorned with the livery of the Scottish and English crests. Inside the booth, a supposedly neutral zone for the voter, was placed a voting box and ballot.

Although the result of the poll was people’s temporal experience inside them, something was left, an artefact… large stacks of voting slips.

Personal Union (2014) - Booths

Personal Union (2014) – Booths