This week, we have more writing from PhD student and writer Dawn Worsley to share. Dawn visited the new store for books which will eventually form part of the Mackintosh Library Collection. This time Dawn has shared a piece of prose with us that captures the atmosphere of the new bookstore.
You sign in at a backend entrance of a red sandstone building off Renfrew Street. The back-to-frontness of gouging into the unknownness of Garnett Hill is disorientating from the off. You enter high walled Victorian galleries with that familiar smell of exhibition changeover: drying emulsion; scrubbed floors; masonry dust; plywood dust; warm bodies. A shantytown inhabits this interior world. The low buzz of Art School students is heard behind dividing sheets of wood and paper, but none are seen. Their detritus overflows the hive; carelessly hanged posters, squished paint pots and emptyish take-out coffee cups.
You are a fox, a badger, snuffling your way through a strange and alien land. Through another door you discover yourself inside a shaft of green-black marble, shot through with translucent thread veins like rancid Wagyu steak. Above, grey daylight peers through a great cataract eye, through the milky bones of a blind six prong chandelier, casting twilight on the staircase curving smoothly into abyss. Down.
The staircase splits onto a mezzanine, to the left the ladies powder room, to the right the gentlemen’s rest room. Curious, you enter the ladies. An empty room but for an upturned, empty plastic sushi container. Sushi in the toilets? Who eats sushi in the toilets?
Down again you swim like a Cory Catfish through the smooth-walled folly in your fresh water tank. Unexpectedly, there is a man at the marble reception desk in the foyer. He nods a greeting but doesn’t engage in chat. Grey daylight filters horizontally here; you look behind and down to the long black square tunnel that dips into the street below, and then you remember: Off Sauchiehall Street there is a great green-black portico that shades the bolted dusty glass doors of McLellan Galleries, on which a graffitist has squirted his yellow mark.
You push through heavy teak doors into a corridor that branches into three, each one with their own smaller doorways leading into who-knows-where. A scene from The Shining flashes through your mind. The smell? Urine? No, not urine. Ammonia! A strange sort of bird is perched high in the corner of the architrave, shiny golden plumage, red ‘T’ gleaming on it’s breast. A strange sort of ‘bird’. How did that get up there? You take the corridor that leads straight ahead toward the next set of doors.
This room is even darker. Taking a moment for your eyes to adjust you make out that the room is large and strewn with waist-high obstacles. A shadow flits amongst discarded office chairs and deep freeze chest freezers. A lone student navigates himself ghostlike through the graveyard and passes you by, catching your eye but without a word. Dust hangs heavy in the air, teasing your allergen sensitive nose. The room takes the form of a Nonconformist chapel, emptied of congregation and pews and pulpit, replaced with secular scrap. A ‘U’ shaped balcony fringes the walls above and you climb the staircase on the far end, to the left, into a strange glass box that separates this room from the next. Looking back into the room it now seems like an anatomy lecture theatre, all eyes down on the professor carving into a cadaver, a poor washed-up soul, laid out on a table on the central stage. A little shiver. Now you stand with a madman, a chrysophilist, looking down at the man in black, strapped in martyrdom to a table, a laser beam taking aim at 007’s crotch. You turn away. Another door.
Fluorescent tubes flood the space with harsh white light and you blink in the brightness. The air is odorless and dry. Great invasive metal roots have burrowed their way through walls and ceilings, sucking air in and out. What would an abandoned laboratory look like with the scientists vanished and the specimens remaining? This? White melamine cabinets and steel wash-down sinks cling to the white psoriasis-flaking walls and a pockmarked blue tiled floor. It is a 70’s art director’s vision of the future. Laboratories from Silent Running, 2001: Space Odyssey, and The Andromeda Strain, images buried deep in your subconscious arise as you attempt to anchor yourself in reality. And then in the very middle, sitting on two long rows of freestanding veneered bookcases are quantities of leaf-brown books:
Davidson, W Educational Metalcraft (1927)
Bell, Sir Charles Anatomy and Psychology of Expression (1844)
Douglass, M.E. Skin Diseases (1899)
Rose, E Gordon Craig and the Theatre (1931)…
You wonder, is this secret room the theatre of malign practices or like the bio-domes in Silent Running, a guardian? Books smell of leather and cloth and paper and everything leather and cloth and paper attracts; dampness, fly droppings, dead skin. These books have no odor. They are in stasis. Moths calmed by cool breezes, awaiting release into a warmer spring night.
The correlation between space, sensory movement and cognition forms the inspiration for Dawn’s practice-led research project; developing a new form of creative art writing that gives a voice to the multiple experiential positions of site-specific immersive art.