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....... it must be paradise. Self-measurements of –ishness: the Huntly case I am not sure whether it is relevant to tell that I first met Thierry Geoffroy/Colonel on a park bench during 2003’s Venice Biennale, outside the Giardino. The heat and our various projects had exhausted us both, and sitting each on the opposite end of the bench with an iced can of coke we started – as one does - talking about the (in this case very hot) weather. But quickly the conversation turned to more substantial and amusing subject matter, Colonel’s art work. Colonel’s work surrounds questions of identity, a subject that has been puzzling us here in Huntly for a long time. Questions like who is an incomer, an outsider, a local, an insider, a born and bred native, are on the local agenda daily, both for those who are from here and those who are not ‘really’ from here. Combined with the branding of Scotland as a whole, inviting Colonel for a short residency to our town to tackle the issue seemed to be an obvious thing to do. For Colonel there is no borderline between life and art. Originally from France, he has spent many years traveling the world, developing ways of looking and comparing cultural values wherever he goes, then using the media as an exhibition space for his results. Asking people around the world about their identity, he does not expect an answer that makes sense. The art lies in the absurdity of the question and not in the correct response. The exercise is intended to reveal the absurdity of trying to define people’s identity in either scientific or demographic terms. In his Huntly case, some 250 people on and around the Square, in the shortbread factory, in the local school and in shops were asked bluntly in his pronounced French accent: ‘excuse me, how Scottish are you?’ A self estimation measurement which already in the question alone points to the non-acceptance of the ‘-ness’ as a science, but explaining the absurd. In Huntly they all responded gladly and with a smile on their faces. Each respondent was then given a large card to hold, with their percentage of ‘Scottishness’ written on it in large letters, while they posed for their photograph in prison mug-shot style. The collection of photo results of Colonel’s pseudo-scientific survey were then published as a media exhibition in the Huntly Express. Framed as a ‘kilted Frenchman’ and a ‘comic artist’, the local media concentrated on the amusing side of the event and its effect on local people. Among the personalities Colonel has created for himself are the ‘professional tourist’ as well as the ‘funny sociologist’ in a kind of Duchampian sense. As the ‘professional tourist’ he is entitled to get a snap shot of the society of a place he visits for a short period of time. As the funny sociologist he is entitled to make his own interpretations and come to his own conclusions. So who and what is the real Huntly person? Conclusion number one - people in Huntly are helpful and content and open minded when approached out of the blue by a complete stranger in a kilt. Fact number two is that some 80% of all people answered with 100% Scottish. “No matter how much I pushed” he said, “most people were absolutely convinced that they were 100%, there was no doubt in their mind; this is something fascinating. Perhaps I found paradise.” So far so good. But what is it really that makes us ScottISH, or any other –ish for that matter. Has it to do with the manufacturing of (Scottish) heritage, both at the level of historical construction and at a contemporary institutional/political level? Or are we more bound by genetic terms? Or maybe we are all simply –ish: tallish, smallish, nice-ish, nasty-ish, Engl-ish or Scott-ish...? Claudia Zeiske Deveron Arts They stayed because they liked themselves together with their lives, which were inseparable from the place where the lives had been lived. Milan Kundera: Ignorance, p. 76, Faber & Faber, 2003

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