File Note 08: Roderick Buchanan - Camden Art Centre

Essay by Alec Finlay



Juicing the Real: A Wee Kick – About Album for Roddy Images References Quote Biography Credits

Juicing the Real: A Wee Kick – About Album for Roddy

Jaspers says: So much of the real is beyond our notice. 

the way Roddy says: rreeelly
the way Roddy does: re-ally 

You’re right Roddy, a little poetry never did anyone any harm. The pure products of Pollockshields go crazy…
(after WCW) 

not one thing
as another

but the world
as he finds it 

I wanted to find my way back to you, Roddy, and towards the work — not the GLASGOW of The Irascibles, that generation or figment of a photograph — but further, all the way to our childhoods. Memories of my first journeys to your city, suitably mythic I think you’ll agree. 

The first was a Walston Primary school trip — 37 kids in various colours of cords, T-Shirts and two teachers — on the dusty old Ramsay’s bus. Anyone Scottish our age will be able to place this time really clearly, as it was a very particular time, post-Devolution Referendum, when teachers started to wear those funny looped yellow badges: this was the era of the great bin strikes. Every evening the family would watch Reporting Scotland (we were BBC) and see the Refuse Collectors on strike — words that come in black and white …Public Sector, Municipal Authority, pay bargaining, union. Mountains of uncollected black bin bags just kept growing and now we were off to Glasgow where we might actually see them. There were meant to be rats. They kept talking about them on the news … danger of vermin, disease — it sounded like the Pied Piper. 

So, this is our big educational outing to the Transport Museum and here we are, eye-spying through the glasshouses of the Clyde Valley, chatting excitedly about whether we’ll see the bin bag mountains; spotting the first High Rises on the outskirts, gabbling about rats; looping in off the motorway and  … there they are, our first shiny heap! On drives the bus, through the grid of Glasgow and, in amongst the piss coloured tenements there the bin bags are, more and more, higher and higher. The teachers tried to shush us with opprobrium. Our ardour disturbed them for wasn’t there something wrong, dirty even, in our delight in all this rubbish? 

The thing was, the bags were beautiful — they shone with an urban glow; they were clean; they grew as soft peninsulas out of the monotonous order of back streets and sheer walls. We would all have loved to stop the bus and jump out and play in them, just like we did in the hay bales at home. They’d be magic to climb on.
(That was also the day that I discovered pink salmon paste sandwiches made with white bread. It was a day I will never forget.) 

A Portrait of the Artist as a Sunday League Football Striker 

My second trip to Glasgow was to an Old Firm Cup Final, my first football match. My Uncle Norman, a left wing nurse, had got tickets for me and a friend, but his shifts wouldn’t work out, so he had to hand us over at Central Station to two other nurses — dedicated ‘tic fans. They were the first folk from Glasgow that I’d met. Lovely guys. 

I remember we had to hide our scarves until we got to a certain pub. Safe territory. As we were getting near to the ground there were all these buses bringing in Celtic fans, and this one bus of Rangers fans that had taken a short cut. In the distance it looked just like a stagecoach in a Western, guns blazing out all the windows — cans and bottles showered in all directions. As it went past us I caught the eye of this one ‘Ger looking right at me as he threw a full can of lager — Kestrel, I think I can still remember the shade of green — which glanced off my cheek. If the can had hit me end on I suppose my face would have been shattered, but it just crumpled, spurted and fell at my feet. The nurses were walking in front and didn’t know anything had happened and I was too embarrassed to say. But I heard a cry go up behine me: Aww, the poor wee laddie … bastards! About 50 yards further on the bus had all its windows stove in with bricks. God knows how many people were hurt. I was in a war! 

I can hardly remember the game, but writing this out it occurs to me, you and Nathan must have been there as well? Danny McGrain — who had his beard then — scored a fluky goal in extra time. I’d never seen people shout and cheer and jump up and down like that! There was a stour of dust coming up from the shale. Then a guy from Dundee let rip an enormous fountain of pee which dampened down a triangle of dust. 

That was the famous Cup Final that ended in a riot. Fans were pelting each other with bottles on the pitch. Waves of mounted police. I saw it all. This was Glasgow? This was my world?

The nurses were understandably worried for us, the more so since they’d only just met us, so off we went to a friend’s house near the ground until things quietened down. When we got there the riot was still being played out on the TV news. They gave us juice and biscuits and then they all started singing I.R.A. songs, and we got asked ‘did we know any songs?’ Well, I wasn’t going to give them “Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree” was I? I’d never seen people sing like that, just sitting in their homes. 

We finally got home to the country late that night, in time to see the match highlights — Troops Out badges pinned onto our best coats. My world was a whole lot bigger.  

‘Do ye think
there’s a zip
at the back
o ma heid’
— Tom Leonard  

Hey Roddy, I remember the time you told me how you could never bring yourself to respond to my postcard invitations — Football Haiku, Without Day — because when they arrived in the post you always felt like you’d won a washing machine. That taught me something. When I did write you a Dear Roddy letter a dozen football haiku arrived back by return post. 

In a way that book was my homage to your players — not to mimic the formality of the players struck poses, or imitate the finery of a blue and red striped San Siro masque, but to reveal the proprioception of football’s poses. There is no free play in the static heldness of a pose. And yet, so much of what the mind’s body seems to do in soccer play is to be still, to freeze an infinitesimal moment; for the self to be immersed in the connection of limb, ball, position and time. And this kind of play is a masque, for it is dictated by one’s memory of shots from TV and photography. The dialogue between our two pieces was between intuitive play and identity-masque, but I think we both recognised that the whole scene was arranged by memory. 

That was Henrik Larsson’s gift, to have speed-in-time: he was fleet; he was never trapped by memory. 

It’s like with the songs: of course, they are about the play of cultural identity, but what means so much more is that we sing — that a body’s breath and voice shape a style, and that style is a play between the moment and memory. Hamish taught me to call it the carrying stream.

we’re all just a sack of air
taking a short ride
in a cheap car 

from the dark
into the light
and back to dark 

a coughed up cherry stone





these days
is just
so much



Stupendous and miserable city,
you taught me what joyful ferocious men
learn as kids,

the little things in which the greatness
of life is discovered in peace,
how to be tough and ready 

in the confusion of the streets,
addressing another man, without trembling …
… to defend myself, to offend, 

to have the world before my eyes 

and not just in my heart …

— Pier Paolo Pasolini, The Weeping of the Excavator
 translated by Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Francesca Valente 


no in no out no in no out no in no out no in no out no in no out no in no out no in no out no in no out no in no out no in no out no in n


a line of men align men ally men malign men a lane of men alane men a lone man alone man a line of men align men ally men malign men a lane

white hackle
blue hackle
red hackle 

Old Firm Joke:
‘When did you know your leg was broken?’
Jimmy Johnstone:
‘When I saw Big Tam Forsyth comin’ over to tackle me.’

fall over
and over
the floor
over and

work is
the work
takes you
at the distillery residency
the bottles of whisky
come with the milk 

Pasolini found the truth in the faces of ordinary working men and women: Jesus, in the Gospel According St Matthew, was a truck driver.

I always fall asleep
the goals


Archie Gemmill, in a radio football commentary, Scotland V. Chile*
Ho — did you see that! 

* This was the game when, to their shame, the Scotland team played in the stadium of death, as described in Adam MacNaughtan’s protest song: ‘Blood on the Grass’. 

From my infancy I have devoted myself to the cause of the people. What do I mean when I conjure with the name of the people? Nothing less than the living mass of humanity associated to exist, to subsist, and to be happy. In them, and them only, do we find the organ of social authority, the measure of political value, and the pedestal of legitimate power. I am proud to be a member of The Society of Friends of the people. It is an association of honourable men … united against tyranny. Our cause is a good cause. It shall finally triumph.

— Thomas Muir of Huntershill, Address to the jury in his trial on a charge of sedition The Pest of Scotland, Thomas Lawson
(The Centre: Glasgow, 2001) 

the red and the green
will be worn side by side
all the roses and geans
will turn to bloom
(after Hamish Henderson) 


Football Haiku: a three line, three word poem; combining the sports headline, T-Shirt slogan and Japanese haiku. The first anthology, Football Haiku: saka no haiku, was published for the Japan & South Korea World Cup (2002); a second anthology is in preparation for the Germany World Cup (2006). Roddy is invited to submit. 

Archie MacPherson: Ancient relic of Scottish football commentary. 

Karl Jaspers (1883-1969): German philosopher. 

Pier Paolo Pasolini (1922-1975): Italian poet and filmmaker. 

Hamish Henderson (1919-2002): Scottish poet and folklorist. 

The lyrics are from The John Maclean March and The Freedom Come-All-Ye

Tam Forsyth: Rugged centre-back, played for Rangers and Scotland (1972 – 1982) 

Henrik Larsson: phenomenally talented Swedish striker who played for Celtic (1997 – 2004)

The purpose of the artwork: 

To see oursels as ithers see us! from To a Louse On Seeing One on a Lady’s Bonnet at Church by Robert Burns The Kilmarnock Edition (1786)

History Painting
Understanding the attitude: 

The night they drove old Dixie down The Band (1969) 

Henry Munro Declan Hunt and The Battering Ram (1973)


A Message to You Rudy
The Specials (1979) substituting Roddy for Rudy when you sing it to yourself.

Suspect Device Stiff Little Fingers (1979) 

Number Crunching
For all those who’ve misunderstood who I’ve been talking about all these years, here are three interesting books that will clarify the subject:

A Thousand Mile Walk to the Gulf John Muir, late 1860’s, University of  California Press (1991) ISBN 0871565919

The Pest of Scotland Thomas Lawson, The Centre, Glasgow (2001) ISBN 1903887003

The Life of Thomas More Peter Ackroyd, Vintage (1999) ISBN 0749386401

Tombez La Chemise / Unofficial Envoy of the Tartan Army
Allied to the ambition of all the work I’ve made about sport.

CLR James Cricket, the Caribbean and World Revolution Farrukh Dhondy, Weidenfeld and Nicolson (2001) ISBN 0297646133

Portraits Jan Verwoert and Steven Bode, Film and Video Umbrella London (2005) ISBN 1904270131

History Painting Conversation with Caroline Douglas, 11th Triennale, New Delhi, British Council, 2005 

Players Katrina Brown, Ross Sinclair, Mika Hannula, Susanna 

Beaumont & Daniel Jewesbury, Dundee Contemporary Arts, (2000) ISBN 0953517845

'When Gerrald an associate of Thomas Muir stood trial he made the comment that ‘Christ himself had been a reformer’, “ Muckle he made o’ that; he was hanget” came the reply.’ Lord Braxfield, 1794


Roderick Buchanan (b. 1965) lives and works in Glasgow. Recent solo exhibitions include ‘Turnaround’, Hayward Gallery, 1998; FRAC Languedoc Roussilon, 1999; ‘Players’, Dundee Contemporary Arts, 2000; ‘Inside Out’, Lisson Gallery, London, 2001; ‘Demo’, Aarhus Kunstmuseum, 2002; ‘Unofficial Envoy of the Tartan Army’ Busan Biennial, 2002; ‘83/03’, Aberdeen City Art Gallery, 2003; and the Indian Triennial, NGMA, New Delhi, 2005. He has also participated in many major group shows including ‘Material Culture’, Hayward Gallery, 1997; 48th & 49th Venice Biennales, 1999/2001; ‘Let’s Entertain’, Walker Arts Centre, 2000; ‘Sporting Life’, MCA Sydney, 2000; ‘Reality Check’, Wharf Road, London, 2002; and ‘Contested Fields’, Des Moines Art Centre, 2004. Buchanan was awarded the Becks Futures prize (2000) and the Paul Hamlyn Award (2004). 

He lived in New York through 1996, was a Guest Professor, Trondheim, Norway (1998 — 2001), then lived with his family in Bristol for six months (2001) while his wife Jacqueline Donachie was artist in residence at Spike Island. He’s also lived with his family on residencies in IASPIS, Stockholm (2002) and in Dufftown with Glenfiddich (2003).


Alec Finlay is an artist, poet and publisher who lives and works in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.