Observations: Geordie with a Scottish accent
Friday 16 January 2009
Tartan is a fabric usually associated with Scotland rather than Gateshead. Until now, that is. Staff at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art will bring a taste of the Highlands further south by wearing tailor-made tartan outfits till the end of March. And it's all in the name of art. Ninety members of staff, from front of house to office staff and directors, will be kitted out in unique tartan ensembles as part of the Italian artist Antonio Riello's B Square! project, which first launched two years ago in Austria.
For Gateshead, the second location for the project, Riello has used the predominantly blue and green tartan created for the European flag in 1999, and added a series of deliberate glitches into the weave to represent the artificial construction of European identity. As well as trousers and skirts, staff will wear black and white reversible hoodies inspired by the local Northumbrian tartan (Northumbria is the only English county to have its own plaid), with special pockets for staff walkie-talkies and a torch and integrated LED device for showing people to their seats at the centre's cinema.
As Alessandro Vincentelli, acting head of programme at Baltic says, "The outfits aren't about traditional tartan, they have been designed for the day-to-day activities of the staff in response to the industrial, contemporary building that houses Baltic. They're quite street-oriented really." So street, it seems, that sadly one Scottish staple is missing – there won't be a kilt in sight.
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