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Pokey Hat
Cooking Sections, Carrie Gooch, Julie Hill, Rosie O'Grady, Rachel Sharpe
VERBureau for Glasgow International 2016

Pokey Hat at New Glasgow Society for Glasgow International 2016 charted elements of social history spanning immigration, queer culture, community and urban development through the history of the Italian ice cream cafés that first appeared throughout Glasgow from the 1880s to the 1930s.

'Pokey hat' is traditional Glaswegian patter for an ice cream cone. Glasgow's connection with ice cream is paralleled in cities of the Italian diaspora worldwide, but the Scottish city retains its own distinct history. Alongside positive tales of burgeoning youth culture, tolerance and social bonding are darker stories of failed regeneration schemes, slum clearances and the gang violence of the notorious ice cream wars in the 1980s. Ice cream in Glasgow can be seen as a catalyst for social interactions and shifts in local culture over the last 120 years. It provides an illuminating lens through which to explore notions of community, regeneration, borders and national identity - all of which are at the forefront of current political agendas in the wake of the independence referendum, Commonwealth Games and ongoing refugee crisis.

Pokey Hat presented five commissions from artists whose research-driven practices examine the social, political and cultural landscape of the past and present: Cooking Sections (Daniel Fernández Pascual and Alon Schwabe), Carrie Gooch, Julie Hill, Rosie O'Grady and Rachel Sharpe. Whilst responding to and building upon research on the multifaceted history of ice cream in Glasgow, the artists also addressed the social and cultural fabric of the city today.

Cooking Sections addressed territorial conflict by creating experimental ice cream flavours from plants considered invasive to the Scottish natural environment. The ‘Next “Invasive” is “Native”’ critically unpacked sensationalist representations of the ‘unknown other’ as a threat and advocated for cultural hybridisation. The new flavours, accompanied by botanical prints of invasive species, were produced in partnership with Centre for Contemporary Arts as part of the CCA Creative Lab Residency programme and in collaboration with a group of local cafés. Carrie Gooch’s Ice Cream Memories comprising video, sound, photography and text was an outcome of her research trips to Rome, the Apennines, Ellis Island and across Scotland. The presentation of research at New Glasgow Society and Queens Café explored the process of crossing borders. Encouraging intergenerational and transnational dialogue, Gooch conveyed the importance of the cafés as spaces for establishing close-knit communities that transcend social, cultural and national boundaries. The video was created in collaboration with Jen Martin. Julie Hill’s narrative work, The Unexpected Guest, combined historical fact with fiction and drew on the propensity of the horror genre to encode social, political and cultural anxieties. The short story was presented in the gallery as an evolving sculpture and distributed by local cafés, leading the reader to linked locations where ice cream was revealed as a substance imbued with otherworldly qualities. Rosie O'Grady's photographic portraits showed people eating empty ice cream cones. The absence of ice cream itself obliquely revealed the captured images as orchestrated scenes in which those with sensitive teeth incongruously found ways to occupy ice cream cafés. Rachel Sharpe’s installation examined ice cream as a cultural phenomenon through dream symbology. Alluding to the creamy substance as an emblem of desire, Sharpe presented the cafés as culturally subversive meeting places and ice cream as a symbol of sexuality and pleasure.

New Glasgow Society in Finnieston hosted the exhibition with events and artistic interventions extending to locations across the city, including Jaconelli's, Queens Café, Crolla's, University Café, Eusebi Deli, Project Café and Peña.

Pokey Hat was curated by VERBureau, of which Nella Aarne was a member from 2013 to 2016.
The project was kindly supported by Glasgow International, New Glasgow Society, Centre for Contemporary Arts and European Cultural Foundation.

Photograph: Elizabeth Hudson
Courtesy VERBureau