Early Warning Signs

Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA)

Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA)

Royal Exchange Square
G1 3AH

The green on black sign was adopted by Katie Bruce, Producer Curator at the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) in Glasgow to be displayed in the portico outside the front of the building in Royal Exchange Square for the whole of 2014.

At the beginning of 2015 this sign was sent south to Bristol, the European Green Capital for 2015, to take up residence outside Spike Island for the next year. Meanwhile, GoMA continued its involvement in the Early Warning Signs project by becoming the host venue for the blue on white sign for Glasgow's Green Year 2015.

End of Year Report

By Katie Bruce, Producer Curator, Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA)
With contributions from Rhona MacGuire & Rachel Duckhouse

The Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) in Glasgow were delighted to present one of Ellie Harrison’s Early Warning Signs on the museum’s portico throughout 2014. The museum is located in the city centre of Glasgow on the busy Royal Exchange Square, allowing hundreds, if not thousands of people to pass the sign every day. Glasgow is striving to become a sustainable, green city and as the city hosts the Glasgow's Green Year 2015 the significance of Harrison’s Early Warning Signs is ever more potent. Particularly regarding the cultural sector, Harrison’s work has helped create discussion about the way the museum can be more sustainable and how to reduce the carbon footprint of the institution.

Once it was clear that GoMA was adopting one of the signs for 2014, the opportunity to dovetail discussions around Early Warning Signs with the Associate Artist role arose. The freelance position was advertised in late December 2013 with interviews in early February 2014. Rachel Duckhouse was successful in getting the position and worked with the gallery and Ellie Harrison at various points throughout the year.

Being the Associate Artist at GoMA has been a real privilege. I've got to know many of the staff and been given behind the scenes access to several of the shows and the Glasgow Museums’ collection, finding out how they're put together and looked after, and my research has gone off on many tangents based on different flows of energy through the building. I've been trying to reveal hidden patterns and systems within the building, using my practice to ask questions about heat, light, electricity, art, people, past, present and most importantly, future. Rachel Duckhouse, December 2014

Some of Rachel’s work with the GoMA has been documented on her Astronauts of GoMA blog and she is in conversation with the gallery and participants in her work about the best way to manifest the last year publicly. This will be developed for Spring / Summer 2015.

In addition to the Associate Artist role that Rachel undertook, the gallery invited Ellie Harrison for an Associate Artist commission. This will be realised in February and March 2015 through the work Dark Days.

Throughout the year, GoMA attempted to maintain a log of the weather conditions that the sign was exposed to. GoMA’s Blipfoto account documents the huge variety of weather conditions in Glasgow from bright sunshine to the more usual downpour, while also forcing the viewer to become more aware of the climate. The gallery hopes to develop this into a more regular feature with the adoption of another sign for Early Warning Signs 2015.


The sign was relatively easy to maintain where it was chained to one of the pillars outside the GoMA every day. The location of the sign in the GoMA’s portico sheltered the sign from the wind. This was a little disappointing as many people thought the sign was most effective when it was spinning. However, this also meant that the sign was easier to maintain and could be left out every day of the year without being a danger to passers-by. In order to protect the sign, it was only displayed during the days and hours that the museum was open.

Feedback / Audience

Overall, the Early Warning Sign was positively received by the public. The feedback was collected through conversations with the front of house team and relayed back into this report.

Many visitors thought the sign was a great idea and that the topic of climate change was very worthwhile exploring. Others were interested in seeing how the sign and its focus on climate change would develop over time. The sign has been described as “reasonably witty” because of the commercial techniques used in its design, yet the irony is seen through the message of the sign stating “CLIMATE CHANGE”. Humorously, when some passers-by could only view the “CHANGE” part of the sign they assumed that the GoMA was a foreign money exchange, only to then discover that it was a museum. Other tourists and residents thought there was an exhibition about climate change in the GoMA after seeing the sign outside. Others did not seem to notice Harrison’s sign as it blended well into its surroundings.

Some visitors came specifically to the GoMA to view Harrison’s work, but did not notice it in the portico and instead asked GoMA staff of its location. The front desk staff had leaflets about the work in order to provide more information about it to those that asked. Some people felt that the leaflet perhaps defeated the purpose of the sign. For another, the sign recalled nostalgia of signs often seen outside of garages in the 1980s, which are no longer present today.

Finally the work seemed to question its role as an artwork. “I like it because I like works of art that do not necessarily seem like works of art - it would go nicely in my garden.”


Call out for Associate Artist

Rachel Duckhouse - Associate Artist

Astronauts of GoMA - Rachel Duckhouse Associate Artist blog

Dark Days - Ellie Harrison Associate Artist commission

GoMA Blipfoto - daily images of sign