The Why?s Man

"My art is place specific and people specific." George Wyllie

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(Rottenrow, Glasgow 2004)

Originally created for Mayfest in 1996 and called, Just in Case, the giant safety-pin was put on display in the centre of Glasgow and in it George Wyllie expressed his fear that Mayfest wouldn't continue. He made the safety-pin, 'just in case' something was needed to hold it together.

The scul?ture is more than 5m high, with a small bird perched on the top. He also installed it at the Guildhall in Portsmouth, where it was used to suggestion an attachment to the European Community.

Wyllie also took it to Edinburgh during the a visit by Commonwealth leaders, to suggest an attachment to the Commonwealth. He said it could be used as a kind of metaphor or icon for (all sorts of) attachments.

Later, in 2004, it was permanently installed on the site of the former maternity hospital at Rottenrow, Glasgow and renamed, Mhtrothta, which is Greek for 'maternity' The Greek name was given to it because an early type of clasp, a kind of early safety-pin, had been invented in Ancient Greece and, obviously, because it had now become a 'monument to maternity'.

George Wyllie also wrote a poem about Walter Hunt, who had invented the modern safety-pin in New York. Hunt sold the copyright, making very little money from his invention. The poem outlines what might happen if the safety-pin had never been invented.

In 1997, he also co-wrote and performed in a production, with David Michael Clark, called Voyage Round a Safety-pin, which presented lots of uncertainties to the audience, with George Wyllie playing his ukulele, reading from Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations, and quoting from Robert Burns and Daniel Defoe.


Ode to a Safety-Pin

Voyages Round a Safety-Pin

*Scottish Schools GW Archive

George Wyllie Education Initiative

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