PLATFORM

In PLATFORM we are introducing an arena where issues can be discussed and debated. These can be scientific, cultural, historical and/or arts related among other ideas. We are looking at these issues from local, national and international perspectives alike.

WHY DIGITAL CURRENCIES ARE BAD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT

Whilst scanning through the BBC’s News Home Page an interesting headline caught my attention. The headline said that Elon Musk was no longer trading in Bitcoins due to their high mining costs and the detrimental effects the mining had on the environment. My understanding of what a Bitcoin was immediately called into question and I couldn’t quite put the two together; that is mining and something I thought only existed in a virtual world. So, I read on and finally understood what it all meant.  To begin with, let’s be clear on what a Bitcoin is. The first ideas behind a digital currency were in the 1990’s but it wasn’t until twenty years later that the main currency at the time, Bitcoin, started to come more and more into the public domain. The Bitcoin domain and protocol, the rules and software used to allow Bitcoin trading and to record ownership, was established in 2008 by a person or persons (there are a few names circulating on the internet but they are all believed to be pseudonyms) seeking a change to how business transactions are conducted. With only a few thousand transactions in the first few years, the number had grown to over 10 million by 2020. The value of a Bitcoin also increased, from virtually nothing in 2009 to between $55,000 and $60,000 by April 2021. The numbers of Bitcoins in circulation can grow by what is referred to as ‘mining’. At first, it seems that the term is used to mean something else, something that doesn’t really relate to mining as we know it, such as for coal, however, there is a connection. In order to mine or generate more Bitcoin’s, prospectors compete against each other to solve complex mathematical problems – the winner receiving the Bitcoins. The problem is this. In order to solve these mathematical problems, huge amounts of computational power, and therefore electricity, is required. And since most Bitcoin miners are in China (over 75%), the source of the electricity is the burning of vast amounts of coal in China’s coal fired power stations. So, the mining of Bitcoins is, in effect, introducing thousands of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. Musk finishes by saying that Bitcoins still have a future in business transactions but until they can resolve their environmental issues, his company (Tesla) will no longer be trading them.

 

WHY SUCH A LOW OPINION OF SCOTLAND?

The Scottish Elections in May 2021 showed that an overwhelming majority of Scottish people supported and voted for pro-independence and pro-referendum parties. I was one of those people.

The following Thursday after the elections, the BBC's debate programme Question Time devoted a question to whether Scotland should have another referendum. With social distancing in place, the viewer's panel appeared virtually on a screen wall, I believe they are a randomly selected group who appear every week on the programme. Everyone is entitled to their views, however, one of the faces on the screen proceeded to declare that "her village" might like to become independent too and put a rocket on the moon while they were at it. This, of course, implies that the idea of an independent Scotland is as ludicrous as a small English village gaining independence and sending a rocket to the moon! Shades of an 1950's Ealing comedy here and quite apt considering the mind set of some people who still live in the "good old days of the British Empire". Anyway, this remark subsequently caused a wave of laughter to ripple across the screen wall with many (not all) of the participants laughing at what had been said.

And, what was said was so insulting and disrespectful to those of us who believe that Scotland is perfectly capable of running its own country. Why is their opinion of Scotland so low?

 
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NIDDRIE WOMAN

During the 1970's the artist John Latham was commissioned by the Scottish Office's Development Agency to reimagine the red shale oil bings in West Lothian as something other than a waste product from the process known as  "retorting" gas from the shale. Although profitable in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the mines were eventually closed down by the 1960's. These gigantic bings, the leftovers from a defunct industry were thus regarded as eyesores for the most part and no value of any kind was placed upon them. That is until it was discovered that the unique environment of the bings are ideal for the development of plant biodiversity. Nowadays, therefore, they have become sites of interest for environmental research. Not only that, they have taken on a kind of iconic status as landmarks, the remnants of an industrial past. The Five Sisters near West Calder, for example, is now a protected industrial monument.  John Latham was asked to use his considerable creative skill to find a fresh way to consider four enormous bings which dominate the landscape near the small town of Broxburn and Winchburgh. For those not familiar with industrial landscape such as this it might come as an eyeopener just how magnificent this man-made, almost extra-terrestrial looking environment is. 


This article will help to explain what happened when Latham came to West Lothian between 1975 and 1976. 

Waste to Monument: John Latham’s Niddrie Woman: Art & Environment – Tate Papers | Tate

From my point of view this is a "hidden" piece of public art when we have so many visible pieces of mediocre public art projects in West Lothian. This project was not given the publicity it deserved at the time nor has it been noted sufficiently today at a time when ideas about the environment are changing. John Latham chose to have his ashes scattered on the "Heart" of Niddrie Woman (the heart that was too large for the body). This says a lot about how Latham felt about the place and his perception that perhaps West Lothian is a place populated by big-hearted people.



 

PLATFORM PLUS

French Student Matis Leggiadro in Conversation with Cathy Bell

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Matis Leggiadro is a student of History of Art, he lives in the southern French city of Albi. Matis is passionately concerned that art and culture should be for everyone on an equal basis and that it should be widely available for everyone. His belief in this concept led him to create the website Histal M, this multi-media project includes a You-Tube channel, radio station , Instagram and various other projects such as exhibitions and conferences. In short, Histal M is a platform dedicated to promoting democracy in art and, therefore, actively challenging the status quo – the challenge is to “do better”. This is one of the reasons why I have joined Matis’ team and why we collaborate on projects together, our aim is to bring these issues to public attention. I asked Matis a few questions in order to better understand his reasons for the creation of Histal M and what his thoughts are on the situation in general.


CB You are studying History of Art, does this have any connection to why you created Histal M?                                                                              

ML Indeed I study the History of Art but this has no connection with the creation of Histal M. I founded this media before studying the History of Art. On the other hand, it was thanks to the history courses of Guillaume Gras (historian and professor of modern history at the Champollion University of Albi) that I received at the college that the desire to found Histal M came to me.

CB Can you explain what you are trying to achieve with Histal M?                                                                                                                              

ML I have a very global vision of things. My goal is therefore to allow individuals to encounter art and history. I deeply believe that culture is fundamental to the future of our civilization because it is the proof of our humanity and our intelligence. History is the learning of the past that makes up our present and art is the human gaze on this world at a specific moment. The two are complementary. I want to allow very different audiences to discover these two major concepts. That’s why I am specifically interested in my territory: Albi. It is quite interesting to look at what is happening in our city because that is where our daily life is. Once this step is completed...the world becomes more accessible and it opens its doors to you.

CB You and I have similar aims, do you think it is helpful for us to share ideas and experiences?                                                                         

ML Our ideas are indeed similar and I think it is very relevant to share them and to question our experiences. It’s a great way to enrich and stimulate each other. Creation doesn’t really have any limits because it comes from imagination and I think we create.

CB Also, do you think it is helpful for people in general to work together for the purpose of building a democratic platform for the arts?     

ML That’s a very interesting question, and I think the answer is yes. I have the chance to work with other great people for an artistic media whose purpose is to allow young people to meet the arts: "8 Vestibule". I think there would be some hypocrisy with the idea of setting up a democratic platform by being alone.

CB What issues occur in France that spoil or set-back democratic access to the arts and culture?                                                                       

ML The rather obvious problem in France is that most museums in the provinces are too exclusive. Sometimes you feel that if you are not a specialist you cannot understand, because nothing (or too little) is done for everyone to understand.

CB From what you know about where I live in Scotland – do you think there are also issues that need to be addressed?                                 

ML I think, Cathy, that people in your area do not understand the urgency of the situation. There is a quote in French that says: "A force de sacrifier l'essentiel pour l'urgence, on finit par oublier l'urgence de l'essentiel." (Edgar Morin, La Méthode). If we translate the quote, it says: "By sacrificing the essential for the emergency, we end up forgetting the urgency of the essential." I think that’s what’s happening in Livingston.

CB What would you say to people of your age in Scotland regarding the situation - that is – do you have any advice for them based on your own experiences?

ML I’m going to talk to them directly and hope they’ll read this : Do you guys like music? I guess so. Why? I imagine that by listening to music you disconnect from life, you are in your world, as if liberated. You know why I tell you this? This is what art is for, to emancipate yourself, to open yourself to its world and sometimes to the world simply... and without it how to be fulfilled and happy in our society? Think about that, please. If I have any advice to give you, I’ll tell you : believe in yourself and your ideas !

CB Finally, you actively work with the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Association in Roussillon (France). Can you explain your thoughts about him (and his wife Margaret)?  

ML What do I think about Mackintosh and Margaret? That’s a question I’m having a hard time answering. I have had an artistic crush and I        think that this couple were deeply, artistically, visionary.              

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