Ellie Harrison (artist)

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Ellie Harrison
Ellie Harrison, Daily Data Logger (2005)
Ellie Harrison, Daily Data Logger (2005)
Born1979 (age 39–40)
London, England
EducationNottingham Trent University
Goldsmiths College
Glasgow School of Art

Ellie Harrison (born 1979) is a British artist known for her use of large quantities of data, collected through labour-intensive games, trials, systems and experiments, and, more recently, for her activist work campaigning for the re-nationalisation of Britain's railways.[1] She is based in Glasgow, Scotland and in April 2013 was appointed Lecturer (Teaching & Research) in Contemporary Art Practices at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design.

Early life and education[edit]

Brought up in Ealing in west London, Harrison attended Drayton Manor High School until the age of 18.[2] After completing a Foundation Diploma in Art & Design at West Thames College in Hounslow, she went on to study Fine Art at Nottingham Trent University from 1998 – 2001 and at Goldsmiths College from 2002 – 2003. She moved to Scotland in 2008 to undertake a Leverhulme Scholarship on the Master of Fine Art course at Glasgow School of Art,[3] where her degree show Press Release, exhibited at the CCA Glasgow in 2010, consisted of news coverage about her work.[4]

Early work[edit]

Harrison first became known for her 2002 work Eat 22, for which she photographed and recorded information about everything she ate for a year.[5] She published the images online on a weekly basis throughout that year[6] as an early example of photo blogging.[7] The project received international attention, featuring in the press in India, Taiwan, Czech Republic, France, Sweden, the US and across the UK.[8][better source needed] In 2003, the high-speed animated film of all 1,640 of the Eat 22 photos was included in the exhibition Treat Yourself at the Science Museum, London[9] and in 2007 was put on permanent display at the Wellcome Collection, London.[10]

Harrison then went on to complete a series of large-scale "data collecting" projects[11] including Gold Card Adventures (September 2002 – September 2003). She undertook this next project the year before the automated Oystercard system was introduced on London Transport, by manually recording the total distance of all the journeys she made on London Underground and on local buses for a period of one year, which amounted to more than 9,210 km.[12] The resulting exhibition Gold Card Adventures (named after the yearly Travelcard that she used), took place at Piccadilly Circus tube station in 2005 as part of the Art on the Underground scheme.[13]

In 2005 to 2006, Harrison curated Day-to-Day Data, a group exhibition of "artists who collect list, database and absurdly analyse the data of everyday life".[14] The exhibition toured the UK, visiting Danielle Arnaud contemporary art, London, Aspex Gallery, Portsmouth and Angel Row Gallery, Nottingham. It was accompanied by a publication, a web-based exhibition and a symposium that took place at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London on 18 March 2006.[15]

Harrison's early "data collecting" projects were examples of what is now referred to as life-logging or the quantified self.[16] At the height of this work in 2005, she created the Daily Data Logger character[17] described as "an enthusiastic, data-collecting obsessive so keen on measuring / quantifying the things that surround her that she permanently dresses in a tracksuit (for easy manoeuvrability) and wears a utility belt jam-packed with data collecting devices".[18]

Her final major "data collecting" project was the three-year Tea Blog (1 January 2006 – 31 December 2008), for which she published online what she was thinking about every time she had a hot drink. As a very early example of microblogging, the popularity of Harrison's Tea Blog, prefigured that of the Twitter platform, which did not launch until mid 2006.[19]

In 2006, Harrison ceremoniously rejected her "data collecting" methodologies and entered into a period of self-reflection and re-invention in order to develop a "healthier and more outward looking practice".[16] The 2009 book about her work entitled Confessions of a Recovering Data Collector, explores the negative impact such practices can have on individuals and wider society and includes her own "confession" that: "Web2.0 has spawned a whole new generation of data collectors. There is now such a ridiculous abundance of boring information about other people's lives on the internet, I felt obliged to stop adding to it".[11] Harrison has since engaged in other activities that aim to draw attention to what she calls "the negative side effects of instantaneous ego-broadcasting"[20] including launching her own ongoing "active Twitter boycott" in July 2008.[21][promotion?]

Recent work[edit]

Although she still retains a core interest in data visualisation, Harrison's recent work is more overtly political.[22] She has used a mixture of sculpture, installation and live performance to respond to the British culture she grew up in and its dominant political and economic systems.[23] Her all-night live performance General Election Drinking Game coincided with the United Kingdom general election, 2010 in order to offer an alternative commentary on the results.[24] In 2011 her installation A Brief History of Privatisation, which used a circle of electric massage chairs to re-enact the history of UK public service policy over the last century, was exhibited at Watermans Arts Centre,[25] Edinburgh Art Festival[26] and Vane, Newcastle.[27] She collaborated with British comedian Josie Long to create an alternative live "tour" of the exhibition.[28]

Harrison often uses deliberately playful and accessible techniques to animate what could otherwise be seen as dull or obscure economic information.[29] Her 2009 installation The History of Financial Crises, (first exhibited at Mejan Labs, Stockholm for Harrison's two-person show Transfers & Actions with Casey Reas[30]), used a row of popcorn making machines to re-enact the history of capitalism over the last century. Harrison's Vending Machine (2009) has been exhibited at venues across the UK and Ireland and features an old vending machine reprogrammed (using an Arduino board controlled by a Pure Data patch) to release free crisps when search terms relating to the recession make the headlines on the BBC News RSS feed.[31] It now features in the permanent public art collection at the Open Data Institute, London.[32]

In 2012, Harrison researched the history of UK public spending on the arts for The Redistribution of Wealth, an interactive installation shown at Tate Britain, London as part of the Late at Tate series.[33] In 2014, she responded to the Referendum on Scottish Independence in the piece After the Revolution, Who Will Clean Up the Mess? at Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh. The installation featured a row of confetti cannons connected to a central detonation button, which would only be activated on the event of a "Yes" vote.[34][35]

In January 2016, it was announced that Harrison had been given a grant of £15,000 by Creative Scotland for her project The Glasgow Effect, causing controversy on social media.[36][37]


Harrison's growing interest in politics has increasingly moved her to direct political action, to the extent that her practice is now often described as "shifting between the roles of artist, activist and administrator".[38]

Harrison began campaigning for the protection of public services in 2008 as one of the leaders of a successful campaign to "Save Victoria Baths" in Nottingham from closure,[39] which resulted in Nottingham City Council committing £7 million to rebuild a new leisure centre on its existing site.[40]

In 2009, whilst studying at Glasgow School of Art, she began public transport campaigning by launching the Bring Back British Rail campaign.[41] Motivated by her concerns about climate change and the need to encourage the use of less carbon-intensive transportation,[42] she aimed to popularise the idea of returning Britain's rail network to public ownership, following its privatisation in 1994, when Harrison was 15 years old. Harrison has appeared on the Today programme,[43] Sky News,[44] RT News[45] and Russia Today,[46] and on other national and local BBC Radio programmes as the campaign's spokesperson.[47] In 2013 she was invited by Caroline Lucas MP to sit on "The Future of Our Railways" panel at the annual conference of the Green Party of England and Wales in Brighton.[48] On 26 April 2015, less than six years after its launch, the Bring Back British Rail campaign reached a milestone of 100,000 supporters on its Facebook page.[49] Later that year, after Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour Party, rail re-nationalisation became the Official Opposition policy.[50]

In 2013, Harrison led the "Say NO to Tesco in Scotland" campaign, which began as a protest against the proliferation of small supermarkets in the West end of Glasgow.[51] The campaign group presented a petition to "stop supermarket expansion on local high streets" to the Public Petitions Committee at the Scottish Parliament in January 2014.[52] In September 2014, after hearing the petition on three further occasions, the Committee referred it to the Local Government & Regeneration Committee to be considered in the context the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill.[53] In January 2015, due to falling sales and profit warnings in 2014, Tesco announced it was axing plans for eight new stores in Scotland[54] and closing 43 of its smaller stores across the UK.[55]

National Museum of Roller Derby[edit]

As an exploration of bureaucratic processes, over the last few years Harrison has been involved in the setting-up and running of a number of experimental and fully functional organisations and institutions,[22] including the National Museum of Roller Derby (NMRD), which she founded at Glasgow Women's Library in 2012.[56]

Harrison first became involved in the sport of Women's Flat Track Roller Derby at the start of 2012, when she began training with Glasgow Roller Derby under the skater name CH£AP SKATE 79.[57] This coincided with her time as artist in residence at Glasgow Women's Library as part of the 21 Revolutions project, celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the library. On 14 June 2012 the NMRD was launched, by establishing the library the official home of the UK's first permanent archive of materials and ephemeral relating to this all-female, full-contact sport.[58]

Awards and recognition[edit]

In 2011, Harrison was shortlisted for the Converse/Dazed Emerging Artists Award with the Whitechapel Gallery, London alongside Gabriele Beveridge, Bruce Ingram, Samuel Levack & Jennifer Lewandowski and Richard Parry.[59] Later that year she was featured in The Hot 100The List (magazine)'s "definitive list of Scottish creative talent"[60] and on The Independent on Sunday's Pink List as "one to watch".[61] In 2012, she was invited to be a member of the International Jury of the 6th Iris Prize[62] and to co-host, with Peter Tatchell, the awards ceremony for the inaugural Lush Prize in support of alternatives to animal testing.[63] In 2014, Harrison was shortlisted for the Best Artistic Response Award at the Climate Week Awards for her ongoing project Early Warning Signs.[64]

Notable works[edit]

Below is a list of all Harrison's notable works


  1. ^ Martin, Andrew (2015-08-08). "Let a Public Train take the Strain". The Guardian. London & Manchester: Guardian News & Media. p. 33. Retrieved 2015-08-24.
  2. ^ Morgan, Steve (2002-03-08). "Hard Act to Swallow" (PDF). Ealing & Acton Gazette. London: Trinity Mirror plc. p. 19. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  3. ^ "Ellie Harrison". Master of Fine Art Online Catalogue. Glasgow School of Art. 2010-06-12. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  4. ^ a b Jeffrey, Moira (2010-06-06). "The Finished Article" (PDF). Scotland on Sunday Review. Edinburgh: The Scotsman Publications Limited. p. 7. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  5. ^ a b "Graduate's Snappy Diet". BBC Nottingham. BBC. 2002-03-12. Archived from the original on 16 August 2005. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  6. ^ Morgan, Charlie (2014-01-17). "Object of the Month: Eat 22 (An Interview with Ellie Harrison)". Wellcome Collection Blog. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  7. ^ Colson, Richard (2007-11-19). The Fundamentals of Digital Art. London: AVA Publishing. pp. 68–69. ISBN 978-2-940373-58-1. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  8. ^ "Press". Eat 22. Ellie Harrison. 2007-06-21. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  9. ^ a b Arnold, Ken (26 May 2003). Treat Yourself: Health Consumers in a Medical Age. London: Science Museum. p. 82. ISBN 18-41-29044-0. Archived from the original on 5 October 2013. Retrieved 1 May 2014.
  10. ^ a b Kohn, Marek (2012-07-12). A Guide for the Incurably Curious. London: Wellcome Collection. pp. 76–77. ISBN 978-0-9570285-1-7. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  11. ^ a b c O'Reilly, Sally; Jones, Hannah; Harrison, Ellie (2009-04-23). Confessions of a Recovering Data Collector. Plymouth: Plymouth College of Art. ISBN 978-0-9557491-3-1. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  12. ^ a b Dillon, Tamsin (27 November 2007). Platform for Art: Art on the Underground (PDF). London: Black Dog Publishing. p. 91. ISBN 978-1-906155-06-3. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 1 May 2014.
  13. ^ a b Dillon, Tamsin (2005-01-17). "Gold Card Adventures". Art on the Underground. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  14. ^ a b "Day-to-Day Data". BBC Nottingham. BBC. 2005-07-05. Archived from the original on 27 September 2009. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  15. ^ "Day-to-Day Data". Exhibition Website. Arts Council England. 2006-03-18. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  16. ^ a b Gee, Emily; Myerson, Jeremy (2013-12-12). Time & Motion: Redefining Working Life. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press & FACT. pp. 120–123. ISBN 978-1-846319-66-2. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  17. ^ a b Briers, David (2006-04-01). "Insignificance" (PDF). Art Monthly. London: 7–10. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  18. ^ a b c Highmore, Ben; Cohen, Kris; Harrison, Ellie (2005-07-20). Day-to-Day Data. Nottingham: Angel Row Gallery. pp. 32–35. ISBN 978-0-905634-71-5. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  19. ^ a b "Two Years of Tea Blog". BBC Nottingham. BBC. 2008-01-03. Archived from the original on 5 January 2009. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  20. ^ Tolley, Gail, ed. (2010-12-03). New Forms of Collectivity. Glasgow: Central Station. pp. 148–149. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  21. ^ "Ellie Harrison". Twitter Boycott. Twitter. 2008-07-01. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  22. ^ a b c d e f Herbert, Martin (2011-05-01). "Profile: Ellie Harrison" (PDF). Art Monthly. London: 16–17. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  23. ^ "Mixing It Up: An Intergenerational Perspective (Ellie Harrison & Jordan McKenzie in conversation)". Artquest London. Vimeo. 2012-04-23. Retrieved 2014-10-01.
  24. ^ a b Ronay, Barney (2010-05-05). "Party Politics: Election Art". The Guardian. London & Manchester: Guardian News & Media. p. 17. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  25. ^ a b "Exhibitions: A Brief History of Privatisation (2011)". Watermans. 2011-03-11. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  26. ^ "Detours: Josie Long at Inspace". Edinburgh Art Festival. 2011-08-09. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  27. ^ a b c "Market Forces". Vane. 2011-10-31. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  28. ^ "A Brief History of Privatisation feat. Josie Long". 14c Film. Vimeo. 2011-10-31. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  29. ^ "Staff: Ellie Harrison". Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design. University of Dundee. 2013-04-01. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  30. ^ a b "Transfers & Actions". Mejan Labs. 2009-04-15. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  31. ^ a b "Budget Buzzwords Prompted Machine to Deliver Crisps". BBC News. BBC. 2010-03-24. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  32. ^ a b "Vending Machine (2009) Ellie Harrison". Open Data Institute. 2012-11-30. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  33. ^ a b "Late at Tate Britain: Acts of Legacy". Tate Britain. Tate. 2012-10-05. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  34. ^ a b Taylor, Rhona (2014-07-31). "Confetti Cannon Primed to Explode, or Maybe Not". The Times. London: News Corp. p. 16. Retrieved 2014-10-01.
  35. ^ a b Unwin Jones, Sarah (2014-08-09). "Getting Straight to the Point". The Herald Arts. Glasgow: Newsquest Media Group. p. 6. Retrieved 2014-10-01.
  36. ^ a b "Creative Scotland defends 'Glasgow Effect' arts project funding". BBC News. BBC. 2016-01-05. Retrieved 2016-01-05.
  37. ^ a b Hainey, Liam (2016-01-06). "Outraged over a £15,000 Glasgow art project? Look at the bigger picture". The Guardian. London & Manchester: Guardian News & Media. Retrieved 2016-01-07.
  38. ^ Jeffrey, Moira, ed. (22 July 2014). Generation: 25 Years of Contemporary Art in Scotland Guide. Edinburgh & Glasgow: National Galleries of Scotland & Glasgow Life. p. 195. ISBN 978-1-906270-71-1. Archived from the original on 8 November 2014. Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  39. ^ Palmer, Ed (2008-06-05). "Saviours Become Surveyors" (PDF). Nottingham & Trent Valley Journal. Nottingham. p. 8. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  40. ^ "Leisure Centre Gets £7m Promise". BBC News. BBC. 2008-03-18. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  41. ^ "Campaign History". Bring Back British Rail. 2009-07-29. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  42. ^ Harrison, Ellie (2014-01-09). "Power For The People!". The Ecologist. London. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  43. ^ "Today Programme". Bring Back British Rail. 2016-08-27. Retrieved 2016-09-11.
  44. ^ "Sky News". Bring Back British Rail. Vimeo. 2012-08-16. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  45. ^ "RT News". Bring Back British Rail. Vimeo. 2015-01-05. Retrieved 2015-01-09.
  46. ^ "Going Underground". Bring Back British Rail. Vimeo. 2014-01-06. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  47. ^ "Media Coverage". Bring Back British Rail. 2016-08-27. Retrieved 2016-09-11.
  48. ^ "Green Party Conference". Bring Back British Rail. Vimeo. 2013-09-16. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  49. ^ "Campaign Reaches 100,000 Likes". Bring Back British Rail. Facebook. 2015-04-26. Retrieved 2016-04-01.
  50. ^ "Labour conference: Rail nationalisation now official policy". BBC News. BBC. 2015-09-29. Retrieved 2016-04-01.
  51. ^ Roger, Hannah (2013-06-10). "Campaigners Hit Out at Plan For Tesco Store in West End". Evening Times. Glasgow: Newsquest. p. 19. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  52. ^ "Public Petitions Committee – Scottish Parliament: 28th January 2014". The Scottish Parliament. YouTube. 2014-01-28. Retrieved 2015-01-09.
  53. ^ "Supermarket Expansion on Local High Streets". The Scottish Parliament. 2014-01-28. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  54. ^ "Eight Planned New Tesco Stores in Scotland Shelved". BBC News. BBC. 2015-01-08. Retrieved 2015-01-09.
  55. ^ "Tesco to Close 43 Stores Despite Better Christmas Sales". BBC News. BBC. 2015-01-08. Retrieved 2015-01-09.
  56. ^ "National Museum of Roller Derby". Ellie Harrison. Vimeo. 2012-06-12. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  57. ^ a b McMurder, Moxie (2012-09-01). "National Museum of Roller Derby" (PDF). Lead Jammer. London: 14. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  58. ^ a b Patrick, Adele (3 March 2014). 21 Revolutions. Glasgow: Glasgow Women's Library & Freight Books. p. 149. ISBN 978-1-908754-44-8. Archived from the original on 21 June 2014. Retrieved 1 May 2014.
  59. ^ Teh, Terence (2011-10-01). "The Shortlist". Dazed & Confused. London: 122–125. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  60. ^ Ensall, Jonny (2011-12-06). "The Hot 100 2011". The List. Edinburgh: 24–25. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  61. ^ Herbert, Ian (2011-10-23). "The Pink List 2011". Independent on Sunday. London: Independent Print Limited. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  62. ^ "Jury 2012". Iris Prize. 10 October 2012. Archived from the original on 10 January 2013. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  63. ^ "2012 Awards Ceremony". The Lush Prize. 2012-11-15. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  64. ^ a b "Best Artistic Response". Climate Week Awards. 2014-03-04. Archived from the original on 22 September 2015. Retrieved 2015-03-08.