CGI Video, 20m, 2016

“I always wanted to be a sculptor. I remember going with my father to John Brown Shipyard in Clydebank where he worked. It was launch day of the QE2, the last of the great transatlantic liners. A thousand feet long, with eighteen hundred passengers and a thousand crew.

The Queen of England was there to do the honours. It was a tense moment as the liner rattled, swayed, tipped, and bounced, half submerged into the Clyde, then to raise itself and find its balance in the water...”


QE3 is speculative science-fiction documentary, a new commission for Glasgow International 2016, using video game aesthetics to explore the biennial's theme of the post-industrial cityscape. The project continues Lek's ongoing use of simulation as a means of social critique and utopian speculation.

The QE2 luxury cruise liner was built in the 1960s in Glasgow, shortly before the shipbuilding industry on the river Clyde largely shut down. It was bought in 2008 by investors in Dubai who wanted to turn it into a luxury hotel, but they ran out of funds during the financial crisis and it now lies indefinitely in dry dock.

The future of this vessel – a symbol of Glasgow's industrial heyday – is the subject of QE3. In the recent years, Glasgow has undergone a transformation, with investment in tourism, technology and the arts. It has moved from an industrial economy into a cultural centre, with the Glasgow School of Art at its heart. However, this success was interrupted by a fire at the art school in 2014 shortly after its new design building was opened.

In this fictional documentary, set in 2062, a sculptor (who was born in the same year the QE2 began construction), wants to buy the QE2 back to turn her into a new home for the Glasgow School of Art. Her life is intertwined with the history of the vessel, from her father working on its construction at John Brown shipyard, to her working as a singer on board during the 1980s, to its influence on her artistic practice.

The final form of the vessel – cut into two pieces and forming a new skyscraper over the cityscape – references the neoliberal regeneration strategies of commercial property development, while attempting to create a utopian scenario. Woven into the narrative are wider issues about the future of the EU, Scottish nationalism, and the dissolution of the United Kingdom.

The video takes the form of a guided tour through the past, present, and future of the QE2. Rendered like a first-person computer simulation, the narrator is a combination of both fictional sources and historical research about Glasgow. An original soundtrack by cellist and composer Oliver Coates accompanies the QE2 on its final cruise.

Glasgow International 2016. Tramway. 08.04.16 - 22.05.16


Glasgow International 2016 Press Release

More info︎︎︎

For the first time as part of the Director’s Programme, Tramway is home to a group show including artists Alexandra Bircken, Sheila Hicks, Lawrence Lek, Mika Rottenberg and Amie Siegel. The show is curated by the festival Director Sarah McCrory and co-designed by artist Martin Boyce.

The venues, organisations and artists are all fundamentally shaped by the city in which they are based. Glasgow plays an important role in the way these organisations and artists have developed and how and where they work.

Glasgow’s cultural spaces exist predominately as a result of its industrial legacy. The city’s wealth in the 18th and 19th centuries came predominately from industry, shipbuilding, metal-works, textiles and its role as a key trading port. Many of our galleries and museums are reclaimed spaces born from this wealth of industry. The Tramway exhibition space itself was an industrial space, functioning as a tram factory and depot from 1893 until the early 1960s, when Glasgow’s tram services stopped.

Works by the five artists focus on ideas of production, manufacture, material culture, design, history and labour, which all in turn reflect back out upon the city.

This is an opportunity to consider feminist practices, ideas of authenticity, skill and craft, as well as what it means to discuss the work of artists who make alongside artists who work with new technologies.

The exhibition design is by Glasgow-based artist Martin Boyce. His works include the use of industrial materials, for example concrete, expanded steel and industrial lighting which often relate to the natural world. For this exhibition, he has applied elements of his sculptural vocabulary to frame the artists’ works in this monumental space.

This exhibition is curated by Director, Sarah McCrory with production support from Tramway. It is programmed as part of Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design and supported by The Henry Moore Foundation.


Written, Directed, and Animated by Lawrence Lek

Music by Oliver Coates

Voiceover by Amy Riach

Architectural Model by Robin Simpson

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