Graham Fagen

Missing, T5, Tramway

25 Albert Drive, Glasgow

0845 330 3501 and

Until October 2 

Graham Fagen’s video installation starts with a familiar metaphor of two identical seas set against a white, washed-out, wintry sky. The waves tumble and fall relentlessly. In the world beyond, people are going about their business, living their lives in public places and private spaces.

Running in tandem with Andrew O’Hagan’s stage adaptation of his 1995 book, The Missing, at Glasgow’s Tramway, Fagen’s work comprises two large screens side by side in a large empty space. While the stage production falls under the auspices of the National Theatre of Scotland, Fagen’s installation has been commissioned by the National Galleries of Scotland. Following on from its premiere at Tramway, it will be shown at the refurbished gallery when the Scottish National Portrait Gallery reopens in November.

Both films run simultaneously, pulling the eye in two directions. On the left hand side, a hand-held camera takes the viewer on a journey from litter-strewn lanes and woods of Irvine, the 1960s North Ayrshire new town where both Fagen and O’Hagan grew up, via Glasgow to the bright lights and back streets of London.

Some of the sights are familiar: discarded mattresses, wee boys playing on a trampoline, an escalator leading up to a shopping mall. The action moves to a sleet-lashed mock Gothic church by the side of the M8 in Glasgow, then to a bustling Buchanan Street before heading to the Barrowland Ballroom in the city’s east end, where the letters light up one by one. The journey moves on by train to King’s Cross in London and to Buckingham Palace and Piccadilly.

On the right-hand screen, from the starting point of Irvine Harbour Point, which indicates the number of nautical miles to far-flung places such as Argentina, China and Latvia, we retreat into an interior life. There’s a mantelpiece with two vases of wilting flowers, a very ordinary sofa, a jumble of shoes in a rack, an unmade bed covered in an IKEA duvet. The camera lingers on a closed front door.

A woman reads Kate McCann’s book about her missing daughter Madeleine while a child’s voice shouts “hello!” in the background. An older man watches convicted serial killer Peter Tobin on the news and a younger man calls up the infamous photo-fit picture from the 1960s of the killer known as Bible John on a PC.

Bible John was said to have met his victims at the Barrowland Ballroom before murdering them. Was Peter Tobin really Bible John? The view on the other screen of St Patrick’s RC Church in Anderston, Glasgow where Tobin murdered Polish student Angelika Kluk, forces us to make connections in the corner of the mind.

It’s a powerful piece of work, and Fagen asks if I am miserable after watching it when we meet for a coffee in the Tramway cafe. The remark is jokey but, in truth, the film does leave me feeling anxious and, as the mother of two young children, hyper-aware of the dangers which lurk in the most ordinary places.

Fagen explains he was approached to make the artwork back in January by James Holloway, director of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

“I don’t think they were aware I knew Andy,” he says. “But we grew up together in Irvine and were in bands together as teenagers.”

This unique partnership enabled both men -- now in their 40s -- to take stock of the subject matter which O’Hagan first explored as a young writer almost 20 years ago.

“We’ve talked about this a lot,” says Fagen, who spent time as a war artist in 1999. “I went to Kosovo and had a job to do and I got on with it. Andy says the same thing about interviewing people for The Missing as a young would-be writer in his 20s. He asked very direct questions in a matter-of-fact way of people whose family members had gone missing.”

Fagen admits the experience of making the film has been an emotional one. “Now I have children of my own -- as Andy does -- I find myself thinking about how hard it is for those left behind. You have the conjecture and the doubt. You hear stories about people leaving their front door unlocked and the bedrooms of the missing person untouched for years. I think the toughest thing about the whole business of missing people is the ambiguity.”

Back in the gallery, the twin screens keep rolling and the double lives continue.