Vicissitudes, the River Foyle, Derry

It was a moment to reflect, sitting in the Colmcille, a 35ft replica ‘curragh’ (traditional open boat similar to that which Colm Cille may have sailed across to Iona) in the middle of the River Foyle, Derry, listening to Ceara Conway’s ‘Vicissitudes’, in the warm sunshine. Colm Cille’s Spiral is about connecting with the distant past, and the experience felt layered in time and space. Ceara’s gentle philosophical probings made us think about our own personal journeys, feeling quite insignificant in the expanse of water, but also what strengths there might be in collectively responding to our frustration for change in the face of the apparently immovable objects of global corporations, the church and state. We were still in the water, absorbing the  language, but not understanding Ceara’s laments in Irish …for a little time to pause.

It was quite a contrast to the night before, when the Foyle Embankment was packed with some 30,000 people from the city celebrating the Irish saint’s slaying of the Loch Ness Monster, apparently with a panoply of flood lights and dazzling fireworks. The procession earlier in the day brought on a mind boggling eclecticism of imagery – burning Viking ships, monks dancing to apparently Turkish drum and bass, other monks beating to the sounds with bones, young punks and older punks – the fantastic Undertones – and giant shirts (Derry was famous for shirt-making). I’m not sure what it all meant,  nor what Colm Cille would have made of it, but we had a great time none-the-less.

Ben Eastop

Derry…

Well, what a weekend. Ceara Conway’s ‘Vicissitudes’ project found us in the anchored in a curragh (a traditional Irish boat) in the middle of the River Foyle, one of the fastest flowing rivers in Europe, listening to a very moving performance of storytelling, philosophy and song. The performances really struck a chord with participants and seemed to fit perfectly into a Derry context. Four performances in a sunny afternoon to a boat full of people told tales of loss, absence and grief in words and song.  The performance appealed to both the intellect and to the heart, mixing elements of myth, traditional song and speculation on the human condition in the twenty-first century. The response was wholly positive with people describing the event as very emotional, something unusual in contemporary art . It was also quite noticeable (and very welcoming) that most of those who booked to go on the boat were not from an art background but constituted the many communities that make up the city. Accompanying the performance was a sound installation which was heard by literally thousands of people. The sound of traditional Irish song and Gregorian chants floating across the water certainly made an impression which was every bit as effective as the major spectacle events that were occurring in the city this weekend. Thanks to everyone who made the performance and sound installation possible and to everyone that came to listen to and participate in the project.

 

Photographs Courtesy of Laura Mc Laughlin

Vicissitudes. Exile, Ritual and Lament

Vicissitudes marks the beginning of the first commission of Colm Cille’s Spiral.
The setting is the marina on the Foyle Marina, Queen’s Quay, Derry, Northern Ireland. The river is the fastest flowing in the country and Derry city holds strong connections to Saint Colm Cille.

The date is 9th June, St. Colm Cille’s feast day, when celebrations and festivities take place to commemorate the patron Saint.

Vicissitudes is a voice and sound performance that explores themes of exile and immigration, the lament and economic myths inherent to the life of Colm Cille.

Artist Ceara Conway will be doing this performance in the Colmcille curragh (pictured below) on the River Foyle this Sunday 09th June. Performance times: 1.45pm, 2.30pm, 3.15pm & 4.00pm. Places on the boat are free but limited so booking is required either by emailing me on: mckeever.maggie@gmail.com or phoning: 0778 454 6910.

 

 

Thoughts following the Curators Conclave, King’s College, London

At the recent Curators Conclave at King’s College London, Professor Michelle Brown talked in her introduction to the group about ‘peregrinatio’, the pilgrimage. To set off on a journey without direction or guidance except from the Spirit of God, Michelle also talked about other aspects of this journey as being one of ‘spirals and eddies’; a ‘seeding within of influences elsewhere and the opportunity to bring back other influences’. For pilgrim monks, to become ‘peregrini’ or strangers by leaving home for distant lands, their journey and the attainment of isolation was about access to a spiritual life. If, from a contemporary perspective we depart for the distant lands of the past, what are we attempting to attain and what other aspects along the way should we be or become aware of?

The proposal for the Scottish Spiral is for a group of scholars and artists to travel (less romantically by Citylink) and ferry to the island of Raasay off Skye. Scotland’s Spiral forms a process of purposeful enquiry and creative dialogue, creating a ‘journey of ideas’ which links creative and research practices. The project title, ‘convocation’, means ‘a calling together’. ‘The Spiral’ is a common form in manuscripts and monuments, which amongst various meanings represents the dialectic; a method of debate for resolving disagreement.

The format of the event itself echoes the dynamic of the ‘spiral’ rather than a circle or cycle, with the group gathering in Raasay(Ruminatio), then dissipating (Meditatio), then re-gathering in Glasgow (Revelatio). The aim is to create new knowledge through making contemporary responses to the extreme past. To aid this enquiry and engagement, the group will respond to a series of questions established at the start of the project. The questions will […]

Curators’ Conclave

I was invited to take part in the Curators’ Conclave in King’s College, London on Wednesday 22nd May. This offered ourselves as curators from the six knots of the Spiral, medievalist historians and Difference Exchange to meet to share ideas, interpretations and debates surrounding Colm Cille’s legacy and how we feel visual and literary art can represent this.

It was interesting to hear medievalist, Michele Brown talking about questioning her role as an historian and what drives her.  To “fire the imagination” and to question medieval society and in turn, reflect on the issues and values of society today. I noticed that common themes in Colm Cille’s story arose; information flow, ownership and copyright, all of which are topical with the rise of the digital, open access to information and knowledge online.

In Colm Cille’s time oral storytelling were traditional ways to safe keep information, which leaves many gaps in knowledge. Perhaps literary and visual arts can play an interpretive role of filling in the grey areas of knowledge to create new possibilities. Instead of establishing historical facts, the knots may be open ended and ephemeral, we ask more questions rather than answering them.

Curators from the six knots or “themes” gave us an insight into their work with the chosen artists, scholars or illuminators; discussing approaches, outcomes and ways of representation. Interpretations ranged from song performances on a boat, sound installations in a crypt, literary interpretations, google algorithms, tours of hidden relics and exchanges of knowledge, which cross over cultures and languages.

We discussed the state of flux that the projects are in and how the six knots could be represented as a whole. Is physical representation in a gallery space necessary? Or could it be an […]