Completing The Fold

Colm Cille’s Spiral has been a complex project with many elements. It addressed the apparently remote history of a 6th Century monk about which, as Clare Lees said in closing remarks to the project ‘We know nothing – right? Nothing’. It was firstly perhaps a project about the difficulties of history. It took place around six locations or knots, and each of these fractured into multiple locations (ultimately at least twelve places across the British Isles were sites for work, with others from the UK Ireland and Greece brought into play). So the project was also on the surface about territory in some way. It was ‘delivered’ by twenty-six artists and poets of varying artforms across those locations and resulted in some amazing and rich works. It gives a flavour of the richness of the project to note the media and practices included (poetry, typography, ceramics, photography, video, sound work, walking, singing, sailing, sculptural objects and installation, drawing, and the growing and documenting of online communities). A deeper look at the works, covered in more depth elsewhere on this website could extend this list. These artists have been supported and guided by five arts organisations, five universities, four independent curators and a network of advisors. This scope of time, place, people and institution gives a good idea of the projects’ complexity.

However it is important to distinguish between complexity and complication, because all these voices were navigating through and illuminating the same project and formed a related investigation around an easily grasped central point of gravitation. By finding their own interpretations and using their own networks and techniques these multiple voices were helping us all work through our own understandings.

The project was initiated by Difference […]

‘The Fold, A Creative Convention after Colm Cille’, ‘Colm Cille’s Spiral’, 30 Nov – 1 Dec 2013, Derry~ Londonderry

Colm Cille, the founding father of Derry, is attributed in a poem as describing the city as follows:

“The reason I love Derry /Is its quietness, its purity/ For full of angels white it is/ From one end to the other”.

We arrive in the city for our concluding event, ‘The Fold’, at a time when it could be described as busier than Colm Cille envisaged it in his mind’s eye, with impressive queues for the Turner Prize, nightly gatherings in squares to see the Lumiere Festival projections and generally a city and audience confidently in full swing for all the cultural offerings of Derry~Londonderry City of Culture 2013. With this event ‘The Fold’, The City of Culture itself and London Street Gallery become the containers for all six knots of ‘Colm Cille’s Spiral’.

There was a word regarding Celtic Art that Dr Katherine Forsyth (Reader, Celtic and Gaelic Dept, University of Glasgow) used in her presentation at CCA in Glasgow back in October:  ‘interlace’. Interlace refers to the complex geometric patterns on stones, manuscripts and on jewellery, where motifs are looped, and braid and knots intertwine. The detail is so extraordinary that in some of the manuscript illustrations, it would take a magnifying glass to see the full picture. This word ‘interlace’ describes my understanding of this multi-layered project.

So, if we pick up the magnifying glass and hold it up to ‘Colm Cille’s Spiral’ at its conclusion – ‘The Fold’- what can we see? The ‘interlace’ brings into full view the ‘knots’ of Glasgow / the Hebrides, Newcastle/ Lindisfarne / Bamburgh, Derry, Dublin, London / Bradwell-on-Sea and Lichfield / Llandeilo. The ‘interlace’ also braids the past and present, mirrored by a key objective of ‘Colm Cille’s […]

Responding to Convocation, Glasgow, October 2013

So it takes me a bit of time to formulate my thoughts following the exhibition and discussion event in CCA Glasgow and Glasgow School of Art, but here’s a start at a response.

And, yes, indeed you certainly convocated (my spell-check doesn’t like that verb and keeps correcting it to ‘convicted’—a good sign, I think). The show is terrific and I wish I had time to look again so I’m eager to see the documentation on flickr.

Augustus: wisdom is in and out of the box, isn’t it? I’ve been thinking about revelations (revelatio!), confessions and curtains since we spoke and I do look forward to seeing the full piece, even as the house of light reflects and resonates with the other pieces in the exhibit as well as with Colm Cille himself, the meaning of his book, and his own light-shows—those tremendous columns of white light with which he is associated by Adomnan.

Caroline: the puns are natural (in nature) as well as in the ‘I’, Iona, and islands, and Colm Cille, aren’ they? And the ‘offering’ of the work is well taken. I’m still thinking about how you distributed the work across the space of the exhibition and what this says about any ‘ego’, about how peat carries time with, or is it in, it, and the  book as object and relic. You distilled something in this.

Edwin: ah, maps of gold: you put us on the map, rhymed your map with early maps, and so illumined our convocation at Raasay. It’s a great response to ideas about place that the larger project of Colm Cille’s Spiral is trying to articulate. Of course, there are no maps of the period of Colm Cille (mapping was […]

From Wales to Lichfield for a discussion evening about ‘Y Llyfr : The Book’.

It is a day of cloud and heavy rain, and a filthy journey on the way round Worcestershire, Warwickshire and Satffordshire. Richard and I arrive and prepare. We have heard that Bethan is detained at her school and can’t join us. We have slides of her work with children, so an image and reportage will have to stand in for her testimony.

We sit towards the rear of the Nave during sung Evensong. The sound of the invisible choir echoes, whilst the spoken word through the amplification system seems curiously further away. Chris Gray, the operations manager at the Cathedral, explains that the screen and chairs are grouped around the display cases, but there is no artificial light in that location. One desklight, the projection and the internal lighting of the cases creates an intimate space within the vast darkness of the Cathedral for the small group of volunteers and staff who gather around us.

I am delighted by the level of understanding the talk seems to generate. Either people are being very polite, or the idea does communicate in an immediate way. Perhaps both.

The next day I am at the ‘engage’ annual conference, in Birmingham. People who weren’t at the talk the night before ask me how it went. One describes the project to a colleague. I am struck by Mike Clark’s comment when we installed in Llandeilo: we three are like pilgrims, in as much as what we have to say to people as we go along is as much to do with the stories that develop on the journey as with the ideas having an ending.

A week later we head to Llandeilo. Mike Clark has suggested I join the parish’s “men’s prayer breakfast”, […]

By |November 25th, 2013|The Book|0 Comments

Leaving Lichfield Post Storm

Monday / Tuesday 28/29 October


Leaving Lichfield post storm, we see the Malvern Hills picked out in the clear sky. we reflect on the day.

Beth’s photographs of the windows in Llandeilo are set against the view of the Cathedral from the café. We couldn’t have baked potato this time as there was a 30 minute wait. The quiche was very nice, however. The manageress discusses the uncanny resemblance of Richard’s imagination drawing of Lichfield Cathedral to the real thing.

In the Cathedral Beth’s book looks simple and beautiful. Richard’s horse has people talking. Whilst giving out the information, and attaching the handling version of Beth’s book to a table found by the Head of Operations, I discuss the project with two very pleasant and engaged volunteers, and am pleased to know they enjoy the idea and the work.

After Strensham Services, the half way point of the journey, we turn down the Severn and Wye Valleys.

The car halts for 30 minutes at the Bryn Glas tunnels. I know their name as they are so often featured on traffic news. This, I comment, is the same length as a wait for baked potatoes for which we received a personal apology at Chapters Café.

The following day in Llandeilo is bright, clear, crisp. Mike makes us welcome. He has brought orange chocolate club biscuits as well as ‘ordinary’ biscuits. We make final decisions on the locations for work, and gradually feel a sense of comfort in the Church.

As we are installing the Vicar and his wife call by to see how we are getting on. We discuss ideas of exchange, sharing, communication between very different places, and the importance of Derry-Londonderry as a place where the two poles of our […]

By |November 25th, 2013|The Book|0 Comments

Dublin’s Objects: walking back and down through time

At the steps of the Royal Irish Academy founded in 1785 ‘to promote the study of science, polite literature and antiquities’, the start of our walking tour for Colm Cille – The Object. Enter a hushed library with dark wood book casements and galleries above, green lamps hanging low over tables above the heads of readers. It’s reverential, a true repository of knowledge.

The cathach or ‘battle book’, one of Ireland’s most rare objects containing examples of some of the earliest Gaelic writing, has been brought out for display specially for the four walking tours. All that remains of the psalter, allegedly written by Colm Cille (although more likely a later origin) copied from Biblical texts of the period, are the remnants of its pages, torn and browned at the edges, mounted in a modern binding. I can’t take a photo. Cathach means ‘war’ in Irish – the book was taken into battle, a talismanic weapon that ensured victory, which also had other powers – when dipped in a pond the water was made save for cattle to drink from.

The cathach was traditionally kept in a gold and silver shrine, elaborately decorated – now on display next to a crozier at the National Museum. I peer into the glass, listening to our excellent guide from Trinity College. I try to imagine the shrine not in a modern museum vitrine, but slung around the neck of a holy man, leading the clan into battle through mud and gore.

And to the Book of Kells at Trinity College, I strain my eyes drilling into the intricacy of the design, and wonder at the author’s hand, the colours made from natural pigments still vivid after the passing of centuries. […]

By |November 24th, 2013|The Object|0 Comments

Convocation Exhibition Post 11: Emma Balkind

Emma Balkind

(CCA event only)

Raasay ASMR  

“My role on the residency was an illuminator. For this I decided to take along an audio recorder to bring back something of the trip for those of you who were not on it with us. A week on Raasay yielded hours of recordings, and so in order to reflect on the conversations we had together on Raasay, I have picked out some moments which I felt were representative of different aspects of the trip.

People sang, spoke in different languages, taught us skills, read to us, exercised, played instruments, shared stories, gave tarot readings, swam in the sea and shared every meal together. We spent a lot of time outdoors on Raasay, walking and discussing, but mainly listening. I have included some of the sounds of this place and time as we experienced it.”

Emma Balkind is an AHRC PhD Candidate at the Glasgow School of Art. 

Convocation Exhibition Post 10: Francis McKee

Drafts and Fragments from Raasay, Francis McKee, 2013

A new publication presented a diary from Francis McKee’s time on Raasay.


A medievalist: Professor Clare Lees, is explaining to us that Columba and his monks were heavily influenced by the desert fathers – early Christians who retreated to the Scetes desert in Egypt to live as hermits or in monasteries. Rejecting all luxury they dwelt in the utmost simplicity, their lives shaped by the discipline of the monastic routine or by solitary prayer and meditation. Iona was founded on similar principles. The Atlantic ocean became the desert of the Western monks and the islands of the Hebrides were retreats from the mainland…..

Convocation Exhibition Post 9: Johnny Rodger

Where there is a woman, video, 4 mins, filmed by Talitha Kotze, edited by Ry McLeod

Where there is a woman looks at gender relations in the context of the sea journey, the lyric, the meeting of ocean and land, and the identity of territory. The Gaelic proverb attributed to Columba translates as: ‘Where there is a cow there is a woman. Where there is a woman there is trouble’.

(Gaelic proverb attributed to St Columba / video of women singing and reciting / plan of 2ndC  BC underground tunnel in Raasay / section of spiral form of Dante’s hell / 7thC Latin text of men on sea journey with monsters / 18thC Gaelic text of men on sea journey with monsters)

Johnny Rodger is Reader in Urban Literature at the Glasgow School of Art.

Convocation Exhibition Post 8: Michail Mersinis


Relic I-VII.  Silver gelatine Prints, 8×10” inches



Hours I – Prime (the new hour). Reversed photographic negative backed with solid sterling silver, 20×24” inches

Hours II – Terce (the golden hour). Reversed photographic negative backed with solid sterling silver, 20×24” inches

Hours III – Sext  (the hour of light). Reversed photographic negative backed with solid sterling silver, 20×24” inches

Hours IV – None (the hour of temptation). Reversed photographic negative backed with solid sterling silver, 20×24” inches

Hours V – Vespers (the hour of contemplation). Reversed photographic negative backed with solid sterling silver, 20×24” inches

Hours VI– Compline (the hour of prayer). Reversed photographic negative backed with solid sterling silver, 20×24” inches

Hours VII- Matin (the longest hour). Reversed photographic negative backed with solid sterling silver, 20×24” inches



1. Longtitude, solid steel plate cut with water, 8×10” inches

2. Latitude, solid steel plate cut with water, 8×10” inches

3. Elevation, solid steel plate cut with water, 8×10” inches

4. Summer Time, solid steel plate cut with water, 8×10” inches

5. Winter Time, solid steel plate cut with water, 8×10” inches

6. Magnetic Declination, solid steel plate cut with water, 8×10” inches

7.Tide, solid steel plate cut with water, 8×10” inches

The work on the project is concerned with the notions of time and place. Making a single picture on each of the canonical hours, which mark the divisions of the day in terms of periods of fixed prayer at regular intervals an attempt is made to connect with a time that has passed. Each hour and each division of the day is characterised by conditions. Conditions of light and conditions of activity describe and organise each day that passed and is to come. The monks that followed this strict structure did so with the intention of allowing for themselves the opportunity to venture on devotional pilgrimages each day. The series of […]