Hidden messages

Would you like to receive a personal, private video postcard sent directly to your email address as part of my commission for the London & Essex Knot of Colm Cille’s Spiral?

Between the 8th August- 12th September, send me a message when you want to receive a video; I will respond as quickly as possible from wherever I am, whatever it is I’m doing.

In exchange, I would like you to ‘complete’ the video by adding the meta-data: a title, 3 or more tags (i.e. keywords that could describe the video I send- you can be as creative or deadpan as you like…), and optionally a caption.

These will be used as meta-data for a corresponding blank/ contentless video on Instagram, and also in the final piece,  including an exhibition in Derry in December.
Your response can be credited or anonymous, whatever you prefer.



As part of the London & Essex knot of the Colm Cille Spiral commission, I will be sending a series of personal videos to friends, family and network connections (i.e Twitter followers, Facebook friends, past collaborators)  over the course of a journey across Europe to Paris, Venice and Greece between August 8th and September 12th.

Using Instagram, videos will take the form of postcards: diaritistc/ subjective reflections on the current location and my experience of it, with a personalised element, so that, like a postcard each message is specifically addressed to that individual. Amplifying the intrusion of social media into our daily lives- and holidays- I will respond to people’s requests from wherever I am, whatever I happen to be doing; in this way, the recipients have an element of control over the situation I make the video in, heightening the illusion of immediacy and instantaneous […]

Some reflections on ‘Interruptions: New ways to know the medieval at Bradwell’

I had organised events before, but never in a remote church dating from the seventh-century; I’d asked scholars to speak about their research before, but had never asked them to interrupt their academic practices; I’d been nervous about arranging gatherings before, but had never been so uncertain about what might, or might not, unfold.

These were my concerns as the day for ‘interruptions’ – at once a challenge, a chance, and a choice to do something new with the early medieval – drew nearer.

It was a bewildering prospect: to invest time and energy into something and then to be suddenly cast into the role of a helpless observer; to put your trust in the talent and generosity of a group of people and yet to know that they, too, had doubts about what might actually take place.

After five or more years of studying it full-time, Old English has become valuable to me. Could an unconventional approach to medieval ‘scholarship’ expose or undermine its worth in some way?

I needn’t have worried. Improvisation gave the day its charm; spontaneity gave it its energy.

Drawing on the key features, figures and histories of the Chapel of St Peter-on-the-Wall, a group of postgraduate researchers from King’s College London were invited to use the site to explore new and ethical ways of sharing their knowledge of the Early Middle Ages.

Vicky Walker started off by greeting everyone who’d come along and presented each person with what she called an ‘interrupted map’ of the site; these were partly visual, partly verbal maps, with words in Latin, Old English and Modern English to represent layers of time, constructed and collapsed into one space, recalling the medieval and Roman past, while also speaking for the […]

Talking Books: Lindisfarne, Bamburgh and Bradwell-on-Sea

In the space of five days last week, I visited first – and alone – the poetry installation of ‘Antiphonal’ by Tom Schofield, sound and interaction artist, in the crypt of St Aidan’s Church, Bamburgh, on a Sunday afternoon, next, on the Monday – and in the company of Linda Anderson of Newcastle University – the complementary installation of ‘Antiphonal’ in the Lookout Tower on Lindisfarne, and finally, on the Thursday – in the company of assorted medievalists, artists, curators and Difference Exchangers – I travelled on to the Chapel of St Peter-on-the-Wall, Bradwell-on-Sea to engage in the unfolding of new ways to know the past in London and Essex. That’s two knots in Colm Cille’s Spiral: The Word (Newcastle, Lindisfarne and Bamburgh); and Ethical Knowledge (London and Essex). And a journey of my own making to listen to poetry, in place, and to think about we can know of the past from the ways in which we respond to it in the present.
 ‘Antiphonal’ is an installation in two parts, in two places, drawing on the multiple voices of the poems commissioned for The Word by Sean O’Brien, Colette Bryce, Alistair Elliot, Cynthia Fuller, Peter Armstrong, Pippa Little, Bill Herbert, Peter Bennet, Christy Ducker, Gillian Allnut, Linda France, and Linda Anderson. The poems are also brilliantly edited by Colette Bryce as Shadow Script: Twelve Poems for Lindisfarne and Bamburgh, which has just been published by the Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts, and is on sale from there as well as on site. (http://www.ncl.ac.uk/ncla/news/item/shadow-script-twelve-poems-for-lindisfarne-and-bamburgh)

I have been carrying this book around with me for a while now and, having heard ‘Antiphonal’, I know that I will return to it and to these poems […]

An introduction to Raasay

As we prepare for our trip to Raasay on 12 August, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raasay, a little about this island which lies off Skye and is one of the Inner Hebridean Islands. Raasay has views over The Sound of Raasay to Skye, and the Inner Sound to Applecross. In ‘The Life of St Columba’ by Abbot Adomnan, there are numerous occasions where “…there came a shout across the sound”, as pilgrims to Iona would call across to the monks to send a boat over to them. I am quite intrigued to see if any of the artists in the group pick up on the reference to Sound and Inner Sound, and the tangential connection of the relationship between Speaker, Listener, and the communication that ensues.

Raasay was birthplace and home of Gaelic poet Sorley Maclean http://www.sorleymaclean.org/english/. ‘Hallaig’ (this post’s photo, by Emma Nicolson, is of ‘Hallaig’), on Raasay, is one of his poems which, set at twilight, focuses on this deserted township on Raasay, which had been decimated during the Highland Clearances. The first line of the poem, translated by Seamus Heaney reads, “Time, the deer, is in Hallaig Wood”. The Norse name Raasay means ‘Isle of the Roe or Red Deer’.

Raasay House, an outdoor activity centre where the group will stay, was once visited by Boswell and Johnson in 1773, during their expedition which became ‘The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides’. Reputedly, Boswell became drunk both nights that he stayed there.

Local author Roger Hutchinson who wrote ‘Calum’s Road’ will give a talk to the group during our stay on Raasay. Calum MacLeod lived at the northern end of Raasay and during his lifetime had seen the population of his community decline. During his time off, over […]

Vicissitudes Film Clip

This short clip of  ”Vicissitudes. Exile, Ritual and Lament” gives an insight into Ceara’s interpretation of Colm Cille and the “Voice” theme for the Derry commission on June 9th. Combining sean-nós singing (traditional Irish song), along with fragments of her experiences journeying on the Colm Cille trail and the historical, religious, political and cultural figures she met along the way. The audience engaged with her on topics such as exile, the idea of home and spirituality in a unique setting on a curragh along the River Foyle.

The performance was experiential; the curragh and its short journey on the River Foyle created an atmosphere that was intimate and spiritual. Even though we were a mere few metres within sight of the city of Derry, the journey felt secluded and offered a time to reflect, be still and listen. Every person on the boat seemed to have a personal connection with the stories, symbols and topics that Ceara sang and discussed. Each passenger was gifted with keepsakes; a handmade broighter boat, a packet of soil from St. Colmcille’s grave (believed to protect your home from fire when put in your fireplace) and a photograph of Paddy Gillespie from Gleann ColmCille with a healing stone, which is associated with the saint.

The “Vicissitudes” sound installation was installed on the Marina on the River Foyle and passers by could catch fragments on the wind as they walked. It included snippets of interviews and songs. I picked up on elements of conversations about the lost act of creation, how in the past people were impulsed to create as part of human nature and a song of a teacher on an island who lost all his books on a boat journey […]

Thomas Joshua Cooper goes to Skye and Raasay

Thomas Joshua Cooper becomes the first artist from the Scottish knot ‘Convocation’ to make the journey out to Skye and Raasay. Yesterday he met Emma Nicolson from Atlas. Thomas has his 19th Century camera with him. His aim is to take pictures at the 4 cardinal points of Skye and then Raasay. He has also expressed an interest in the town of Kilbride with its standing stone (Clach na h-Annait), the site of an ancient chapel (or annat) and an ancient well (Tobar na h-Annait) with a stone cover. Newly-wed brides were, according to local tradition, brought to the well to ensure fertility. To look at more of Thomas’s wider work http://www.inglebygallery.com/artists/thomas-joshua-cooper/ Thomas is Head of Fine Art Photography at The Glasgow School of Art.

Interruptions: a site visit (map and video)

Approaching St Peter’s chapel, the building itself is out of sight until the very last moment. A cycle to the site provided time to reflect on the surrounding area: the Anglo-Saxon place names, the close proximity of the sea (albeit also hidden from view for much of the time), and the richness of the farming landscape. How might exploring and understanding the landscape, and how humans have worked within it over the centuries, enable us to think about the early Christian community in new ways?

View St Peter’s at Bradwell in a larger map


Interruptions: A Site Visit







On Saturday 6 July I travelled to St Peter’s Church, Bradwell on Sea, with Carl Kears, a PhD student at King’s College London, and Fran Allfrey, an MA student at King’s. The trip was part of the preparations for Interruptions: New Ways to Know the Medieval at Bradwell, an event which will take place at the church as part of the Ethical Knowledge knot on 25 July and during which a group of postgraduate researchers at King’s will present their own responses to Colm Cille’s Spiral. It became clear that we needed to visit the church during the preliminary workshops with Marc Garrett, Erica Scourti and Clare Lees. As we were thinking through Marc’s brief and began working with his ideas of connectivity, hacking, data exchange, community and power, we realised that a key element of the project had to be the location of our own meditations and exchanges: St Peter’s Church.

The site of St Peter’s is actually beyond Bradwell. To get there you have to travel through a series of small, self-contained villages (many, such as Asheldham, Tillingham and Bradwell itself revealing their early medieval heritage through their names). Bradwell is six miles from the nearest train station, and the church a couple of miles beyond Bradwell. With this in mind, originally we had planned to drive to St Peter’s. However, we realised that we would get a much better sense of how the church is located within its landscape by approaching it by bike (of course, foot would have been better, but the distances involved made this simply impractical). We got the train from London to Southminster and from there rode through the winding, hedged lanes to Bradwell.

As we cycled towards […]

By |July 9th, 2013|Ethical Knowledge|Comments Off on Interruptions: A Site Visit

Folding time: ‘The Middle Ages in the Modern World’ conference 28.6.13

St Andrews University was founded in 1413, towards the end of the Middle Ages, in the year that Henry V became king. Myself, John Hartley (Difference Exchange) and Professor Clare Lees (Kings College) found ourselves 600 years later in the throng of the ritual of graduation at University of St Andrews, in amongst a large flock of medievalists exploring ‘The Middle Ages in The Modern World’.

Our purpose was to deliver a collaborative paper ‘A Kink in Colm Cille’s Spiral’, which outlined the Colm Cille Spiral project and aimed to ‘demonstrate the value of radical re-imagination for both artistic and academic approaches and insights.’

One of the key thoughts to come out of the paper was as Clare put it, ‘a folding of time and disciplinary distance’, with the projects working in a cross-disciplinary format with academics, historians, artists and poets. Clare further coined the phrase ‘reverse flow’, stating that the normal procedure was to use the past as a resource for the present, but that in this project she truly believed the present could be a resource for understanding the past through ‘historical readings coming into contact with unlikely contemporary touchstones’.

The other art-related session we saw that day at the conference was by Dr Neil Mulholland and Norman Hogg, who delivered an elegiac dystopian presentation from their forthcoming publication ‘thN Lng folk 2go’ by the collective ‘The Confraternity of Neoflagellants’ www.confraternityofneoflagellants.org.uk . The group’s by-line is ‘Investigating Premodern Futures’, which again sees this folding of time. The audience was presented with scenes, objects and shamans from contemporary culture, filtered through the gaze of neomedievalism. Mundane car parts became the artefacts of our age and Celine Dion was seen as a Saint.

With a conference-goer making the […]

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