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 Thomas is Head of Fine Art Photography at The Glasgow School of Art.

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’ . 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 […]

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 […]