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 […]

The Husbands Message

As I’m in the last week of my video postcard project for Colm Cille’s Spiral, in which I’ve been sending 15 second video postcards to whoever asks for one, I wanted to put down a couple of thoughts about one of the inspirations behind it, which I learned about from medieval literature PhD students at Kings College.

The Husband’s Message, an anonymous Old English poem, dates to around the 10th century and is one of the few surviving poetic compilations from the Anglo-Saxon period. Taken to be a love letter from a lord to his estranged wife, it nevertheless seems to be written from the perspective of the wood which bears the lines of the poem, that is, the object the husband sent out with his message:

 I remain true     to the tree I was hacked from
Wood I am, bearing     the marks of a man

The wood, which carries the message ‘cross the sea’ ‘borne on salt currents’, is therefore both a medium or a carrier for the content of the poem, and a speaker; it is a self-aware medium that both carries the message and reflects on its ability to carry it:

To you far away     I carry this message

However, the text of the poem is itself a medium, which casts it as a very early example of what Marshall McLuhan argued was characteristic of every medium: that its ‘content’ is always another medium, which ‘shapes and controls the scale and form of human association and action’. In other words, look at the wood (the medium) and its power to shape human experience through its ability to carry messages, not just the poem (its content)- which is what the speaker of The Husbands Message invites the […]

‘Antiphonal’ sound installation in Look Out Tower Lindisfarne and Crypt St Aidan’s Church Bamburgh

We were very excited about the resonances of having one site, on Lindisfarne, up high, with superb 360 degree views, and filled with light, whilst the other was underground, like a monk’s cell. The Lindisfarne Tower also looked across to Bamburgh on a clear day as well as down on St Cuthbert’s island and the colony of seals on the sandbar nearby. The actual installation went smoothly. Tom Schofield, the digital artist, brought another artist with him, Ben Freeth, and between them they wired and cut and got everything working. Our initial excitement was about the Tower and its wonderful views. In practice this has been the more difficult of the two sites. For one thing, when the tide is propitious Lindisfarne is extremely crowded through the summer, and hundreds of people are making their way to the Tower. This might seem good but they want to ralk raher than listen and have come there primarily to look.I had one experience when the installation came on and people stopped talking and stood quietly at the windows looking out. This is the effect that we wanted. Mostly, however, when I’ve been there it’s been uncomfortable because the crowds and the chatter and been unremitting. Another consequence has been that wires get disturbed – or else someone switches something off – and the installation has often been down. It won’t come back on unless someone re-boots the computer. I’m finding out about the problems of working ‘in the wild’, on an unsupervised site. The crypt, on the other hand, has worked beyond our dreams.The cool echoing space inspires listening, and the poems are cut to emphasize the word ‘solitude’ which resonates in the space. I’ve found […]

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 […]


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: or phoning: 0778 454 6910.