In Praise of Conjecture, 8 minute .mov, ink and gouache on paper, custom airbrush t-shirt, 4 used books, MDF, (2013) with ‘’Saint Assent’ (11 minute mp3) by David Steans with Iona Smith.


The title is inspired by Desiderius Erasmus’s parodic essay ‘In Praise of Folly’. My own copy of the essay is displayed in book form as part of my response to the residency, which consists of four components laid flat on a single, coffin-esque, plinth: a video, a drawing, used books and a custom airbrush t-shirt. In addition, a commissioned ballad is emitted from inside the plinth.


The video merges footage taken during a promotional interview arranged and shot by GSA Exhibitions department halfway through the residency and footage shot by myself intermittently throughout the residency. I was asked to describe what it was like to work with my fellow residents and what I thought about the ‘mandatory’ reading of The Life of St. Columba. Incidentally, I did not make it to the end of the book. Instead, adopting the viewpoint that just as much, if not more, significance can be gleaned from observing the benefactors of a nationwide project such as this than its supposed cultural target(s), I treated my own unrehearsed answers to the questions from the interview as starting points to make my overall response. The two types of footage differ markedly in their approach. In both I saw ritual behaviour being played out. I wanted to highlight this affinity without labouring upon it too forcefully in postproduction – to mirror in the viewing the conflicted and somewhat improvised nature of my responses in the video. I also wanted to get a sense of how intention may be imposed by others through communal and often seem-less pressures. This is what religious experience is. It is about initiation and the lengths one may go to feel a part of a group or some thing. At a distance I think this process can seem absurd.



On Raasay, academic and non-academic forces fused momentarily but the profanity of it all was impossible to erase. This sentiment may characterise the other works I’ve presented. These make overt references to things historically removed yet closely related to the key thematic question arising from the project; how do we recuperate what we conjecture about ‘distant’ others? I do not know the answer to this question but I feel it involves a fair amount of negation and invention, deliberate or otherwise. So my work may best be seen as an attempt to manifest and prolong the spirit of conjecture inherent to making and legitimising creative acts – notwithstanding this writing!


The sound work included in the plinth installation isSaint Assent, “a horror-story about a Saint who’s lived a long godly selfless life doing good deeds and saintly works. He’s nearing the end of his life and is looking forward to rest. He’s in a cave and picks up a pebble which starts talking to him. The pebble tells him that even though he’s nearing death, he is still going to have to carry on doing good deeds and saintly works. So when he dies he returns from the grave and keeps on trying to do good, of course with contrary results to his good intentions, due to him being a corpse.” David Steans

Hardeep Pandhal is a MFA graduate from the Glasgow School of Art.