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 focus on teasing out both common links and incongruities that come from travelling back to a distant timeframe. How can we pick up on these fragments, as Professor Michelle Brown at the Conclave put it, that ‘echo back through the ages?’ Is it a practice of ‘reclamation and re-orientation’, that Professor Clare Lees from King’s College has been considering?

To record the process, we will have an ‘illuminator’ who will creatively capture ‘the spirals and eddies’. St Columba’s story was mediated through an Abbot called Adomnan. The role of the mediator or observer witnessing the story is an important one, so the illuminator will creatively document the journey of thought and creative enquiry that the group takes through the stages of the project.

Photo: 'Hallaig', Emma Nicolson (2012)

Photo: ‘Hallaig’, Emma Nicolson (2012)