An usual art residency on the Isle of Eigg in the Scottish Small Isles.
Outcomes will (hopefully) include an alternative audio walking guide, a rummaging intervention in the island swap shop, and a tradition usurping mummers play with the islands children!
Just a note to draw your attention to the recent launch of projecteigg.info The culmination of a residency last summer on the Isle of Eigg in the Scottish Small Isles- the unusual website includes two audio walking guides created following interviews with the Eiggach (islanders), as well as documentation of the residency activities and related artworks created before, during, and after 2009. Download your own copy of the guides (it’s free) to listen to on the move, wherever you are! www.projecteigg.info Regards Alex Project Eigg was kindly supported by The Isle of Eigg Trust, The Isle of Eigg History Society, The Highland Tourism Development Fund, and Scottish Arts Council.
The next day, the last official day of the residency, we went in search of Macbeth in earnest. A chance sighting the morning before placed him somewhere near the forestry shed where the ‘whiskey bottle cloak’ lived.
When we found him he had been penned in with two sheep in a relatively small enclosure; perhaps he was not so lacking in potency after all? I felt I had come too far though to ask about such small details, and I held aloft the crown of horns to Ann Sgurr, and offered it to Macbeth. His snake-like yellow eyes blinked at us unconcerned, and he found a comfortable place to snooze a little way off. I had heard that there were laws about ‘sheep-bothering’, and that a few hundred years ago one could be interned, mutilated, or even killed for doing so. I am pretty sure though that the term “bothering” once took on a more sinister meaning and the most bothersome thing I intended to do was place a belt around a ram’s neck and give it’s woolly ears a good scratch. Thus with trepidation I stepped into the field and approached my neophyte ram. Macbeth stirred and rose to meet me, sniffed the horns with interest, so I turned them around and made to put them over his head. Joy! That the ram would once again be revitalised with this symbol of masculine power and imbued with the potency of the landscape through which I had taken it. Macbeth sniffed them again, turned and headed off at a trot, showing me his soiled testicles.
By way of simulating the crowned ram I stood away from Macbeth and held the horns level with him, crowning him in the same manner as I had done with the mountain beyond.
Though I don’t feel ready to summarise my overall experience of the past six weeks, I do feel elated at having achieved so much, in such a short period of time, and at having challenged my practice so thoroughly. There is huge scope to create a touring presentation of the project, an academic report for an art journal, and perhaps an exhibition of photographs, prints, and artefacts early next year. There is also scope to create new work inspired and transformed from the activities that took place on Eigg.
At the end of the week, and with so little time left to make new work, we were amazed to wake up to rays of sunshine. Knowing it would be short-lived we bolted up the steep track-ways to the base of the Sgurr, improvising the shots as we went. It had not been my orriginal intention to do so- but the Sgurr quickly became a benevolent force and I held the horns up and they naturally came to rest as if the mountain crest wore them as its own. We climbed higher and higher and I stood at the base of pitch stone with my eyes closed and the horns raised like some ancient priest (or a Christopher Lee fan I suppose!) and as I did so the weather turned on us. Ann Sgurr had perhaps been taunted enough. We waited out the storm in a nook for while before attempting to climb up to the summit. But the wind had picked up and as we stood no more that a few hundred yards from our goal, the gusts threatened to sweep us to our deaths so violently, that we conceded defeat to the sleeping deity and returned to the cottage.
The Project Eigg residency period is over. I am back in Glasgow having had a hectic week or so of wrapping things up on the island, and now I am examining almost a thousand images of documentation and new work. I will now spend a couple of months composing the audio walking guide and the website that will house it. I would very much like to show images of the mumming play by the children of Eigg, but I am still waiting for permissions at this time. As soon as I have them, I will post them up.
Last week was a miserably rainy period, but having had my photographer back only since the 22nd of August, I still had to arrange the photographs of myself in the landscape searching for the horn-less ram “Macbeth”. It was interesting that the search quickly took on the feeling of a cumulative process. Where the series of events each contributed something to the artefact I carried; a large pair of horns from a dead ram. I found myself being influenced by the landscape, the rocks, trees and lochan. I had to reinvigorate these relics of potency both with life and masculine vitality. The ever prominent Ann Sgurr the “jetty”, the “saw-tooth”, the “notch” that perhaps gives Eigg its Gaelic name; seemed like the most natural, immense, and potent presence on the island. Having photographed in the pouring rain, and waded knee deep in boggy marshes we decided that the images were being ruined by droplets on the lens and so I focused on applying the stickers I had made for the swap shop.
The icons came out extremely well as vinyl stickers, and I was able to secrete over a thousand of them onto the items in such a way that they would not be immediately visible, and would not get in the way of the normal running of the swap shop. I hope to see some of the objects over the years to come, perhaps in a thrift shop in Europe.
…and here’s some of the icons.