The rhythm of the residency has changed.
After saying goodbye to the Medievalists, the day became one of ‘Disperse and Distill’ for the group, allowing time for ideas to form and information to settle. Artists set out both individually and in small groups, to swim, walk, and cycle across the island. Some sat with Skye artist Caroline Dear to learn how to make ropes from the reeds near the beach. Jessica Ramm went in search of a local resident who still cut peat, meeting Jennifer, who showed her a Viking burial mound and discussed the Celtic spirit along the way to the peat bank. Hardeep Pandhal found two containers of Camp Coffee in Raasay House’s library, and thought one of us had placed them there on purpose. He is currently making work back in Glasgow about this coffee originating from the same city, bearing its picture label of a Sikh servant serving a British soldier with a cup.
Augustus Veinoglou summed up the type of endeavour many have at this point, by saying “I want to extract wisdom from this space”. What is this space formed from? We have the book, our conversations with each other and the Medievalists, our past work, this location, experiments, serendipity and the unknown we are yet to encounter.
A number of artists have previously explored aspects of extraction, dispersal or distillation in their work. Edwin Pickstone, one of our illuminators, runs the Letterpress at The Glasgow School of Art. He gave us a summary of the Letterpress at the artists’ presentations, focusing on what this form of production had historically meant, speeding up the hand printing process by ‘the equivalent of 300 years’. Edwin said that learning about the placement of type, helps computer-literate students to understand the weight of space between words. He showed us an image of a close-up of the edge of an 8pt letter ‘e’, the black ink seeping into the white pulp of the paper. This view pushed the physical matter of language into an unknown territory. In his work ‘The Components of the Complete Compact English Dictionary’, Edwin distilled the dictionary ( a book already condensed from twenty-six books into one, through the use of 1pt font) into the sum of its parts – namely 1123 sheets of bible paper and a concentrated poured blob of 128.8 grams of black ink equalling the exact weight of its words. For Convocation, Edwin plans to distill ideas, activity and information of the residency onto the surface of a Raasay map.
In ‘Life of St Columba’, Book Two, there is a story of a knife, which following St Columba’s blessing, has the sacred property that it cannot harm man nor beast. ‘Having discovered this fact…. the monks melted down the iron of that knife and then coated the liquid metal on to all the other iron tools in the monastery. From then on, these tools were unable to harm any flesh…’.
Michail Mersinis has been mixing liquid silver to coat photograph plates, for his series of Raasay landscapes he is making, taking each image at the same times of day and night when the monks prayed.