Encountering Some Questions on the Spiral

Brochel Castle

Jessica Ramm's sketchbook

Raasay Field Trip

The group at iron ore mine

Today the group journeyed by minibus to both the north and south of Raasay. In order to find a foothold in history, and to find a way from our contemporary perspective to respond creatively to the legacy of Colm Cille, Convocation has been structured to begin with a series of questions that can give the historic background to themes that have been identified to be of interest, and also to offer the opportunity to engage with and open up the subjects through discussion within the group. The questions were illuminated by Professor Clare Lees and Kathryn Maude from Centre for Late Antique and Medieval Studies at King’s College London.

Our first stop was the beach at Brochel Castle, to look at aspects of time. To what extent can this project genuinely engage with the extreme past? Should we connect a contemporary response to the extreme past or should we maintain the gap between present and past?

We then moved onto Calum’s Road, past the ‘deep time’ represented by the oldest rocks on the island, thought to be 3 billion years old, Lewisian Gneiss, to explore the subject of landscape and spirit. How was ‘place’ thought of in the past? Words such as nature and environment are a contemporary concept. At the third site, Calum’s Cairn, positioned at a commanding viewing point looking over the Sound to Skye, we discussed Peregrinatio and began to identify the different ways in which we can think of travelling or the journey, whether through pilgrimage, exile or from life to death. Throughout our day today, St Columba and his life and death, evidenced 100 years later by Adomnan of Iona, were present. We looked at the questions and contradictions within the life of St Columba, standing round the cist at Eyre, in itself a holder for the dead. What was more important during this time – life or afterlife? Rational truth or devotional truth? How should the book be read? Is it formulaic or symbolic? What is the nature of justice in this book? Then onto the iron ore mines, we stood inside one of the ruins and looked at the notions of the monastery as a way of working. Is there a tension between the individual and the community? What is the economy of the monastery?
Tomorrow we will begin the morning of artists’ presentations with the last question, on The Spiral. How do you navigate the Spiral? Where do you enter and exit the Spiral? What do we do with this knowledge? Is contemplation a privilege?

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