C: – steel cap boots, jeans, duffle coat, improvised hats, no gloves
M: Following a path is nice to do. It connects you to the people who have walked it before, and to those who will walk it after. It only exists because people walk it, and people only walk it because it exists. The path implies a sense of the gift.
Dear Bothy people. Thank you for the fine work that you do! We felt so loved.
x x x
GARETH MOORE: Outset Scotland and Glasgow Sculpture Studios, 2014
Historical Island of Giant Women (and the origins of noise pollution?)/ Rogue wave drenching while en route/ Wetting the front side of a body on the walk to the shop/ wetting the backside on return
a small flat stone collected near the Sgurr.
Small flat stone used to sharpen axe
Drying green wood on the stove
Rum lifting its soft hat
Candle light shower in the rain
Candle light drawings
Candle lit hands in the dishpan
The singing sands / The plastic sands. Like a mute on a trumpet?
Unknown cry in the night
Time in the crofting museum disappears
30 minuets to a morning coffee from the point of striking a match.
Each night a dream of women (influence of the Historical Island of Giant Women?)
1 sunlit winter day yields 3 hours interior evening illumination (one bulb)
My friend the Boulder (at Bothy entrance)
A book regarding time
Attempting to force Bluebells indoors (no results upon my departure)
Faded plastic flotsam and Jetsam – I see Japan! – I see Spain!
A story of washed up hairy coconuts displayed on a windowsill, like shrunken heads from the past.
Recording the squishing of the bog beneath wet leather boots.
A bounty of produce found in the caravan
Fashioning a bed rail from drift wood
Playing catch with a heather branch on the top of the cliff – throw it off and – whoooosh – it comes back.
And then cresting the hill with phone in pocket
A pond of emails…
And hands holding cameras to windows on a train
CLARE BLACKBURNE: Self-Directed, 2014
A new year’s start and I wake to snow, breath a cloud lingering with the steam from my coffee, the forest outside the window muted by white.
I found this place on the nth page of a Google search, adrift in the heat of an Asian summer, 17 floors off the ground, humidity a second skin over everything.
Wandering in countries of dust and noise and colour – painted with a different palette entirely – I traced routes in places I had no maps for, followed signs I couldn’t read. It was a good kind of dislocation, it turns out, shifting me away from bad patterns and into new territory.
But now a craving for the familiar again: for the grey-skied emptiness of a Scottish winter, for washed-out greens and mountains thick with firs, for another kind of isolation.
The idea of a hut has always been there – something primitive, a log cabin bolt-hole in the wilderness, Basho’s haiku shelters in the mountains of Japan, Thoreau’s Walden hideaway, Le Corbusier’s Cabanon on the Cap d’Antibes, and even the rain-stained garden shed of my childhood, with its trays of bulbs and green shoots in the dark.
But perhaps all this, as with every ready-made narrative, must first come undone before we can risk things as they are. Over the past few years, I’ve grown skilled at a particular kind of solitude, but here it seems an unlearning is what’s called for.
We carry imagined audiences with us everywhere – into every corner of our lives. We script our experience, cast about for how to share what we witness, update the account of it on the hour and post photos that frame things down for consumption.
Off-grid, off-line, bothy is an invitation to drop all this, to feel things unmediated, if such a thing could ever be possible.
And yet, perversely, perhaps, I have come here to write – empty pages spread out on the table, the shelf of books behind me a distillery of knowledge, these four walls fitted to the task, holding open a space cleared of everything but the basics. An intimacy of one: if I can’t find clarity here, then where?
The silence of the first hours quickly populates itself: the myriad noises of the forest; rain on the tin roof; the putter and rasp of the kettle on the stove; the creak of the wood as it warms and cools; storms blowing through the glen, buffeting the hut like a small boat at sea.
And, at first, my own soundtrack of recurrent thoughts and tunes on loop – dialogue turned inwards and amplified.
I want to emerge with something finished, something as contained and essential as the bothy. Yet more than the finding of words, this week turns into a gradual falling away, a slow stripping back of the tangled and a rediscovery of things presumed lost.
After all the straight lines of the city, this is a reconnection with the organic geometry of trunks and branches, and the constant shifting of weather patterns outside and in.
Ultimately, I have no sense of narrative that could ever be separate from this: the roots and lichen underfoot; midday twilight in the thick of the trees; a creep of luminous moss across wet stone and soil; the dark pull of the river in flood; first light tinged pink over hills; a sudden encounter with deer at dusk; the spattered stars and sharp arc of the moon; the prodding of embers in the stove and their unlikely bloom into flame; the uncertain swing of an axe and satisfaction of wood cleaved from wood; the breakfast visit of blue tits and chaffinches; the black notebook on the table a staggered conversation with everyone who has stayed here before.
None of it takes me anywhere but back – towards what feels like a centre of sorts. And yet when I leave, dumb-tongued and foreign in the bustle of town, I feel I have travelled for miles.
– Clare Blackburne, Inshriach Bothy, January 4-10, 2014.
MICHAEL BARR: Glasgow School of Art Residency, 2014
According to Seamus Heaney’s version of the Buile Suibhne, Sweeney – having got into a spot of bother, and been turned, naked, into something between man and bird – lived a life in fear of human contact. His avian roamings took him all over Ireland. He flew to various parts of the British Isles as well, and spent six weeks living ‘in a cave that belonged to Donnan on the island of Eig off the west of Scotland’.
Heaney’s text suggests that, during those mad, flighty wanderings, Sweeney supped on the following: watercress; brooklime; sorrels; wood-sorrels; berries; wild strawberries; blackberries; raspberries; wild garlic; black sloes; dark sloes; sharp-tasting sloes; nuts; hazelnuts; oyster-grass; apples. This list is not exhaustive, but these were the morsels which I thought might be edible by those of us, more human than bird.
My research whilst on the island was to focus on the mapping of two things: caves, and the growth of these foodstuffs.
* * *
(I was delayed in getting over to Eigg for a couple of days – the ferry was twice cancelled due to bad weather. When I finally approached the island, I guided the boat to the pier, just to be on the safe side.)
* * *
Once I got to the island, the first strand of my research saw me walking to several of the caves which dot the island’s coastline.
Some caves were quite easily accessible – such as Massacre and Cathedral caves at the south of the island – and have very particular histories. Cathedral cave was used as a place of worship, and Massacre cave was the sixteenth century site of the death of nearly four hundred islanders at the hands of the MacLeods. One of today’s islanders theorised that the latter would have been the cave for Sweeney, though he’d have been long gone (almost a thousand years long) by the time of the massacre.
The two caves pictured above are big, but some were much smaller, such as this one at Laig:
Others were more difficult to get to, such as the one pictured next, below the ruined settlement at Grulin. In his book, Soil and Soul: People Versus Corporate Power, Alastair McIntosh speculates that this is the cave that Sweeney would have inhabited.
And some may not have existed at all. One of the islanders told me about a cave beyond Grulin. He knows much more about these things than me, but I couldn’t find it. It may be somewhere in the following image. It was a lovely walk, anyway.
* * *
Whilst I didn’t always find what I was looking for on my walks, I did find other things. Instead of the cave beyond Grulin, I found this:
And I found myself reading from Heaney’s text, whilst perching, wobblingly, in the buff/in a bush.
* * *
The second strand of my research involved talking to various islanders about foraging. With their knowledge, I built up a picture of where the aforementioned foodstuffs grow when in season. At the moment, this picture looks like a map:
* * *
All of this was done with the help of quite a lot of people on the island. That help came in different forms, and it came from the following: Eddie; Lucy; Brian; Camille; John; Dan; Brendan; Mairi; Berni; Dean; Phil; Alan; Bob; Jamie.
I think that these people are important to acknowledge.
Whilst I don’t necessarily see my work on Eigg as a social engagement project, I do think about socially engaged art quite a lot. It was nice to be welcomed at Tash and Gabe’s wedding on my final day on Eigg. That was a very social engagement.
The bothy itself was a wonderful place in which to be on my own, but the community within which it is situated offers a very particular set of possibilities to those who like to work with people. Given what I knew of the island before my arrival – its size, for example, and the circumstances of its ownership – I had imagined that ‘community’ would be a meaningful, vital and important thing there. I’m under no illusion that Eigg is a place devoid of social friction, but during my short stay, the willingness and the ability of islanders to engage productively with me in my work was notable. That ability came through their engagement with the landscape that they inhabit, through their engagement with the people with whom they share that landscape, and through their happiness in sharing the knowledge which arises from these engagements. Mapping the growth of wild foodstuffs, for example, became easy, because everyone whom I asked about it either knew where things grew, or knew whom I should ask.
The research that I carried out on Eigg will hopefully allow me to return to the island in the summer, to realise a happening of some sort involving food, caves, text and people. With luck, I’ll update this blog post once that has happened.
Michael Barr, Glasgow, March 2014
This residency was supported by GSA Exhibitions and GSA Sustainability in Action Group
PENELOPE DIAZ: Self-Directed, 2014
I AM NOT A MYTH. El Trauco is a creature that inhabits the woods and forests of Chiloe, an island in the South of Chile. Typical characteristics of this figure is small stature with stubbed feet. Usually his clothing is made up of sticks and stones found in the surrounding woods which he lives in.
It is said that he has a power to attract any woman and often goes around the woods using his hatchet to chop trees in the forest to show his sexual potency.
He found that he got himself into quite a few difficulties in his homeland of Chiloe, therefore decided to go somewhere where the landscape and mythology is similar, to see if he can start a new life!
A glance at El Trauco living in Inshriach Forest.
El Trauco wakes up slightly blurry eyed to the sound of the morning going on’s in Inshriach Forest.
He begins his daily tasks of chopping the wood, getting the fire a light and making his porridge.
El Trauco’s long and arduous walk through the forest is rewarded with arriving at Feshiebridge settlement. Feshiebridge is roughly a hours walk from the Bothy and boasts great views as well as Frank Bruce’s Sculpture Trail. The surrounding area is made up of four to five houses and El Trauco soon find’s a river to ponder his life. The pine tress cascade over the landscape while the booming volume of the river makes El Trauco feel right at home.
El Trauco spends the rest of the day in Inshriach forest close enough too observe the aloof white horses as well as getting stuck into his surroundings.
El Trauco goes down to the river Spey, he has heard tales of the many wondrous folklores of the Scottish Highlands, and one in particular is that of The Shellycoat! A creature that inhabits the streams and rivers of the Highlands and wears shells from the river side that rattle. The Shellycoat is harmless but will consider El Truaco a trespasser and may like to play tricks on him. However El Trauco is hoping that soon after he will be a friend. He leaves a signature by the riverside to inform the Shellycoat that El Trauco is about.
Evening approaches at El Trauco’s new home. The sky has a magical pinkish glow and he begins to think about his homeland and feels privileged that he is by the Cairngorms Mountains and in Inshriach Forest. He sits by the fire and drinks a dram of fine Speyside Malt Whisky…heaven!
The Walking Library for Sweeney’s Bothy
Building a routine forSweeney’s Bothy
Sweeney’s Bothy is beautifully crafted. I crafted a routine for living here. It is filled with planning and takes time and effort to perform.
It goes something like this:
Build the fire. Light the fire. Boil the kettle (for tea). (1 hour)
Shower outside. (2 minutes) Cook the porridge (10 minutes). Walk to shop (2 hours).
Boots on Boots off (keep mud outside).
Prepare the dinner (during daylight hours). Cut the kindling (during daylight hours). Read the library. Stoke the stove. Light the candles. Head torch on. Cook the dinner (variable time).
Keep fire hot. Boil kettle. Do dishes. Wee outside (last time).
Wash in sink. Brush teeth. Close stove.
Much of my time is taken up with the time it takes just to do the things that need doing. Time = effort.
Building a library for Sweeney’s Bothy
I am here to deliver a library for Sweeney’s Bothy. Last summer, working and walking with my Walking Library collaborator, Misha Myers, we solicited donations for the Bothy Library. Now that the Bothy is built, it is time to install the library. I catalogue the books and begin a Sweeney’s Bothy Reading Log. I am a peripatetic reader, darting with pleasure and indiscipline from book to book, keeping track of my reading in the Log, learning much as I go.
What book would provide you with shelter? Of solitude or companionship?
With spines upturned books too shelter worlds.
Books as bricks, sometimes as heavy.
Leaves that shade.
Windows, hearths and thresholds to other times and places.
Building images of Sweeney I imagine I am following Sweeney’s footsteps. I look for traces.
I see places where I imagine Sweeney might have rested his troubled head.
Building pathways for walking libraries I take daily walks. I always carry some books with me. Today, with the sun shining, I head over the fields to the beach of the singing sands. I take Thomas A Clark’s The Path to the Sea. There is such pleasure in finding a wooden gate leading to the path to the sea, just as is pictured on the front of Clark’s beautiful collection of poetry.
on a clear day
unfasten the gate
and take the path
over the machair
through the orchids
down to the sea.
I take the path down to the sea, with Thomas A Clark as my walking companion.
I walk to Eigg Primary School, carrying on my back another Walking Library, this one made for 8 – 12 year old readers. My rucksack is filled with books which have walking at their centre – from factual books about the different ways that non-humans walk, to the lithographic gem Henry’s Walk to Paris, to Winnie the Pooh’s memorable walk to the North Pole. These books have been suggested by members of the Walking Artists Network.
We write a Walking Poem for Eigg, starting with the line ‘This foot has been…’
We learn about other mobile libraries, from the donkey library in Columbia, to the camel library in Kenya, to the elephant library in Laos, to the bicycle library in Montana, to the boat library floating through the fjords of Norway.
Building Respite I spend a lot of time simply watching the weather wash over the Isle of Rum, grey clouded shrouds to glistening snow peaks. I watch the sun setting and the night falling, cocooned in the warmth of my nest.
Building Experience for Bothy Dwellers Take slippers. Take wellies – and get used to taking them off before you come in to the bothy. Take a head torch. Take candles. Prepare for being in the dark (there’s not much electricity being generated at the moment). Take a flask. Take earplugs (the wind and the hail can be very, very loud nested up there in the sky). Take very quick showers (if you take any at all). Grow patience and enjoy the emergence of an appreciation for slowness. Take extra days off work in case the ferry doesn’t run.
ALISTAIR GRANT, EWAN MCCLURE & SCOTT MCCLURE: Self-Directed Residency, 2014
The primary purpose of the residency was to gather first hand research for a video game that I am co-developing, a wood cutting/chopping game. Whilst I stuck fairly rigidly to that goal I allowed myself to pursue the unexpected tangents and avenues of investigation that come with a residency. This ultimately benefitted the variety and quality of documentation for the project.I set about collecting a comprehensive volume of photographs that formed the majority of the visual research. These images examined landscape composition and forest layout at a macro scale. At a micro scale I was inspecting things such as bark texture, shadows, lichen and wood grain patterns. Through video I was looking at things like tree behaviour, studying how they move in the wind within a forest as well as in isolation. Video enabled me to investigate how wood breaks apart under the axe and how grain structure affects logs being split. With sound recordings I began to explore and develop the audio for the game, in both ambient and action based sound work. I found myself constantly in my sketchbook, drawing and writing about the game mechanics as well as the narrative by trying to inhabit (both mentally and physically) the character you play in the game.
When reflecting on our time at the Inshriach Bothy, I am very glad that I didn’t arrive for the week with too many preconceptions and grandiose plans. Packing a good variety of equipment and tools meant I felt confident that I at least had the potential to perform a wide range of tasks if an idea came calling.
However, it was the automatic change of pace to daily life (which inevitably comes as part of the package of staying at ‘the bothy’) that proved to be the most valuable part of the experience. Rather than being an occasion for grandiose schemes, it became a week of simple pleasures and simple adventures; a time to observe, explore and put my practise and ideas into perspective.
Having the time to assess my current projects in the context of this residency has been a real treat. However I also return with a renewed confidence to start writing a set of short stories that I have wanted to begin for some time now. A collection of photographs that I took during the residency will act as the catalyst for the first stories I write.
The Inshriach Bothy is as peaceful and humble a retreat as you could imagine, having all the best qualities of that den that you built in the woods with your friends, the architectural and aesthetic aspects of an apollo lunar landing craft and inside what feels at times like a longhouse or sea captains cabin. An incredible space for : thinking, cooking, eating, drams, discussing, music, radio, sleeping and from which to wake up and begin exploring again, a great inspiration toward building a similar quiet place in the North of Scotland sometime in the future.
Over the course of the week, we spent a lot of time taking routes through the surrounding landscape and in particular the forests and woodlands of the Inshriach estate and further afield, taking time to experience the natural phenomena which surrounded us, during the hours of light and dark. On the third day we decided to take a track up through diverse terrain, into the snow line and onto an un-named peak sitting at just under 3000 feet. I decided to document the areas of interest which where not particularly shown or named on the maps which cover the area, with 35mm film.
Using our photographs as inspiration, I am now in the midst of recording an album of short musical pieces evocative of the spaces, times and events during the week. One of the highlights was to observe venus and aurora borealis whilst stargazing on the clear eve of February 27th.
Thanks again to The Bothy Project, to Walter, The Flying Welshman and Norrie of Feshie Bridge.
Ali, Ewan and Scott.
ANNA KING: Self-Directed Residency, 2013
I spent my week at the bothy making sketchbook work, with lots of thinking time – things that I know are so important to my practice, but that can often get sidelined with the pressures of making finished work. It felt like a proper wee sanctuary, the silence and solitude giving space to think, bringing priorities into focus, clarifying ideas. I loved it.