The sedge warbler had his laugh, waking me (a city girl) at dawn with the sounds of an electronic amusement arcade. The drilling, trilling, clicking of the vox apparatus. Flies approach the midge-screen; some retreat some rest. Even the bluebells, with the help of the wind, limber up for the day.
At Sweeney’s Bothy I thought about enclosure, silence and ritual. I read Donna Haraway’s Making Kin Not Population: Reconceiving Generations. She writes towards “multi-modal, multi-species, multi-situated practices” by evoking the chthonic, that is relating to or inhabiting the underworld: “I call these times, our times, the Chthulucene to emphasise the ongoing powers and processes of mortal beings that come together to resist the curses and blandishments of the Plantationocene, Anthropocene, and Capitalocene.” I read this in my head and pondered it whilst seated on the composting toilet.
Nuair a bha mi air Eilean Èige chord gu mòran rium. Shiubhail mi an sin air treana, bata-aiseag agus baidhsagal. Bha dùil agam a bhith leantaileach. Chòisich mi mòran timcheall ‘s mun chuairt an sgìre, air na traighean Camas na Sgiotaig agus Laig. Chaidh mi suas gu Bidean na Tighearna, Sgorr an fhàraidh, Guala Mhòr, Bealaich Thuilm agus an Sgurr fhèin càit’ an chunnaic mi an Loch nam Bàn Mòra agus deagh sheallaidhean air an siar ‘s a dheas. Tha an fearann mar chorp, na ainmean air feadh, guala ‘s teanga, bidean ‘s druim, aodann ‘s ceann. Cha robh fios agam air seann sgeulachdan, mar feadhainn mu dheidh an t-seann ainm air an eilean fhèin. Bha fios agam air eachraidh ‘sa Cogadh Theàrlaich agus na Fuadach nan Gàidheal ach cha robh fios air Cogadh Mòr agus an chaill ‘sa sgirean Cleàdail, cha do thilleadh fàisg air leth daoine no barrachd…… Ionnsaich mi mu dhèidh an ainmean monaidhean Rhùm, mar Trollabhal agus Asgabhal, ainmean Lochlannaich, àite càit an rodh iad airson fiadh, linntean air ais. An Gall-Ghàidheal, ar sinnsearan. Chòrd an cothruim cuideachd gu mòran rium a bhith ann am Bothan Shuibhne, abair àite, abair sgeul, an leabaidh ann an duileagan, na ceangalan aòsda, seann nòs, cànan ‘s cultar, seann ‘s freumhan ann an àrainneachd fhèin.
In early September I spent a week in Sweeney's Bothy, on the Isle of Eigg. It had long been my dream to spend some solitary time in this part of the world, but as the week approached I became a little anxious. The proximity to nature and the lack of distraction were alluring, but what if I suddenly realised my power lay in connection? Travelling north over two days to get to the island, I felt a slow-growing sense of peace and homecoming. The gobsmacking beauty of the west highlands passing the train made my heart swell - the swollen rivers and the pouring rain didn't even dampen my awe. I had very little real idea of what awaited, but I knew it would envelop me, and for a short time it would be mine alone.
I was both nervous and excited to visit the Isle of Eigg as it’s not an environment I've experienced before - especially the lack of resources and contact with the outside world.
I arrived on Eigg in the afternoon having travelled for close to seventeen hours from my home in south London. I received a warm welcome from Lucy who drove me in her electric buggy to Sweeny's Bothy and dropped me off. It was only after I had unpacked and begun to settle in that I realised it was technically 'night-time' but that it was not in the least bit dark outside.
To Eigg, Saturday 26th Jan 2019. In Sweeney’s Bothy. Just arrived. The rain is moving between pouring and stopping. Today I will be slow. I boiled water, made tea. The fire is going. The wind is blowing. I found some ginger oat biscuits.
Forging allies on Eigg I have to admit I was more than a little concerned about how Andrew Black’s film Submerged Village would be received on the Isle of Eigg. In the weeks preceding my residency at Sweeney’s Bothy I had been having a lively email correspondence with arts producer, Sweeney's Bothy host and all round good egg Lucy Conway about how my curatorial practice could find a place on the island. What sort of interest would there be in a queer artist film screening? Where would be appropriate to host such an event? Who would come? Talking with Lucy made me reconsider many aspects of my practice, my use of language, urban-bias and cultural assumptions that I take as universal. She reminded me that within different communities the word ‘queer’ will be received differently.
In March 2017, author James Crawford spent two nights in Sweeney’s Bothy as part of his research for the new book 'Who Built Scotland: 25 Journeys in Search of a Nation'. James, along with four other contributors (the novelists Alexander McCall Smith and James Robertson, the poet and essayist Kathleen Jamie, and the historian Alistair Moffat) picked five buildings each from throughout Scotland’s history, using them to explore wider themes about art, politics, society and culture. Sweeney’s Bothy was the final building of the 25. In the spirit of Bothy Project’s aim to offer spaces for exploring artistic craft, James’s intention was to write as much as he could of this final chapter during the course of his stay. The text below, taken as an extract from Who Built Scotland, was written during his time in Sweeney’s.