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Montag, 25. Januar 2021

The Sanquhar-Project: My artist residency in Scotland in summer 2020


Sanquhar Highstreet in August 2020


















My artist residency at the MERZ Gallery in Sanquhar, Scotland

In spite of all the complications and restrictions that were caused by the global pandemic that is still going on, this summer I had the opportunity to travel to Scotland. I stayed there as an artist in residence at the MERZ Gallery in Sanquhar, in the southwest of the country, not far away from Dumfries. Several months before I was finally allowed to take one the first flights that went to Edinburgh after the lockdown, I started to plan my project for my stay in Sanquhar. It was based on the fact that as a teenager I was seriously eager to learn to play the bagpipes, on my general fascination for the English language, my yearning for Great Britain and also on the story about the old red telephone box that my parents installed in their garden, more than twenty years ago.

In the end I was working on two parallel projects, on a video about Sanquhar itself, that also included the story about the telephone box and the local knitting tradition and also on a second project that dealt with the architecture of Peter Womersley. As this is also a rather extensive story I will describe it in a further article.


The woven Sanquhar Dress

Sanquhar is famous for having the Oldest Post Office in the world that is still in operation. Another important topic is the Sanquhar Knitting Pattern, a black and white pattern that dates back to the 17th century and that is mainly used for gloves.

One of my original ideas for my residency in Sanquhar was to weave a dress out of ribbons that were made in the old textile company that friends of mine are running in Wuppertal. During the industrial revolution and also still in the 20th century Wuppertal was a thriving textile city. Kerstin and Christian Escher's company named Escher Textil dates back to 1849 and today is one of the last textile companies of Wuppertal. They were so kind as to send me a big package full of ribbons to the MERZ Gallerery. By weaving my dress out of their ribbons, improvising and varying the Sanquhar pattern, I aimed at linking the textile tradition of my home area with the textile tradition of Sanquhar.

Weaving the sleeve of my Sanquhar-dress out of ribbons produced in Wuppertal












My bagpipe - finally re-assembled in Sanquhar        


Originally I wanted to do a performance wearing this dress and take part in the Riding of the Marches, the annual procession that takes place in Sanquhar each summer - perhaps even with my bagpipe. Unfortunately the Riding of the Marches was cancelled due to the global pandemic. Nevertheless I went on with my Sanquhar Project, trying to document what I experienced and what seemed beautiful and special for me. And I started weaving the dress. 


Videostill from my project about the architecture of Peter Womersley, that I also implemented during my artist residency in Scotland. I will describe the video in an additional post.











Phone Box Postcards

During the first lockdown, between April and May, I was working on a mail art project that dealt with my relation to Scotland. I created two sets of eight parcels each and sent them to the MERZ Gallery in Sanquhar as well as to the 201 Gallery in Strathkinnes, which is located in a red phone box close to St. Andrews and Dundee.

The number, size and the shape of the elements the parcels consist of are derived from the dimensions of the windows of the K6 telephone box designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott in the 1920s. If you mount all these cardbord elements on a wall you can see the original dimesions of a phone box door. On each element you can read one part of the story about my parents' phone box that was cast in Glasgow, my yearning for Scotland and I am also describing Robert Burns' relation to the Oldest Post Office in the world that is located in Sanquhar. The whole project deals with the importance of communication during a period of closed borders and the impossibility to travel. My so called „Phone Box Postcards“ were also the basis of a video of the same title that I made during the first lockdown.


My mail-art project: Phonebox Postcards, unpacked un Sanquhar

Sanquhar stories and a video

The area of Sanquhar is full of stories, old and new. It is the country where Robert Burns lived in the second half of the 18th century. The national poet of Scotland wrote his poems in Scots, the language that is still being spoken in Dumfries and Galloway.

Another poet, Alexander Anderson from Kirkconnel, inspected railway tracks in the 19th century. He published poems under the name of „Surfaceman“ and even became the main librarian of the Edinburgh library. Kirkconnel is a village close to Sanquhar and the other Scottish National Poet, Sir Walter Scott, tells the story of „Helen of Kirckonnel“.

And there are contemporary stories like the one of James Hogg, a 96-year-old farmer from Crawick who adopted an old red telephone box and installed it in his garden, just like my parents did. Or the story of my 25-year-old neighbour on Queens Road, who is a builder and knows every single stone in Sanquhar and very seriously keeps the heritage of Robert Burns alive. And last but not least there is still the story about my bagpipe and my practice chanter. And the incredible collaboration with Lada Wilson and her phonebox-gallery! I tried to film and document as much as possible during my stay in Sanquhar, in order to tell these stories and also to continue my project about British telephone boxes.

A visit to the Orchard Farm, close to Sanquhar


All these stories are so close to my heart that I am writing them down extensively. And I am also editing an opulent film about the whole story that started with a bagpipe and a phonebox the early 1990s and lead me to Sanquhar in Dumfriesshire, but also to London, Liverpool, Glasgow and Galashiels.

In September and October I presented the sleeves of my Sanquhar-dress in two windows of the Midsteeple in Dumfries. I will report about this exhibition in an extra post, as well as about my video about the architecture of Peter Womersley in the area of Galashiels. And I will tell you ho how the Pinhole Computers emerged! As you can see: Scotland tells epic stories!