Supporting The Orkney Boat: For the Journey and the Return gives you the opportunity to join the community that is backing artist and stonemason Beatrice Searle. On a challenging journey over hundreds of miles in Orkney and Norway, she will walk with a new carving of an ancient footprint stone, historically used for human expressions of strength and security. Just as people have always moved with objects that anchor and define them, so Beatrice will walk with the Orkney Boat along the newly opened St Magnus Way and Norway's ancient Gudbrandsalen pilgrim path. As she does so, she will be inviting those she meets to stand in the stone, experience their own connection with it and add to its on-going story.
At the journey's end the stone will become a lasting sculptural installation in Orkney. Beatrice will be documenting the journey and the "standings" through photography, drawing, writing and collected stories.
I have developed the project For The Journey and Return for the Orkney Islands Council. The work will form part of Orkney’s Magnus 900 celebrations- a programme of cultural events in 2017 to mark 900 years since the death of Magnus Erlendsson, Norse Earl of Orkney and later their patron saint.
In For the Journey and Return I continue to explore ideas about anchorage and human connection to landscape. My direct inspiration is the ancient Orcadian stone known as The Ladykirk Stone or St Magnus’ Boat.
THE LADYKIRK STONE/ ST MAGNUS’ BOAT (Burwick Kirk, South Ronaldsy)
Into this sea-rounded piece of whinstone are carved two foot shaped hollows. The footprints are shaped and smoothed, so that a bare foot fits comfortably. One of many stories surrounding the stone tells that Magnus, unable to find a boat to carry him across the Pentland Firth, took this stone and, “setting his feet thereupon, passed the Firth safely and left the stone in the Church, which has continued here ever since.” This local legend has given rise to an alternative name for the stone- St Magnus’ Boat.
However, the stone almost certainly came from and was used near its present location. It precedes St Magnus and the myths that surround him, having been made and used by the Picts during the late Iron Age. For the Picts, stones such as these were connected with Kingship. The chosen King would stand in the footprints in order to signify his connection with the land he ruled and to reinforce his intention to follow in the footsteps of his ancestors. Subjects too, when the time came to choose a new King or chieftain, would stand in the stone to proclaim their votes before their peers, signifying, through the steadfastness of the stone, that the action was strong and would be lasting. Pictish stones containing footprints occur elsewhere in Scotland- in The Hebrides and Dunadd in Argyll.
Footprint stones occur in Roman history, also. To bring safe travel the Romans are known to have carved pairs of footprints into stones, bearing the inscription ‘Pro Itu Et Reitu,’ 'For the Journey and Return.' The traveller would place his feet twice in the footprints; first to be in direct contact with the land he was leaving, and then as an act of re-connection when he returned. This use relates to another tale surrounding the legend of Magnus, which tells that rather than cross on the stone, Magnus stood in it before setting out by boat across the Pentland Firth.
Whether Pictish, Roman or Medieval, the purpose of these stones was to provide the strength and security needed to lead, to vote or to undertake a journey. All who stood in them did so to be empowered by the act, harnessing wisdom, strength and resilience through their direct contact with the rock.
For the Journey and Return takes these historic precedents, utilities and mythologies and, through a new interactive art work, invites people to find their own anchorage and strength in a new stone- The Orkney Boat.
WHAT IS THE ORKNEY BOAT?
The Orkney Boat is a ripple-marked Devonian siltstone (390 million years old) from Marwick Bay, into which I have carved two footprints.
All who encounter it are invited to stand in The Orkney Boat. Standings should be made barefoot, in order to have direct contact with this powerful, resilient, slow-moving, wise, and ancient material. Spend as long as you like in the stone. If it moves you to speak, please feel free to do so. We are living in a time when to “take a stand” or to speak up for what you believe are important actions to make.
Standings will be photographed (with permissions) and a collection of photographs, drawings and stories compiled at the end of the project.
INVITATION TO THE PUBLIC
to anchor verb 1. To Hold, to be held securely
There is a conflict inherent in human nature; the need for anchorage, strength and security opposes the equal need to move, to progress to be free. I want to explore what it might mean to be able to raise something that grounds you and move with it. People and cultures have always been on the move and when possible they do so with objects that define and anchor them. The Orkney Boat is my anchor to the land. Just as boats are able to raise their anchors and move with them, I will raise The Orkney Boat and carry it with me on a journey of 1,300 miles. At a time of so much mass and forced migration in the world, carrying a part of a beloved landscape or homeland takes on an additional and important resonance.
I will begin by walking mainland Orkney along the newly established St Magnus Way. From Orkney, the stone and I will sail on The Swan (an ex-herring fishing vessel, originally launched in 1900) across The North Sea to Bergen, and then travel by train to Oslo. From this point onwards I will move on foot bringing the stone along on a cart drawn from my hips. I will walk Norway’s ancient Gudbrandsalen Path, through Dovrefjell, ending at Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim. I will be joined by one walking partner, who will assist in carrying provisions and equipment. Having reached Trondheim I will return to Orkney with the stone.
The journey will last for almost two months. I will be walking some challenging terrain and accepting the inevitable slowness that comes with a journey on foot with a heavy load. I will repeatedly stand in The Orkney Boat and it will anchor me along the way.
The project has already inspired other artists to respond to the stone. Orcadian musician and composer, James Watson, is composing a piece on the Haardanger fiddle, based around the theme “Music for a Departure.” James will play off The Swan as it sails out of Orkney and there will be an opportunity to hear the piece during Orkney’s folk festival weekend, also.
Artist, Toni Watts is making an illuminated map surrounded by golden text, inspired by the journey and its aims.
BE INVOLVED WITH THE ORKNEY BOAT
It is from its journey and its encounters with people that the stone will accumulate its narrative. There are many ways to be part of The Orkney Boat story.
25th April 2017, 10.00- 14.00: The making of The Orkney Boat, Orkney Museum courtyard.
8th March- 6th April 2017: Support the Kickstarter campaign and join the community that is making the journey of The Orkney Boat possible.
April 17th 2017, 10.00: Walk with The Orkney Boat. Opening of the first part of The St Magnus Way (Gurness- Birsay: 12 miles) Starts from the Broch of Gurness car park. This will be the first opportunity to stand in The Orkney Boat.
May 27th (Orkney Folk Festival Weekend): Early morning concert at Birsay Kirk, in which Orcadian musician, James Watson, will perform his composition, “Music for a Departure” specially commissioned for this project, on the Haardanger fiddle. The second section of the St Magnus Way (Birsay- Finstown) will open; once again the public are invited to walk with The Orkney Boat. There will also be an opportunity to stand in the stone.
June 1st 2017: The Swan sets sail from Orkney: The Orkney Boat and I will leave Orkney on The Swan. We will go via Shetland, from where we can sail directly on to Bergen.
June 4th: Arrival in Bergen (Orkney is twinned with Hordaland Region) The stone will be received by The Bryggen Foundation in the UNESCO World Heritage Area of Bryggestredet. Details of Bryggen's standing event to be finalised soon.
June 6th: Arrival in Oslo and beginning of the walk on the Gudbrandsalen path. Spontaneous standing events throughout the journey.
Date TBC (expected early August): Arrival in Trondheim and welcome by the Pilgrimssenter at Nidaros Cathedral. There will be an opportunity to stand in the stone.
Date TBC: The return of The Orkney Boat. The stone and I will return to Orkney, where the stone will become a lasting sculptural installation, hopefully along the St Magnus Way path.
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Risks and challenges
I have been very open about the challenge of this journey and the main risk to this project is that I become physically unable to complete it, due to illness or injury. As I go into this I am extremely fit. I have had a thorough medical check-up and will be working with my personal fitness instructor right up until the point of departure. I have built rest and recuperation time, as well as "contingency" time for unexpected events, into the timetable. I am taking out comprehensive travel and medical insurance and, in the event that I am forced to abandon the journey, it is my intention to return as soon as possible to complete it, or to transport the stone, with as much narrative as it has, back to Orkney. If this should happen, I will still be able to deliver your rewards.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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