Festivities and Delegates

Part of the Separation and Unity Project, Cataluña, July 2022

This wall hanging, ‘Festivities and Delegates’ represents an act of unity, the bringing together of many of those who attended the Walking Art and Relational Geographies International Encounters conference in Cataluna in July 2022. Planned for several years, but thwarted by the pandemic, delegates were at last able to travel from Australia, South Africa, Brazil, America and Europe to the conference in Girona, Olot, and Vic to share walking art and community projects via presentations and walkshops over a period of a week.

This work was inspired by the 18th /19th century ‘Saints and Festivities for the months of April to November’ in the Museu Montserrat. I climbed up there after attending the conference. The ornate Russian ‘menologion’ is a calendar featuring rows of saints, above which are their names and the dates of the days on which they are honoured, in cyrillic script.

This would have been a visual reminder of the annual Masses of the Orthodox Church which celebrated many different saints.

menologion (menologium, menology, menologue, menologia) was sometimes a liturgical ‘office’, an ecclesiastical, Eastern Orthodox service book or martyrology; a long list of saints and the details of their lives arranged according to the months of the year.

It is not dissimilar to the secular mural at the National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh depicting key figures and events in the history of Scotland. The Separation and Unity Project is interested in the movements towards and away from independence by Scottish and Catalonian peoples, at what urges us to separate from, or join with each other.

I am also referencing Buddhist and Hindu mandalas, and other celebratory depictions used to inspire their followers and remind them of the true path. Mandalas come in many shapes and sizes, often using geometric arrangements. They can represent the whole universe, and be used as a way to separate from everyday existence and focus on what is important for greater knowledge. The Vajrabhairava mandala, for example, is a silk tapestry woven with gilded paper depicting lavish elements like crowns and jewelry.

The human mind is like “A microcosm representing various divine powers at work in the universe”

John Ankerberg and John Weldon (343:1996) via Wikipedia (see below)

Process and production of Festivities and Delegates

I took digital photos and video stills from my phone documentation of the conference and the social time we spent together, and manipulated the images using free Layout software. In some cases I used social media images. Instead of the elaborate calligraphy that you can see on the Russian ‘Festivities…, I wrote free-hand with my finger or with a biro.

Details: 160cm long and 70cm wide, mixed media – sewed from scraps of upholstery fabric which came from free sample books. Ribbons, tapes and sundry, shiny objects such as bells, earings which have lost their pairs, and sequins. Iron-on paper was used to transfer the photographs onto the fabric.

It incorporates a number of small brass and other metal bells, with reflective totems. These were/are often used to ward off evil spirits, to bring ones attention into the moment, to reflect the devil’s face back to him, and, contrastingly, even to represent the sound of the Buddha’s ‘voice’ spouting wisdom. The protective aspect would also traditionally have been as much from the ‘monkey mind’ and other natural inner temptations, as from what might be attacking us from the outside. Tantric mandalas would have been an aspect of separation and protection from the outer Samsaric world.

Quote: from their ‘Encylopedia of New Age Beliefs: The New Age Movement’, (p. 343, ISBN 9781565071605 archived from the original on 2016-06-03, retrieved 2015-11-15)

Girona mini-pilgrimage

This was the first of three mini-pilgrimages offered to delegates of the international meeting ‘Walking Art and Relational Geographies’ and others in Girona, Cataluña. 6 July 2022

We met at the foot of the steps of the Catedral de Girona, a traditional location for the start of a pilgrimage. As we waited for the group to assemble, I asked, do you see any pilgrim signs?

The statues at the front of the building are inset with the shell motif behind them – the iconic scallop being the emblem which pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela sported.

We searched for the yellow arrows which are used to indicate the path; instead we were surrounded by the yellow ribboned loops of the Cataluñan Independence movement.

Sign of the Cataluñan Independence Movement on the pilgrim path

We were a group of approximately twelve, and I explained that I had changed the place we were walking to once I knew the start time was 9pm (sunset is around 9.20 here), and now that the city and I had started to get acquainted in person, rather than virtually from Scotland in the initial planning stages.

The title of my walking project here is Separation and Unity, being aware of the political issues that concern Scotland and Cataluña, both, in their debates and attempts at achieving autonomy from England and Spain respectively.

We performed some simple experiential exercises: huddling close, noting that we were united in our interest in walking, turning outwards to acknowledge those people around us who were not in our group or who were in groups of their own.

We began some chi gung exercises, a method of grounding and centering in the body. It became clear that we needed to take more space for ourselves in order to move individually. We were moving together, separately and experimenting with breathing in unison.

Through Girona’s city walls

Last week, I walked part of the Cami Sant Jaume alone, as a secular pilgrimage.
I was on the path with others – dog walkers, cyclists, 2 hikers. Walking part of this age-old tradition, I knew there were others who went before me and who will come after.

Now our group traced a pilgrim path through the archway made by the city walls and, despite there being no external signs to guide us, we headed downhill to the river. We left the heavy, archetypal building behind and walked in silence, in single-file, with the thick, steep walls with religious iconography on either side.

As we walked down Reí Marti, we paid attention to our connection with the elements – the paved surfaces under our feet, the air and water – indivisible.

Also to the birds we could hear but not always see, the insects we only knew were there if we looked very carefully or when they bit us, the other folk milling around the city. We were a mass moving inside and outside the city walls.

We were aware of each other walking together. Our intention was clear.

As the streets opened out, we turned left taking Carrer del Bellaire and heading straight for the river, passing once again,
underneath, though by now we were amongst modern architectural constructs. The train line ran overhead.

Around the cornerstone the left, was the Column of the History of Girona, a pillar of stone whose four sides depicted images and text saying this ancient settlement back to the Neolithic.

We were at the River Onyar and the Pont (bridge) de Pedret which formed a crossroads where the first Cami de Sant Jaume and other route signs were located.

We looked back at Cathedral
There are messages of separation ‘Libertat’, ‘Bienvenue a la République de Catalogne’ alongside theVies Verdes (green cycling / walking ‘carrilet’ route (a modest narrow guage railway) I took out of the city last week

We glimpsed the La Devesa Park where we walked yesterday.

As I walked out of Girona, I moved from the urban environment, the edge lands where people were growing crops in their hueltas / allotments, and then out of town, walking between city and towns. There were people stringing these urban places together by walking between them to work and school.

I was carrying my clothes and sleeping mat with me, crossing the country, from Osona to La Garrotxa and into the Barcelona región.  

We completed our mini-pilgrimage at the foot of the steps of Basílica de Sant Feliu, a familiar way to end a pilgrimage. Close by is the statue of la Lleona (lioness) whose bottom/ass you are invited to kiss, an 11th century folk tradition.

Basílica de Sant Feliu
La Llona

Soundscape by Ralph Hoyte Temple of Hermes