On the first afternoon of the Pilgrimage we invited everyone to join the circle in a space we had christened “The Playroom”. A converted barn at the heart of Ardtarmon we created an open space that the group used for meditations, body work, discussions, salons and creative sharing of work through projections, performances, reading and debate.  We asked each artist to introduce themselves to the group, talking about their current practice, what was making them come alive at that moment and what they hoped to get from the week.

Before we heard from each pilgrim Kathy and I tried to answer the question of why we were there; why had we gathered everyone together and what the pilgrimage hoped to achieve. As a process based project we had no pre-defined output; we weren’t working toward a performance or recording or specific end point. Rather we had created the project specifically to focus on the process, on the container of the residency, so that we could discover what happens when you gather a group of artists together to explore and exchange their practice, their inspirations, their work.

So why Sligo? Why Land? Why Myth?

We chose Sligo because we wanted a rural location for the project. In part, as is often traditional for residencies, we wanted to take urban based artists out of their usual context and situate them in a quiet reflective environment, but we had other considerations in mind too.

The move from urban to rural represents a shift from linear time to a more circular rural time. In cities we’re disconnected from the land and its cycles….the seasons, the weather and their effects and through pilgrimage we were interested to explore what we might have lost from this distance from the land. We’re also interested in how the land acts as a memory bank, a retrieval system for stories, human experience and human endeavour.  Sligo has a huge confluence of ancient sites throwing up countless opportunities to deeply connect with our ancient past though visiting sites like Knocknarea, Carrowkeel or Inishmurray that have changed so little over thousands of years.

We’re interested in myth because it represents knowledge that has been handed down for generations, and in that way allows us to get get closer to the threads of our national identity. Myths are metaphorical stories that convey deeper meaning and, like art, tap into a very different part of our brain, allowing us to absorb information in a more immediate and sub conscious way.  Maybe there’s something about living in Queen Maeve’s shadow, but myth is still very much a part of day to day modern life here. The veil between “world” and “other world” is that bit thinner in Sligo.