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Calling A’Gairm

Illingworth, Shona (2001) Calling A’Gairm. Fabrica, Brighton and Photoworks Video and sound installation, 8 minutes DVD. (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:45506)

The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided.
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Calling – A Gairm is drawn from an extensive archive of recordings made over a three year period by Shona Illingworth of native Gaelic speaker Donnie Mackay, who spent his early years on Berneray, Outer Hebrides, Scotland in the 1940-50s. Donnie learnt to speak English on moving to Skye, an English speaking island across the water, at the age of 7 in the 1950’s. Calling – A Gairm explores the internal and cultural conflict of existing in an English speaking world where memory exists in Gaelic, and the impact this has on individual memory and sense of self.

The work explores how the narrative structures of memory are caught between two languages through the development of a complex multi-ligual audio composition, where linguistic clarity gives way, in the complex overlay of language, to expressive vocalised sound. The work traces profound cultural and historical ironies in the memory of a Gaelic speaking boy, who learns the words to a cowboy song ‘Old Faithful’, by listening to it through the bones of his finger placed in the groove of a record. Learning the English song verbatim, without understanding the words, his recital unknowingly includes the sound of a glitch in the vinyl of the record. Echoing the spin of the record, a large video projection shows the man’s head rotating as he recalls this event. As his words repeat, cut and distort, the song is heard sung over and over. Calling – A Gairm sets out to evoke the isolating space of an internal conflict between a dominant language and a language continually under threat.

Item Type: Visual media
Additional information: Calling – A Gairm was co-commisioned by Fabrica, Brighton and Photoworks for a solo exhibition at Fabrica January - March 2001. It was accompanied by an exhibition publication with an essay by David Chandler, and an online interview with Shona Illingworth.
Subjects: N Visual Arts > N Visual arts (General). For photography, see TR
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Arts
Funders: Arts Council England (
Depositing User: Shona Illingworth
Date Deposited: 25 Nov 2014 12:08 UTC
Last Modified: 12 Jul 2022 10:40 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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