October 15, 2020

Why Listen to the Woods?

Iain Stewart, 54 | Ashiel Stewart-McFarlane, 31

Coilltean Ratharsair is an inter-generational collaboration between uncle and nephew. Using two source recordings (a poem and a pibroch) and a video artwork, it is about philosophical enquiry and love, by drawing on the metaphors of woods, nature and place. Inspired by the sound and rhythm of Sorley MacLean’s recital of his own poem and its correspondence to the pibroch, ‘Cumha Iain Ghairbh Mhic Gille Chaluim’, people can negotiate their own emotional and mental journeys through the piece. Intention, causation, and the nature of love are universal themes that we can glean but the woods themselves work on many levels; they are their own cosmology. Loose in visual interpretation the piece gives power to the poetry and in being non-prescriptive aids its endurance. This work heightened our appreciation for the richness of Gaelic culture and language. We walked in the footsteps of Sorley MacLean and imbibed perhaps a little of his place and thoughts. Later, the gentle nod from viewers, community and trustees was heart-warming – an acceptance and sense of belonging. It felt like a great opportunity to make accessible, particularly to younger and diverse audiences, the work of someone who really cared about place, language and thought.

Coilltean Ratharsair (The Woods of Raasay), 2020Film