After a few weeks of revising plans, pleading emails, panicked phone calls, the Making Space focus group and the Political Literacy group made it to Holyrood…
Travelling the Distance
The aim of the day was to see ‘Travelling the Distance’, an artwork by Shauna McMullan, one of our two wonderful artists-in-residence. It is made up of 3 large slabs of porcelain, inscribed with 100 quotations about inspiring women. Shauna travelled up and down Scotland gathering the quotations, and getting to know the women who wrote them; ‘Travelling the Distance’ takes us on the journey with her. Celebrating stateswomen, artists, workers, activists, teachers, mothers, sisters, friends, it reminds us of the women who have inspired our own lives.
The quotations are inscribed in the handwriting of their various authors. Looking at the sculpture, you feel an intimate connection to the women writing, and the women written about. However disparate the women are, however distinct their stories and achievements, they are all connected within the artwork. Shauna has created a lineage of Scottish women; although she had to stop for practical reasons, the tree of connections does not end with the artwork. It is an open house, no woman is unworthy of inclusion, we are all written in the inscribed words.
I think most of us who have seen the artwork or read it in book format will have a favourite line, that seems to speak directly to us, that sticks in our thoughts. I can still hear Jean Girdwood (GWL media representative) roaring with laughter as she read aloud the quotation: “I’m really very nice inside; it’s just the presentation that’s gone wrong!” It is not my favourite line in the book, but it is now imprinted in my memory, connecting ‘Travelling the Distance’ to a woman I know, to a time, to a place.
The Blue Spine project
Shauna is particularly interested in mapping, and the forthcoming ‘Blue Spine’ project – commissioned by Glasgow Women’s Library – will create a new map of women in Scotland, through a collection of books categorised according to Shauna’s own system. You are invited to participate in this artwork by contributing a book (which will be returned) that meets two requirements: that it has a blue spine; that it is written by a woman. If you are interested in taking part, or would like more information, please email shauna.mcmullan[at]womenslibrary.org.uk or contact the Library.
Thanks to Syma and the Political Literacy ladies, who very kindly allowed us to share their visit (and their bus). Thanks to Laura’s uncle, who booked us a beautiful Committee Room to hold our discussions of ‘Travelling the Distance’ and Shauna’s new ‘Blue Spine’ project. Thanks to the Visitor Services team, who gave us a customised tour of the Parliament – an ark of a building, filled with open spaces and intricate nooks; flushed with light and astonishing views of nature and art; flecked with details and architectural riddles (controversies aside, I loved the mish-mash approach!). Thanks to the Scotland on Sunday for our mention. Thanks to Shauna, Nicky, and Fiona, and to all of the women who attended, who made it such an enjoyable and memorable day!