“The eerie lives in the same family of feelings as Freud’s “uncanny” which in its original German, unheimlich, means “unhomely”.”
Robert Macfarlane, The Guardian 3/12/2022
The experiences of medieval pilgrims are hard to guess at, but the act of leaving on a long and potentially hazardous journey would be, by nature, unhomely and at times eerie and uncanny. Without maps, the traveller would way-find, trusting to those they meet along the way in a landscape that would be barely recognizable today. No field boundaries, few roads and changing paths would make the journey uncertain. Sea crossings would be long and treacherous. Fears would be counterbalanced by elations; the spirit would wax and wane through new encounters.
In this work, Unheimlich, I have followed the pilgrimage route from Ferns to St. David’s, seeking out the medieval mindset, travelling through palimpsestic landscapes scattered with traces of multiple pasts. I have imagined how someone form the medieval period would have reacted to these landscapes, as they were and how they are today, photographing scenes that epitomise these reflections.
The medieval pilgrimage was a quest, a search for salvation, cure or a penance for crime, a journey to a somewhere something provided a transformative solution. Often these loci were in relics that once touched could miraculously salve the pilgrim. These relics were housed in often ornate reliquaries. Hence I also made a contemporary reliquary, to act as the end point of my own fictionalised (and actual) pilgrimage.
Unheimlich is the product of an art commission for Ancient Connections, an EU funded project that examined the links between Wexford in Ireland and North Pembrokeshire in Wales with a particular focus on the medieval period. More info can be found here. The work included analogue monochrome photography, ambient sound recording and a contemporary reliquary made of glass. The work was shown in Sift a touring group show with four other artists, David Begley, Sean Vicary, Linda Norris and Silvia Cullen in 2023.