ANGUS MCPHEE - Weaver of Grass

ANGUS MCPHEE or MACPHEE was a crofter from Uist who spent almost 50 years in a Highland psychiatric hospital. During this time he chose not to speak - instead he wove a series of incredible costumes out of grass. These he hung on trees in the hospital grounds.

This blog follows the progress of HORSE + BAMBOO THEATRE as they develop and tour a show about Angus....

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Cracking the Grass Code

Joanne Kaar explains how she succeeded in unravelling the mystery of Angus MacPhee's garments.....

"My name is Joanne Kaar. I live in Dunnet village, on Dunnet Head in Caithness. With  views  to the village of Brough, where I grew up. The Pentland Firth and the Orkney Island of Hoy are in the distance.

Earlier this year I visited Joyce Laing  in Pittenweem, Fife, to take a closer look at the grass garments made my Angus MacPhee.  I had seen his incredible work while it as on display in Stornoway many years ago.   Angus was a crofter. He lived in South Uist, but spent almost 50 years in Craig Dunain psychiatric hospital in Inverness........."

To read more go to the NORTHINGS website

Sunday, 20 November 2011

As we continue to wait for news of our funding application to Creative Scotland, there's still - of course - plenty to do. Alison's new show 'The Twittering Machine' goes into rehearsal tomorrow and I've a set to complete for that, plus 'Red Riding Hood' continues to tour until it arrives at the Royal Exchange studio in Manchester, as their Christmas Show. 

As for Angus, whenever I come up for air from working on the above, new ideas emerge. The video and film sections in particular keep being reshaped in my mind, probably because animated videos are another thing I'm working on at Horse + Bamboo at the moment. Last week I woke up in the middle of the night and imagined 52 Balgarva, the tigh dubh where Angus spent his boyhood, as a small but detailed model that a camera could explore with live feed whilst projecting the results onto the stage; and that the hospital at Craig Dunain likewise could be modelled and used in the same way. I like this idea of combining the action of live use of the camera, preferring it in many ways to using pre-shot film. 

Today I went to the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester to see Dark Matters, a show by 10 artists who explore shadow, darkness and illusion - many using video and live-feed projection. Daniel Rozin's pieces I found especially impressive. One 'Snow Mirror' (above) simply played back the viewers likenesses onto a silk screen, but the quality of the image - spectral, snow-like, created a sense of something removed from the present,  remembered rather than actual, even though it worked much as a mirror does. This was exactly the quality I had imagined using for 'Angus' in those scenes where Angus MacPhee returns to his home after 50 years and the memories flood back; totally present for him (and the audience) - but at the same time existing only as memories. 

Saturday, 12 November 2011

A new resting place...

This, the Glasgow Museums Resource Centre is where most of what remains of Angus MacPhees work will end up. Joanne B Kaar sent me this link; the Centre is where the vast collection of Scottish Museums is held when it's not on display. 

Joyce Laing is intending to close her wonderful Art Extraordinary Gallery in Pittenweem for good this winter, and then the collection will move to the GMRC where it can be properly looked after and the fragile work restored where necessary. I know it's her hope that the pieces will still be able to be seen, forming touring exhibitions of the work.