India looms for mill art

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An exhibition featuring the sounds of Border textile mills begins a three-city tour in India next week.

Hawick-based choreographer Claire Pençak, artistic director of Tabula Rasa Dance Company, was awarded £20,000 from Creative Scotland to take Between the Web and the Loom: a collection of moving image works, exploring themes around weaving, through textiles, sound and dance, to India.

The show is a collaboration between Pençak, tapestry artist Joan Baxter, and moving image artist John McGeoch, who are all going to India on October 29, and two more artists, dancer Shamita Ray and composer James Wyness.

The context for the work is the Orkney land and seascape, a short story, The Weaver, by the great Orcadian writer George Mackay Brown, and sounds recorded by Wyness of the remaining Borders textile mills, including Selkirk’s Andrew Elliot Ltd and Lochcarron, and Drove Weaving in Langholm.

The exhibition consists of three textile pieces into which a dance film is projected. The largest is a three-panel tapestry created by Joan Baxter.

Another piece features a weaver’s sample from the Hunters of Brora Mill, in which the dancer appears as 12 small figures, whose gestures and movement across the weave echo the mechanics of a loom.

The third piece refers to the shroud in the story and to one of the final images.

The performance premiered at Hawick’s 2012 Alchemy Film & Moving Image Festival, before touring to Selkirk’s Yes Festival last year, in the Borders’ last independent mill Andrew Elliot Ltd, and to Glasgow’s Tramway, An Lanntair on Lewis and Aberdeen Art Gallery.

Now the show is leaving Scotland’s shores for India, travelling to the cities of Calcutta, Delhi and Chennai, as part of The Park’s New Festival, which showcases brilliance in music, dance, art and theatre.

And it’s proving a challenge for the artists, who must transport projectors, a sound system, many tapestries and themselves in a foreign land.

“The logistics are tricky,” Claire told us. “The main thing is moving the equipment from city to city. Anything can happen at the other end. The freight disappeared on 
Tuesday, and it goes via Paris and China. So it’s going on a journey.

“The tour is mostly covered by Creative Scotland, which gave us £20,000, and the Indian festival is contributing the accommodation and internal flights. We cover the rest.

“It’ll be an adventure. It would be great if something else comes out of it.

“There are opportunities to meet other artists out there. We’re going to learn a lot. We’re all starting to get excited about it.”