ØY Festival 2018: Is there Anyone Out There?

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Moti, the brilliant wee Orkney Art Collective that I’ve worked several times in the past, was involved in a similarly brilliant project in November of 2018, Papa Westray’s ØY Festival.  ØY is a yearly arts festival held on the tiny island of Papa Westray, one of the most northerly, remote islands in the Orkney archipelago. With a population in the high 60s, the place is small but feels very similar to the climbs of Raasay with a local, passionate community punching above their weight on a wee island stuck beside a big island. What’s more, the ØY Festival aims to bring arts, music, media and tourism to an island which, like many, sees such huge dips in visitor numbers out of season. 2018’s ØY was all about Space, and Moti was invited to create a piece of artwork for the event around the space-faring ideas. What they came up with were delightful ‘space probes’, which involved creating a huge canvas with the words “Is there anyone would there?’ printed on it. This was then cut up into dozens of postcard-sized ‘space probes’ and sent out to artists on islands all over the world. I was lucky enough to have one turn up on my doorstep here on Raasay, and I was asked to ‘make my mark’ on it in any way I wanted and send it back post haste. I thought it would be fun to film myself doing it, so I turned the making of into a short film, which you can see below:

I’m not someone who invests a huge amount of time into planning shall we say, so I decided to just jump into the work the moment I got it. I had initially planned an intricate, stacked up castle of buildings that featured every building on Raasay, similar in many ways to my ‘Raasay, but vertical’ drawing, but I then decided against it and instead laid out all the buildings from memory on a sort of grid layout, followed by a tiny spec of a person for each member of the community I could remember. Looking back, I probably got it about 90% correct, but I feel it shows an almost infographic presentation of what makes up the constituent parts of my populated island in quite a neat way. Once it was packed up, it was just a case of waiting for the big moment and heading up to ØY which, incidentally, I also captured on film in a short film below- you can spot near the end my little postcard in place amongst the others. A good number of the ‘space probes’ did get returned, which was nice, but I’m actually sorted of glad 100% didn’t, as it created this quite effective incomplete ‘map’ of artists around the world.

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