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Ragadawn: The sunrise performance on Skye worth waking up early for

On Saturday 25 August, over 100 people rose before dawn on Skye, to watch a performance from the internationally-renowned Norwegian artist, writer and performer, Caroline Bergvall.

Performed on the roof terrace of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, over-looking the Sound of Sleat towards the Knoydart Peninsula and the lights of Mallaig, Ragadawn was a unique sunrise performance brought to the island by visual arts organisation, ATLAS Arts.

The piece was designed in collaboration with Gaelic speakers on the island. It aimed to take the audience "on a sonic journey as the sun rose above the mountains" (all the while set to the backdrop of a dawn chorus of birds, and naturally, a passing rain shower).

Bergvall’s spoken word composition was complemented by the soprano voice of Peyee Chen, and languages from across Europe, including Gaelic recorded on Skye.

It was very moving to be in a place where Gaelic is actively spoken and where that aspect was accessible to a number of its audience members- Caroline Bergvall

With the work beginning at 5.14am, there was only one natural conclusion to the piece: breakfast. After Bergvall's performance had finished, the audience were led into a dining hall for a feast of porridge and kedgeree, seaweed bread and tea and coffee – using locally sourced ingredients and Scottish suppliers.

Bergvall, speaking to ATLAS about the performance, said: “The remoteness, the weather, the extraordinary landscape and changing skies, the physical demands setting up the work in these conditions, the audience who made it for 5am, the bond I felt between the work and the landscape, and the strong connection with ATLAS Arts throughout our two years’ work to make this happen.

Ragadawn

"This is so far the first performance of Ragadawn where so many minoritarian or at risk languages were featured, and where Gaelic speakers could be heard prominently throughout the work. It was very moving to be in a place where Gaelic is actively spoken and where that aspect was accessible to a number of its audience members.

"It seemed to make all the other languages of Ragadawn also more alive, as though more connected across space and time.”

The London-based Norwegian artist, writer and performer is renowned for her work, which spans art forms, media and languages. She has been the recipient of numerous awards and commissions, including the Centre Pompidou’s prestigious Prix Litteraire Bernard Heidsieck Prize.

Her work frequently develops through exploring material traces, literary documents and linguistic detail, language and literary history, sites and histories, hidden or forgotten knowledges.

ATLAS’ Director, Emma Nicolson was impressed by how the work drew people together. She said: “We were thrilled to see so many people enthusiastically get up early to welcome the dawn together and we couldn't have asked for a more unique setting than the rooftop of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig (SMO).

Ragadawn

"Watching the sky transition from dark to light, combined with Caroline's mix of poetry, language, and song all created an extremely atmospheric way to waken the mind and body. Although ephemeral the event took a lot of planning and we are extremely grateful to the many people that helped in the preparation and production of the event especially the staff at SMO.”

Later in the year the work will be performed in Marseille, before going on to the Centre Pompidou in Paris and Berlin in 2019.

Find out more about Ragadawn at atlasarts.org.uk/projects/ragadawn-caroline-bergvall.

(Images: ATLAS Arts/S. Gerrard)

This article was published on 05 Sep 2018