Alastair MacLennan:

Beyond the Archive


Three concurrent performances by three artists, in and around the McManus Art Gallery and Museum in Dundee.
29 October 2022, 12.00-16.00

This project has now taken place. You can find documentation of Alastair MacLennan, Hattie Godfrey and Rabindranath X Bhose’s performances here.

We are excited to be presenting Alastair MacLennan: Beyond the Archive a collaborative project between the Alastair MacLennan Archive at DJCAD (University of Dundee), Leisure and Culture Dundee, Bbeyond in Belfast and GENERATORprojects in Dundee, presenting:

SILIBANT MISCIBLE by Alastair MacLennan in the Dundee & the World Gallery at The McManus 

Memento Mori by Rabindranath X Bhose at the Howff Graveyard, Meadowside

Hands My In Head My Clasped by Hattie Godfrey in the Victoria Gallery & Spiral Staircase at The McManus 

In 1992 The McManus Galleries hosted the exhibition A Decade of Fine Art which celebrated the first ten years of the School of Fine Art in Dundee. One of two commissions funded by the Scottish Arts Council, MacLennan’s performative installation CAN’T CANT occurred over several days, moving between the Victoria Gallery and the adjacent room, housing part of the Decade show. It is now thirty years from this seminal event, and approaching the year of Alastair’s 80th birthday we are delighted to premier a new actuation, SIBILANT MISCIBLE by Alastair MacLennan, at the McManus Galleries here in Dundee. 

Funding from the Arts & Humanities Research Council has enabled us to work with two artists’ collectives: Bbeyond in Belfast and GENERATORprojects in Dundee. Each was invited to initiate an open call for proposals by artists in their area to make a new work in response to the MacLennan Archive at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design. Funding allowed the two selected artists to visit the archive and meet Alastair and the core team in his archive. All three artists will present their performances on the same day – Alastair MacLennan and Hattie Godfrey in the McManus, and Rabindranath X Bhose in the nearby Howff Graveyard.  

During this activity we will be exhibiting a series of archival images of MacLennan’s seminal CAN’T CANT performance at the McManus Galleries, the home of its 1992 debut. Alastair will complete the circle with the new commissioned work, SIBILANT MISCIBLE, which, in turn, will be documented as part of the MacLennan Archive. This will form an important aspect of a new documentary which will include interviews with the artists and MacLennan and will be featured on the MacLennan website and on a monitor at the entrance of the archive at DJCAD. 

This project is funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council.

Project Team at DJCAD: Calum Colvin (CI), Adam Lockhart (PI), Arthur Watson (CI), Catherine Cavanagh & Jamie Donald, Judit Bodor (Artist Selection).

Project Team at McManus Galleries: Anna Robertson, Susan Keracher.

Event Documentation: Rob Page (Schedule D Productions) & Adam Lockhart.

Generator Team: Sarah Gillespie, Rhonda Jack, Nicola Rubczak

Bbeyond Team: Sandra Corrigan Breathnath


Rabindranath X Bhose, Memento Mori, Howff Graveyard, Meadowside.

In this performance, I will be haunting the graveyard in the figure of an oracle bird. I will wear a hybrid costume of objects borrowed from the Alastair MacLennan archive and my own items to support me to step into this role.

When I visited the Howff, there were two large dead seagulls flanking the path to the west. They were completely intact, as if frozen in time. I will begin from the point of these two guides, and ask them to invite me into the underground museum of the cemetery. This performance will occur two days before Samhain or Halloween, when the barrier between all spaces becomes thinner.

You will see me tracing letters on gravestones with latex balloon-sheathed fingers, lying in the position of the memento mori stone-carved skeletons, and convening with the ancient plant life which inhabits the cemetery.

These actions form an ‘invocation’, a calling into relation that which is unseen or hidden. In the graveyard, death will be invoked as a companion to the living, drawing on my research on communities who live close to death. My invocation responds to Alastair MacLennan’s ‘actuations’ which draw a deep focus to the realities of living to get closer to a sense of truth.

The capacity to see deeper realities below the surface comes from having a reverent link to another dimension and a tenuous tie to a physical world which is violent towards your being. I will focus this capacity to see deeper as I spiritually cruise the graveyard.

Hattie Godfrey, Hands My In Head My Clasped, Victoria Gallery, Long Gallery & spiral staircase.

Hands My In Head My Clasped occupies The Victoria Gallery, The Long Gallery, and the spiral staircase. It includes the installation of a three walled structure made from steel and scrim, through which we can both see, and not see, the black-clad figure inhabiting the space. A pattern develops: gently she leaves her vacant house and retrieves one of the 33 pairs of shoes that line the ornate, sweeping staircase.

MacLennan’s soft tones emanate from the artist’s body, he speaks of sunshine, of apples and of hens; both artists are present and absent. It is time to go home, and so she returns, disappearing amongst her walls as she cares for neglected space.

Alastair MacLennan, SIBILANT MISCIBLE, Dundee and the World Gallery.

As the sound of many words in English differs from their ascribed meanings, so likewise with visual appearances. How things look is often not how they are.

Art may allude to transformative pluralities… seeing sameness in difference and difference in sameness, embracing vulnerability in performing ‘real’ time beyond the pre-edited, being adaptable re. external forms (not compromising core principles), blending ethics / aesthetics… and revealing ‘poetry in motion’, fusing self with others.

Artist Biographies

Hattie Godfrey is an artist and researcher working in performance, installation, drawing and text. Her work considers her own and society’s increasingly complicated relationship with concepts of illness, care, and convalescence. She has recently shown work at Belfast International Festival of Performance Art (2021), Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival (2021, 2022) and NI Mental Health and Arts Festival (2022). She was selected as Bbeyond’s 2020 New Commissions Artist and is a studio holder at Flax Art Studios in Belfast. Hattie studied BA Fine Art at Goldsmiths, University of London, graduating with first class honours in 2018. She later graduated from the MSc in Psychological Science at Queen’s University Belfast in 2020, receiving distinction.

Rabindranath X Bhose is an artist and writer based in Glasgow. He graduated from the Ruskin School of Art in 2016 with a BFA in Fine Art and the School of the Damned nomadic, community-run MFA in 2019. His work circles around queer masculinity, spiritual transformation, and (healing from) trauma. Recent exhibitions and performances include; In Dedication, We Exist w/Koppel Project, London (2022); At Practise #2 and #4, David Dale, Glasgow (2021; 2022); In Touch, Embassy, Edinburgh (2021); Platform, Edinburgh Art Festival, Edinburgh (2020); Digital Slip, Double Okay, Online (2020); All was vibrating fur, Limbo, London (2019); All vibrating fur, Civic House, Glasgow (2019); and SINC, Backlit, Nottingham (2019).