I can see a Victorian shop, in July 2023, full of light. There are writers. The writers sit, at small tables, maybe on a step, or a stool. They are dispersed around the room, they are at ease. I’m getting the smell of flowers. I’m getting tea, maybe the flat sweetness of a custard cream. In amongst them are objects, pinks and blues. A domesticity but also a gaze into distance, out across the water, a darkening sky.
The writers are writing. Their writing is related somehow to the objects in the room but it’s also somewhere else. The blankness of a new pavement before the surrounding buildings have come up alongside it. Dense green leylandii, summer dusk, not far from the flicker of aircraft shadow.
In psychometry, a psychic lays their hands on a significant object and because objects hold the energy of their pasts and of the people who possessed them, the psychic can speak for the object, perform a kind of psychic archaeology on it. While there is no scientific proof for this, maybe writers and sculptors, who understand the language of an object and the texture of a story, understand it too.
As part of her exhibition, Granton Séance, Megan held a writing workshop where participants were led through variations on meditations and exercises that psychics might use to hone psychometric technique. In pairs, we end up describing unfamiliar objects to their unfamiliar owners, translating from surface to narrative, calling forth characters and atmospheres. Psychics and mediums, like the ones transcribed in a film, ‘Is She One of Us?’, performing psychometry on a bat costume fashioned by Megan’s gran from a cocktail dress and concealed within a supermarket carrier bag, tend to work in short vivid vignettes. Megan’s writing, appearing at intervals throughout the exhibition, does the same. Each one of the following short texts relates to one of Megan’s sculptures, imagining them created through psychic phenomena.
The Granton Gasholder begins to form in front of you, its spindly cylinder soft and chewy, frame embracing air. Imagine that ectoplasm could form industrial structures. That always creeping in at the edge of your sight is latticework against sky and the thought that each vertical once flared with a gas flame. People say that mediums simulated ectoplasm by chewing up and regurgitating cheesecloth—not too far from the sculptor here working with plaster and cloth.
Imagine a warm room with shutters closed, people standing in a circle, gently holding a ring of thin, silvery wire. The wire passes through each of their hands, barely touching. The leader of the group is a medium asking questions to spirits, asking that they make their presence known, using the ring of wire as the method of communication. It is light and conductive and therefore surely it is within their abilities to lift it just a little from the gathering’s slight grasp, please? Surely?
Following a conversation with spirits, the wire is lifted, pulled and bent into a shape that resembles that conversation; the shape of the flight path of a fat bluebottle that slips through a cracked open window. It is laid down on the floorboards and candles are lit to illuminate the shapes of its rise and fall.
A short distance from the Gasholder is United Wire, a factory where wire is woven into cloths, meshes and gauzes of many different gauges and sizes. They are specialists in the exact permeability of a membrane.
Some of the grans conspired together to be able to conjure right before you, the spirit of one of their own who had passed, in the space behind them as they pass through train stations, round corners in supermarkets, a power held in common.
Timothea Armour is a writer and artist based in Edinburgh.
The exhibition Granton Séance by Megan Rudden was held at mote102, Edinburgh, 24 June to 9 July 2023