Where is Loch Computer?

Wednesday 23 March 2016


Loch Computer, a unique exhibition led by the University of St Andrews, will launch in Edinburgh next week. The exhibition brings together technology experts and renowned writers with a focus on the island of Iona, and will run from Monday (28 March until 8 April) at the Tent Gallery in Evolution House to coincide with the Edinburgh International Science Festival.

The exhibition is the culmination of a two-year project which has sought to cross traditional boundaries between arts and sciences by bringing together Scotland’s leading computer scientists, artists, poets, short story writers, literary scholars and digital humanities specialists in a unique arts and technologies collaboration and which will focus on the Hebridean island of Iona to examine the meaning of remoteness and connectedness in the modern digital era.

The original idea for Loch Computer came from the poet Robert Crawford, who is Bishop Wardlaw Professor of Poetry at the University of St Andrews, and whose books include the collection of poems Testament (Cape, 2014) and Contemporary Poetry and Contemporary Science (OUP, 2006).

He said: “Loch Computer has been rewarding not least because it’s been unpredictable – it’s burst its banks and overflowed in directions none of us quite imagined. The Loch Computer exhibition is just one of the proofs of that.”

Hosted by the Edinburgh College of Art, the exhibition involves imaginative collaborative installations such as that between the photographer Norman McBeath and print-maker Leena Nammari based on the account of Jerusalem given to a seventh-century abbot of Iona (who had never seen Palestine) by a traveller shipwrecked on the Hebridean island.

Another unique exhibit will be The Iona Machine (aka ‘qraqrbox’) invented by computer scientist Al Dearle to deliver “puddles of internet” to remote places that lack broadband access, providing specially commissioned poems in Gaelic and English by Meg Bateman, Robert Crawford and Peter Mackay.

Short story writers Meaghan Delahunt, Jennie Erdal, Sara Lodge, Victoria Mackenzie, Candia McWilliam, Ruth Thomas and Alice Thompson also join Edinburgh-based computer scientist Dave Robertson, who is originally from Shetland, in the exhibition, among other leading figures.

Over the last two years the Loch Computer group, many of whose members had never before met each other, gathered every few months to discuss contemporary aspects of remoteness and connectedness – from cybersecurity to autism and from photography to translation and minority language use.

Crisscrossing between art and science, Loch Computer has also resulted in an anthology, The Book of Iona, to be published by Polygon in July, which will feature many of the stories and poems produced as well as a collectors’ edition artist’s box, entitled Loch Computer, which includes photographs by Norman McBeath and Leena Nammari alongside poems by Meg Bateman, Robert Crawford, Jen Hadfield and Peter Mackay.

Notes to news editors

Images courtesy of Norman McBeath.

Loch Computer is supported by the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Scottish Government through an Arts and Humanities Research Network Grant.

Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office, contactable on 01334 462530 or [email protected].

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