A few weeks ago, I found myself traveling to Santiago De Compostela, Galicia. A journey along lines which hundreds of thousands of pilgrims before me will have made over the centuries. For most an act of faith, along the Way of St James, leading them to the great cathedral overlooking Praza do Obradoiro. Faced with limited time, my dilemma was, do I experience the ecclesiastical riches that this World Heritage Site has to offer or do I seek contemporary intersections between heritage, landscape and creativity.
Some cities reveal a creative pulse as you arrive on their outskirts, the first indications of life can often be tagging and stickers, as you travel further in you may encounter murals and other street art, which then blends and blurs with public art in the heart of the city. In the short time I had spent in Santiago De Compostela there was already enough signs of playful creativity…
Thus I found myself outside the Centro Galego de Arte Contemporanea (CGAC) before it opened, and to fill a few minutes began to explore a park adjacent to it. I soon encountered a large piece by Basque Sculptor Eduardo Chillida, Porta da Música: it is said there is a peculiar sound when the wind blows against it !
Past another ruined building,
As I flowed further up, a succession of devices led the water down the hill,
possible water cistern, grotto,
entrance to an underworld.
autumn leaves nestled in dry flowing meanders.
moth-like I was drawn towards the walls of white beyond, to be immersed in a cemetery.
I was looking so hard at what I was meant to see, the emptied recesses, names and numbers variously inscribed, that I nearly missed the continued flow of lines, no longer in water but this time a flow of stone.
These tiny traces, I first spotted adjacent to the entrance, and could follow, in one
Occasional traces of embellishment punctuated the flow.
Eyes frantically danced across the compartments, and rested on a plume of feathers on the other side of the cemetery.
And across the gap broken by steps,
Meandering through another recess.
…beneath shiny marble progressed
Why do stones flow through the cemetery?
There is intent. There is an order of stones in the cemetery.
The stones are small, discretely positioned, but not hidden. In the higher, longer runs of stone, they have been placed at the very front edge of the compartments. Perhaps seeking to be spotted, yet precariously living on the edge. In contrast, the lower flows of stone which meander and splash across the gaps, hug the wall closely, nervous of being disturbed by passers.
The evident dislocation and obscuration of some stones by small plants, suggests they originally flowed some time earlier this year, it is clearly in a process of decay, but not totally ruinous. The traces of feather embellishment have a regularity, which suggests further feathers may have been placed to create an overall pattern or design.
We can imagine how it may have looked when first completed, resplendent ! But even in its full glory, how many have noticed the flow of stone within the cemetery.
We can only speculate as to who may have produced this, perhaps furtively, with no one else aware of their repeated visits to the cemetery: an individual act, contemplative, obsessive, beautiful in intent ?
Or was this created collectively as part of an art work, a publicly made installation ?
Widely known, much celebrated in the city,
and very occasionally revealed to the
————————————————————————————————————————I flowed through the Parque de San Domingos de Bonaval. It was was the site of a 13th century convent, and after years of abandonment and neglect, was converted into a public space in 1995, about the process for which more details can be found here. The core of the city is a World Heritage Site, Santiago de Compostela (Old Town), characterised by a rich ecclesiastical architectural and continued cultural heritage traditions of pilgrimage. There is also further World Heritage Site designations of locations associated with the pilgrimage routes, comprising Route of Santiago De Compostela and Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France.