Celestial Radio // Island Songlines

A radio station on board a glittering, mirror-tiled yacht Celestial Radio transmits light and sound, broadcasting over the airwaves on 87.7FM. A flickering sequence: on, off, on, off, a vibrating movement like the patterns of a wave form or a blinking signal, the moment you begin to listen and make the journey the work starts to exist.

Celestial Skye is a site-specific broadcast in which artists Zöe Walker and Neil Bromwich take us on an epic journey through time and across Skye, Raasay and Rona. Exploring the continuing significance of people who are no longer here, weaving in voices of the present to reflect on island life today.

As an ATLAS commission the project has been ambitious in terms of its size, scope and scale but for many, Celestial Radio and the shimmering mirrored yacht will be a unique experience that occurs throughout the course of a day and at night with one of Scotland’s most iconic landscapes as a backdrop.

Audiences are invited to sit, walk, contemplate and listen to the work and be transported by the language of the landscape and the story created from it. Where like circular time the past and the present are mixed and an in-between reality is created.

The voices of male and female narrators draw the listener into the cultural and physical landscape that surrounds them, the story is a map for a journey – it is a line that follows a chain of events in the life of a place.

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Photo of Celestial Skye map

Celestial Skye map by Zöe Walker and Neil Bromwich.

Imbued with symbolic powers, rich with stories and firmly embedded in the cultural consciousness – landscape is hugely important  to this community. The structure of someone singing an oral map comes from an Australian Aboriginal tradition; it is a description of the landscape and of a dreaming. It is a way to tell people about their environment; the landscape is the narrative, and you can travel from one point of the narrative to another, through the oral map. Almost like a personal GPS, it’s a relation of place, narrated time; quite a mind-blowing structure and parallels the one that Walker and Bromwich conjure up from Skye through this extraordinary broadcast.

Here the spectacle is not a diversion from something else but a starting point, an invitation allowing a shift in your imagination to happen, a displacement – like a magic trick. Like the meticulous individual placing of the mirrors on a boat the place created by Walker and Bromwich is an oblique mirror, if you face the mirror you see elsewhere.

Emma Nicolson, ATLAS director
To read an interview with Walker and Bromwich and see the map they created for Celestial Skye please click here.