A Dream of the Hamnavoe Free State

Pier Arts Centre, Stromness Orkney

various dimensions and materials,



click images for enlargements

The Hamnavoe of the show’s title comes from the Old Norse name for the town of Stromness, in the Orkney Islands where this exhibition began at the Pier Arts Centre.

I was reflecting on the period 1968-1998 addressing the retraction and failure of sixties radicalism and counter-culture moving into anarchism, the situationists, the Red Army Faction towards the rise and fall of punk rock in the late 1970’s. What happened to these ideas of changing the world for everyone, for the better? To this end he made a poetic re-construction of a ‘Free State’ he was proposing had existed in this Hamnavoe - this no place on the periphery of Europe. However, in keeping with many historical mythologies, the audience had to decide for themselves how real this place really was.

The works in the various rooms of the gallery reflected different aspects of this Free State. The library, the living area, the pier with its massive yellow take-off ramp shooting towards the sea, the aspirational centrepiece of the commune. A launch-pad for one’s imagination. Maybe Sinclair was proposing that the Pier Arts Centre had been taken over as part of a popular revolution by utopian idealists whose motto “Not as it is but as it could be" was inscribed on the walls and guided their struggles.

The use of the idea of this place Hamnavoe was inspired by the great Orcadian poet, George Mackay Brown who used the idea of Hamnavoe as a plausible fictionwhere one could imagine The Hamnavoe Free State too is a place of imagination, similar to everyday life as we know it but somehow different in many significant ways, maybe where history had taken a different turn. A place where everything is possible and anything can happen. The work travelled to London at the Agency where it became The Hamnavoe Free State(London Office), an compact outpost deep in the heart of the nation’s capital city.