Birsay, Orkney, Scotland


AIR, SEA AND SOIL is The Museum of Loss and Renewal’s Group Residency programme that takes place in Scotland’s Orkney Islands and is a partnership with the Pier Arts Centre, Stromness.

MICRO-MACRO has been devised by Tracy Mackenna & Edwin Janssen (The Museum of Loss and Renewal) and is facilitated by Tracy Mackenna and a range of multidisciplinary Orkney-based experts who have in common site-specific, participatory and socially engaged practices. Their diverse skills, expertise and modes of working are activated to investigate collecting, energy, (imagined)futures, (layered)histories, (stratified)landscape, (experimental)mapping, memory(ecological, material and ruin), recording, site(responsiveness), (intersections of)material/immaterial realms, (deep)time and walking as practice.

Welcome to all of you interested in making, thinking and being in experimental ways. This Group Residency takes you out and about in Orkney, allows you to focus, introduces you to the impact of climate emergency, to vast skies, open vistas and the archipelago that has long been shaped by the sea. You will get up close to places, matter and materials and ideas, and step back to consider your position in the universe.

MICRO-MACRO is offered for practitioners and researchers working in all creative disciplines and for those who have a strong interest in the investigation of site and place. Applications were welcomed from fields where relationship to and investigation of place and site are of central focus such as art, archaeology, architecture, botany, cartography, collecting/collections, design, folklore, geography, geology, geotechnology, history, landscape(design), mythology, performance, walking and writing. 

As an example of a site-specific Group Residency, see the activities and material generated during the Place, People and Time: WILD WAYS Group Residency, 2022


– Creative practices
– Interdisciplinarity
– Technologies
– Co-learning
– Individual practice
– Experimentation
– Semi-structured programme
– Expert facilitator/s and guest contributors
– Collective platform for encounters
– Supportive, caring, non-hierarchical environment
– Fully catered
– Immersive experience
– Relationships to land, connections through place
– Location specific, inc. Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site
– Site(responsiveness)
– Cultural and environmental ecologies
– Memory (ecological, material, ruin)
– Imagining futures 
– Publics; participants and audiences


The Group Residency is devised around the relationships of ‘Air, Sea and Soil’, encompassing the Orkney Islands’ remarkable natural environment. Residents are welcomed to the historic Birsay area, where the bespoke programme will take place in the excellent accommodation and work facilities of the Pier Arts Centre’s Linkshouse. Expert introductions to the Group Residency’s subject matter and to Orkney’s land, culture, and contemporary issues e.g. ecology and renewable energy are provided by the facilitator/s and guest contributors, and through visits to Neolithic Orkney’s World Heritage Sites.


The aim of the Group Residency is to develop approaches to place that are experimental, inventive in their form, and that respond to place by paying attention to the intersections and collisions between art, culture, materiality, technologies and place. Individual experience will be regarded as being not at the world’s centre, but woven into its fabric.

Opportunities are created for creative practitioners and researchers to share and establish a bank of knowledge and creative strategies, both globally interconnected and hyper local, digital and analogue, for imagining new responses to places and the multiple, layered and contested histories they hold. Bringing together residents from a range of areas of practice and research, the potential to create an international network is made possible.

Ian Hamilton Finlay, Gods of the Earth/Gods of the Sea, (with Nicholas Sloan), Portland stone, 74 x 210 x 330 cm.
Commissioned by the Pier Arts Centre and sited in Rousay, Orkney in 2005


MICRO-MACRO provides a partially-structured and hands-on programme of site-based ways of working that are shared to enable residents to develop their skills and understanding of how to investigate site as part of a creative practice and for public presentation to a global audience.

The programme is devised around a bespoke itinerary, with carefully crafted indoor sessions that focus on expanded approaches to discussion, presentation, making and sharing. Outdoor sessions introduce residents to the stunning natural landscape and world-class archaeological sites. Utilising individual practices, residents from diverse cultures and creative disciplines focus on different ways of responding to place through immersive, connected experience in site, land and weather.

Designed to be supportive, the partially-structured programme enables residents to develop their skills, and understanding of place across a range of approaches and technologies. The residency experience stimulates new ways of thinking and experimentation through production, research, co-learning and presentation. The programme provides a framework and acts as a catalyst for deepening observation and expanding awareness of the non-human and human world.

Residents can step out of Linkshouse on to the St Magnus Way pilgrimage route that is inspired by the life and death of Magnus, Orkney’s patron saint. A few minutes walk from Linkshouse at the Atlantic Ocean, Birsay Bay’s 400 million year old spectacular rock structures reflect how landmasses have moved, and how glacial erosion has sculpted the islands that we know today as Orkney. Intricate and immersive geological masses draw us in whilst signalling climate change in the past, perhaps helping us predict future scenarios. These locations along with world heritage archaeological sites are the positions for a series of tailored sessions.


Facilitators and residents, from diverse cultures and creative disciplines work together and on individual practices through collaborative place-based making processes to generate and present global and local knowledge and strategies for imagining the futures of fragile cultural and environmental ecologies.

Value is given to the individual knowledge and experience of each resident, and over shared meals, residents, facilitators and contributors can expand the time for exchange and developing relationships and networks.

By thinking and doing through the lens of MICRO and MACRO approaches, and analogue-digital relationships, we explore layered histories whilst inhabiting a stratified landscape that is 400 million years old. Residents are enabled to activate dynamic haptic, sensory and experiential articulations of place, and to express the psychogeography of space, experimenting with what it means to transpose and transcribe, inventing while sifting through the multiple histories and geographies of carefully chosen locations in the Orkney Islands.

Facilitators, contributors and residents together explore site-responsive and reflective approaches to experiment with the intersection of material and immaterial realms of knowledge and knowing. Residents are encouraged to traverse internal and external worlds, thinking about deep time, while embracing weather’s sensory and cyclical rhythms.

Sessions prompt reflection on ruin memory, material memory and ecological memory, life cycles and reclamation, rehabilitation and regeneration. To navigate questions of presence and absence, and the known and unknown, the contradictory dynamics that flow beneath surfaces are embraced.

Guided walks, visits and readings take place in lost, renewed or fragile places. Discipline experts in the local community who hold precious knowledge of archaeological sites, abandoned places, architectural and local history past and present, and collecting, archiving and presenting, contribute to bespoke sessions. The residency programme includes time for residents to work in Linkshouse’s work spaces, applying developing knowledge and content gained during the Group Residency to individual practices.


The Group Residency programme is facilitated by Tracy Mackenna, with a number of contributing discipline experts.

Tracy Mackenna (Professor Emerita; SCO-IT) & Edwin Janssen (Dr; NL) are the founders and co-curators of The Museum of Loss and Renewal. Their collaborative art practice is a creative and discursive site where production, presentation, exchange, co-learning and research meet. The Museum of Loss and Renewal’s key areas of focus address issues of societal concern such as habitation, (personal)histories, (in)formal collections, land futures, land use, (experimental)mapping, and sustainability.

Their focus on place(making), (un)belonging, memory, (personal)narratives and imaginary futures can be seen in projects exhibited and published internationally e.g. Tracy Mackenna & Edwin Janssen Micromegas (perceptions of scale, philosophical & scientific thought and human foible), War as Ever! (scale and the viewer, conflict, looking and art), Rock and Dust | Roccia e Polvere (activating archival material, harmonies and tensions between place, people and time), Ash, Chalk and Charcoal (inherent violence in spatial mark making, in private spaces and public spaces), Friendly Invasions 2034 (modular architectural structure; interplay between audience, place, cultural legacy).

They are highly experienced, award winning educators who have devised and lead multiple group learning projects situated within the international museum and gallery sector, and higher education.

In her individual practice and research Tracy employs drawing, video, walking and writing as dialogical processes to activate playful, provocative and non-linear properties of language within visual art practice, giving new and refreshed voice to collaborators and subject-matters.

Prof Mark Edmonds, an internationally respected and highly influential prehistorian and author of more than 20 books and articles, among them Ancestral Geographies; The Langdales, and Orcadia. Mark’s abiding interest in arts-based approaches to the interpretation of archaeological material has led him to experiment with poetry, print-making, music and sound collage across projects including After Orcadia (with Orkney photographer Rebecca Marr), Stonework (with Rose Ferraby) and Refugium (with Ben Elliot & Jon Hughes). 

Dr Dan Lee led the Orkney Energy Landscapes Project. He is Lifelong Learning and Outreach Archaeologist with the Archaeology Institute, University of the Highlands and Islands. Dan’s research interests include Landscape Archaeology, Contemporary Archaeology, experimental mapping, Creative Archaeology, interdisciplinary collaboration and community archaeology.

Dr Antonia Thomas’ research focus is the relationship between Art and Archaeology from the interpretation of prehistoric visual culture, to the intersections between contemporary art practice and the archaeological imagination. Broader research includes aspects of visual and material culture, such as stone-carving and sculpture, vernacular buildings, prehistoric art and architecture, graffiti and mark-making, museum studies, and conceptual art.


Orkney is an archipelago of about 70 islands (16 inhabited) off the north coast of Scotland. The highly respected Pier Arts Centre is based in Stromness and curates a year round programme of changing exhibitions and events, and its permanent collection is a Recognised Collection of National Significance to Scotland. Orkney is famed for its natural beauty, archaeological sites and its First and Second World War heritage. It contains some of the oldest and best-preserved Neolithic sites in Europe and the ‘Heart of Neolithic Orkney’ is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Orkney also has an abundance of marine and avian wildlife, and the sea is almost always visible wherever you are located. Orkney is home to a significant number of artists, writers, musicians, archaeologists etc. and to University bases and a research campus that hosts Orkney’s wide range of energy and low-carbon expertise.

The Group Residency will be centred in the area of The Palace, Birsay, Orkney’s ancient capital, in the islands’ West Mainland. Birsay has sustained communities of Neolithic peoples, Picts, Vikings, and Scottish Royalty and today is home to a multi national community. Outstanding sites include prehistoric and Norse settlements on the tidal island of Brough of Birsay, and the ruins of the Earl’s Palace in the village.

photographs of Linkshouse and interior spaces by Studio Niro


Residents are accommodated at Linkshouse, the Pier Arts Centre’s residency facility that is a bequest from Barbara and Edgar Williamson, whose son artist Erlend Williamson drew inspiration from Orkney’s landscape and environment. Linkshouse is situated on the St Magnus Way pilgrimage route, on the Atlantic Ocean and amidst farmlands.

Linkshouse is fully equipped, and comprises twin and double bedrooms, one of which is partly accessible. Work spaces include ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’ spaces.

The residency programme takes place in Linkshouse and at sites of archaeological, cultural, historical and social significance in Orkney, accessible by foot and vehicle.


Ella BenAmi

“My works gather around the desire to organise and create a certain kind of distinctiveness that would allude to systems of codes or symbols that seem to exist within structures of reality that are alternate to those we apprehend in our everyday lives.”

Ella BenAmi started her artistic journey as a musician in Israel, performing with music groups from a very young age. She studied Asian Philosophy and Medicine between 1995 and 2000. She travelled extensively across India and the US where she studied Painting at the Corcoran College for Art and Design in Washington D.C. from 2003 to 2007. In 2016, she obtained an M.A. in Documentary Film Practice from Brunel University in London, where she resides and works.

Ella has participated in numerous exhibitions in the U.S, including in Bill Lowe Gallery (Atlanta), Seth Jason Beitler Gallery (Miami), Willow Street Gallery (Washington DC), 1ShanthiRoad Art Centre (Bangalore India), Ramat-Gan Museum of Contemporary Art (Israel), and more. Her works are in many private collections worldwide.

Courtney Dookwah

Astral Sisters, 2022, egg tempera on linen wood panel, 25 x 25 cm

Courtney Dookwah is a Canadian multidisciplinary artist, completing her BFA in Art Education at Concordia University, Montreal.

Her handmade paper, poetry, animations, paintings and performance work have been featured in group exhibitions nationally. Her practice explores unconventional material techniques, place-based pedagogies, and her relationship to memory, body and land. She has worked professionally in the museum on inclusive visitor experience projects, and today, she is developing her practice as an artist and educator, designing creative programs for multicultural community building, belonging and well-being.

Melissa Joakim

Melissa Joakim is a light artist and composer working in Toronto, Canada. She has extensive experience in lighting and projection design for live theatre, dance performance and concerts. She is a Dora Mavor Moore Award recipient for Scenic Design and she is actively touring internationally. Her solo work primarily focuses on lighting and sound as waveforms that occupy space, fostering a holistic connection to self, others, and the Earth. 

Elspeth Penfold

Elspeth Penfold (Thread and Word) is a Bolivian/Argentinian multidisciplinary artist who has lived and worked in the UK since the 1970s. Elspeth has a passion for poetry and a wealth of experience as an artist working with weaving, walking, and writing. Her spinning and knotting work draws on the Incan history and technique of ‘Quipu’ (knot work), an ancient and nuanced form of communication used by indigenous communities. Elspeth’s commissions include Reclaiming the Narrative, at Turner Contemporary; Intertidal Calligraphy with Walk Create and The Museum of London Archeology; Port at Art Walk Porty, Edinburgh; and, Walking with Ghosts in Folkestone, a live art commission with the Imperial War Museum and The University of Kent.

As artist in residence with East Kent Mencap, Elspeth is currently working on Coasts in Mind. This is an intergenerational project with The Museum of London Archeology, supported by the National Heritage Lottery. The project empowers local communities to contribute to environmental policy through gathering oral histories of coastal change.

Jennifer Riggs

I am a mixed media artist based in the San Francisco Bay Area of California, in the United States of America. In introducing myself and my work, I like to note that the name of the town where I live – El Sobrante – translates into English as the leftovers, or, remainders. It coincides with my artistic vision of recycling elements from both the natural and the human-made world. I like how cast-off leaves, branches, papers, and textiles can form layers of stories that shape moods and evoke beauty.

My art education has not been formal; though I have studied different disciplines here and there to improve my skills. I am a process- driven artist. I react to my environment, interpreting what I see and feel, choosing the elements and techniques of each piece and series as the place I am in dictates.

Jane Sheppard

I was educated in Cambridge. Indigenous artefacts and folk art were my inspiration, guided by the wonderful museums. I decided to teach, gaining a BEd honours degree in 1989 (Art/Religious Studies specialising in Multicultural education).

My career began as ceramics technician for Bath College, then full-time lecturer (Art and Design) for nearly 15 years. I implemented, led and facilitated a range of courses across disciplines whilst developing my practice and exhibiting nationally, additionally becoming lead pastoral tutor for Fine Art.

I was awarded by South West Arts in 1997 and took a sabbatical year in 1998 to travel through Africa, returning as guest artist to Namibia with British Council funding,
A parenting break led to being ordained as an Interfaith Minister in 2018, returning to the studio in 2019. I’m now a selected member of Craft Potters Association, developing my ceramics journey and teaching my skills.

Philippa Stewart

The First Fur About Themselves, 2022, textile, 83 x 130 cm

Philippa Stewart (b. Wolverhampton, UK, 1990) is an artist, designer and educator who lives in Essex. Philippa received a BA in Fashion and Textiles from University West of England, Bristol, (2009 – 2012) and recently graduated from The Other MA (TOMA) 2019 -22 cohort.

Philippa’s works and research explore the role survivalism has played in prehistory, nature and environment as a means of refuge combined with the importance of sharing skills, knowledge and material culture. 

Themes draw from the speculative era of Neolithic history where hunter-gatherers lived as one with nature and how this can be interpreted as a road map for our future, embellished with narratives around historical processes, objects and materials that formed humanity’s first technologies. Works are often tactile and labour intensive, using a combination of reclaimed and recycled materials reinvigorated using textile processes. 
Philippa’s projects manifest in the form of drawings, paintings, textiles, sculpture and video.

Huan Wang

Huan Wang works across text, textiles, installation and film. She studies and lives in London as a cultural traveller, telling the connection between human and other existences in the modern urban space in the way of poetry and material narrative.

Huan Wang’s artistic practice conveys the sense of being as a human and explores the intersection of strength and fragility. While carefully and equally approaching the fragile fringes of the natural world, pointing to the neglected marginal and subaltern existence of human society is a common theme in her textile work. Her textile works are partly emotional fragments and partly document her natural experiences in urban spaces. It sometimes is a line of poetry, or a name, calling for a past that has not gone far.