The Room of One Arm Free 2005
Leith Festival Residency [Installation / Sound Piece / Performance]
The Room of One Arm Free was a site-specific residency show with many works revolving around Leith and the location of the gallery who were hosting me in Commercial Street.
Just a short distance away from Commercial Street is Salamander Street which is infinitely more interesting-sounding. At the time of my residency, Salamander Street was being used by sex workers and so I contacted Scot-Pep, a terrific charity that supported them. I wanted to know if it would be reasonable and not in poor taste to make a piece of work about local prostitutes and to raise health awareness. After I was given the green light (and them trying to work out if I was a little, erm, weird) I decided I would make a shrine to the workers by asking Leithers if they would donate blue and red objects to me, the colours used heavily on Mexican shrines to the Virgin Mary, something I had been following at the time. I particularly liked how the Mexican shrines used tarpaulin and blue refuse sacks as the backdrop for the virgin. They shrines I had seen were both humble and stunning.
This is where it gets a little odd. Certain salamanders and The Virgin Mary share something in common - “parthenogenesis” or virgin birth. Therefore, the street used by the prostitutes, I had now discovered, bore a tenuous link to Mary. But my shrine was both sacred and profane at the same time. I used Scot-Pep’s booklet of street safety as the core work for the shrine, turning it into a prayer and read by my artist friend Aimila. I was a card carrying Buddhist at the time and this prayer is a tribute also to the “metta bhavana” which is a kindness offering / practice. If you press the play button at the top of this page, you will hear what I did with it. Below is a picture showing some of the collection amassing in my flat. At the same time during my six weeks of working at the gallery (Gallery A1 in Leith) I also wrote and performed songs about Salamanders, and had a short story about Salamanders published in the Edinburgh literary journal “The One O Clock Gun” which you can download here.
At the bottom of the page you can hear my Salamander Song from my 2008 Benbecula Records Aesthetic Animals Album
Pic (c) Rose de Larrabeiti