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Catriona Gallagher

CubeHouse (Weathering)

CubeHouse (weathering)

Catriona Gallagher 02.jpg
cube house b_w 1_edited.jpg


 I can’t get Christina’s house out of my head.

 The cube of concrete rising from the hillside, its surfaces of asbestos whitened walls, right angles of intersections forming platforms and planes of stone, the terraces open spaces to be filled by narrative, the light moving over its world in the course of the day, each wall the range of tones from shadow to grey to brilliant white, as the sun loops overhead, timelapses of the moving shadows and changing tones in gradients, time passing over walls.

  But a story - a narrative - needs to be projected into those open spaces. I’m thinking about them as mindspaces, an architectural psychology of the house.

 Maybe it could be a film about trying to conjure a character, trying to forge one out of thin air into the very space I’m in, explore that character, embody them, act the character, and then fall back through the cracks of subjectivity again, disjunctions rendered through the breakdown between myself and the character I’m trying to spin, breakages in voice, slippages in time.


 It’s funny that I can’t quite remember the shape of the house. There is the one photograph I took on black & white film, but I’m trying not to look at it as an exercise in memory, to see what I have retained and what I have not, therefore what’s more and less important, though those things may shift over time.

  I keep thinking of its terraces, these platforms that beg to become stages of action, probably with very little occurring. Maybe a lot of slow action and only one movement of speed, like a run by or something. There’s the one on the roof which calls me most: she took me up there in the twilight from the back balcony up the back stairs, the concrete steps staggered up the surface of the building, and we were there, directly under a ceiling of sky, looking down the valley carved by some invisible river towards the sea. I remember star points in the canopy stretched just out of arms reach above our heads—but actually I don’t think it was dark at all, it must have been afternoon, or at least it certainly was when she showed me around the upstairs of the house -her father’s room, which we otherwise didn’t go into again, chamber of reverence we echoed with respect- that was definitely light because I remember her opening the shutters and grey light pouring in that looked like autumn brewing already although it was only the end of summer, but then as we ascended it was immediately night. That got mixed up, probably because I was anticipating going up there to look at the stars when the sun fell, but that never happened and so my mind has superimposed the anticipated imagining of what it would have been like when I finally got up there in darkness over the memory of what it was actually like in the light - two layers of gauze sheet draped one in front of the other, imperceptible difference.

There are the other terraces too, in fact the whole house is surrounded by terraces: there’s one for every face of the cube, one for each time of day, to find either the sun in winter or shade in summer, always provided by the relationship between the block of house and the sun, as it arcs overhead, over the coursing of the day.


 A woman goes to an island that she’s visited several times before, but this time she goes alone to the house of a friend, arrives in the black of night and has to find her way into a safe space to sleep in an unfamiliar almost threatening environment. She wakes in the morning and then begins to get to know the house, trying to figure out where the light switches are, where the wood is stored to make a fire, jumps when a millipede winds out of the cupboard, and begins to settle herself into this strange place. She explores the house gradually over the coming days, and this all happens in silence (as in no speaking) though it is otherwise rich in sound, because she is alone and has no one to talk to, yet.



 I still haven’t written to her. Everything has begun to disintegrate already anyway, this weekend past proved to be the reveal, and now the whole plan could be under threat. It is greatly under threat. I can’t possibly just try and keep things together for the sake of the film, but I may have to, how else am I going to be able to make it?
I have 8 days to wait until I fly to Athens, to finally visit my old selves and see what I want of them. In that time then what can I do? I have eight days of wait.

 I can write more about the house, I can write into it or into the memory of it; it will serve some purpose whether the filming happens as I want or not.
A woman went to an island to stay in a house she had been to once before. She went with two others, her lover and her lover’s friend, who was also the owner of the house, a repetition of the same trip the three of them had made four months before
at summer’s end when the heat was beginning to fail, whereas now it had failed completely and given way to the treacherous wind and lashing storms.

 The three of them took the same journey as the first time, an hour by road to the northern port, an hour on the ferry around the long deserted island to reach their island, and another hour on the narrow winding hill roads from the port to the house. They arrived as they had done four months before on a Friday evening, to end the week and begin the weekend the next morning in a new place. The friend drove and they listened to music which reminded the friend of time passed. They huddled against the cold and wind on the boat’s deck before retreating inside to shelter.

 The boat lurched and rolled on the waves and the woman thought of the cars on the lower deck tumbling around like miniatures in a washing machine, wondering whether the friend had pulled up the handbrake sufficiently. The lover sat opposite her looking to the floor, trying to control the washing machine of his stomach. They arrived into the quiet calm of the waveless port, one of only a handful of voyagers to visit the island this weekend before Christmas, and brought the quiet into the car with them, unspeaking as they drove up the hills and turns of the island’s craggy mountains which they knew to be there though they could not see them. They did not speak -out of tiredness or anticipation of the days ahead or lingering seasickness- but eventually she pulled in and asked him to open the gates ahead. They had arrived. A few spots of rain began to fleck the windows, as the black outlines of trees twisted and waved in the growing wind, the white cube of the house loomed from the deep as they rolled down the driveway and halted to the left of its towering faces. The handbrake was pulled, they paused in the quiet of cut engine and then got out, wordless, to bring the bags out before the rain worsened.



 What happens if I draw it again and again and again. Eight days of wait means eight days of drawing, from every angle, inside and outside, as much as I can possibly remember poured onto paper the same process I’m doing here in words except there in lines.
How to remember a house. I find I can remember ground floor pretty well, and the basement; those are the two floors I spent time on, between living space and eating space.
The basement only seems like a basement from the ground floor, but because it’s built on the side of the hill which slips away beneath it, the lower floor has windows and an external wall which look out over the same view as the sitting room middle window and the two terraces, out over the expansive void of valley cut away by some invisible river aeons ago. There are two bedrooms, guest rooms now -the lefter one was ours- and one bathroom - marble floor and shower, blocked and shallow pool-like during our stay. The steps that led from the basement up to the kitchen are made of the local slatey stone which felt rough under foot and heavy. I couldn’t run on those stairs but had to step carefully so as to not scuff my feet.
[film clip – ascending stair and 1 kitchen scene?]
Ground floor again: you come in through the main door into the kitchen dining area, the main space of the cube house, the heart of the home, and by far the biggest room. The staircases going up (wood) and down (stone) on the left-hand side, the fire place immediately right in the corner, the L shape of the kitchen counters ahead and right, dining table in the centre, centre left on the back wall was a door to the righter terrace when looking at the house from the road. Furthest left, before the stairs down, was a glass paned set of wooden doors into the soul of the house: the small sitting room, square with three windows one set centrally on each outer wall, two couches one each under the central and righter windows and under the left one a small table and television. “This was my mother’s favourite room, she used to sit in

here a lot, and now it’s become my favourite room too. I prefer sleeping here to upstairs in the main bedroom.” Because of its three windows and proximity to the edge of the hill side this room felt like a boat, jutting out into an expanse of air with the valley below, invisible water from aeons ago dried out months before in deep summer.

  I only went up the wooden staircase to the first floor once, that was with X/her when we first arrived, whether it was night or day. Ascending the wooden staircase -warm and smooth underfoot the kind you could easily clatter up or down- led to more white walls and possibly a wooden door into the master bedroom -master father, architect and builder of this very house, who would have sat and drawn its walls countless times over several years in planning- I went in only once and not unaccompanied. We walked into the room and our tone was immediately hushed, even hers, his daughter, they get on well. Ahead must have been the outer door onto the front balcony, judging from the drawings and the one solitary photograph I have, but she didn’t open those shutters and I didn’t go through them. We went out of the lefter door and found the third set of stairs, this time in whitewashed concrete, or stone underfoot with whitewashed walls. The external stairway had a different feel -an outer stair compared to an inner stair- and always ascending, rarely descending, in my memory, though both movements must have been undertaken. We ascended the steep steps – ‘careful,’ she told me- and came out on the roof, a typical flat roof terrace with a low wall around the edge, mostly unused except for chimneys and tv aerials, and we walked forward away from the stairs towards the end of the valley and the sea to look out over it all, drape of sky -night/day- overhead, and looked down to see X/him on the lefter terrace directly below us. He waved up after we called to him but he did not ascend, so we stayed up there for a brief few moments before heading back down again. I swore I would return to lie under the stars in the darkness, which never happened because the next night it rained.

There is a solution to this unfixable memory, that it was actually twilight or pink dusk, on the boundary between the two states, which I can’t help but confuse for the other. Night and day, light and dark, two cycling states, always with their important containing greys, should be essential to this film then. It’s less about the two extremes of black and white and more an occasion to explore all they greys in between.


 I’ll find bitter orange trees at the house too, in the garden which I still need to explore. I know they’re there somewhere, she told me there are almond trees too, from which the piece of land -Amygdalies- got its name.

 I got to know the lemon tree intimately. It was hanging over the lower terrace next to the majestic olive: staining the ground blood black where the fruit falls uncollected. We needed a lemon for something we were cooking, probably the sausage and at the supermarket I’d already asked her if I should get lemon for the sausage -in what other place would lemon for the sausage be normal? Sweet-scented acid bled from hemispheres of pustules amongst pithy white, spraying those nearby, dripping onto steaming meat, blistering skin- and she said, ‘no, we’ll have some at the house,’ like they did olives from last year and oil from a neighbour and oregano from the garden and marmalades from previous summers, though I didn’t think then about clambering through the branches to get one. There weren’t that many left on our first visit, there will be more ripened now when I go, we’re in the citrus months.

 I ducked in through the thorned green sticks, with those big doubled lobed waxy leaves, to the trunk and began to climb, not very high but up a few branches and out away from the radial centre, to reach two sparsely spaced fruits. I felt that only one would be somehow rude. The thorns must have caught on my clothes as I climbed, and I didn’t notice the thin red slash down my forearm until X pointed it out later. I made it back down and out again with two lemons -one oversized warty lumpy and whiteish, the other older smaller shrivelled yellow- back onto the paved terrace, up the jagged steps built into the wall, around the outside of the cube towards the road and round further right. That was the night we grilled them over fire, outside in the scrubby patch of garden. I ducked past the twist of bougainvillea that her mother planted and over to the fire that her father made – a simple circle of stone slabs leftover from building the steps, full of early summer’s white ash and now new embers and flames, the blackened grill balanced on two bricks, was held also gently by him, cooking sausages, barbequing, whenever the opportunity presents itself. He carried the sausage over to us on a plate, sprinkled with oregano to meet my harvested lemon, severed in the palm and squeeze twisted over the point of the knife to cover my hands in the skin’s heady oil and the sausage below in juice. Gathered around the table, she served it to him, and he passed it to me. I rubbed the lemon peel’s scent just behind my ears.


 I tried to draw the house from memory and it was hard but I did fairly well with it. When I looked at the photo and drew it again it was pretty accurate. It’s more like a stack of three cuboids that step down in unexpected ways, and there’s this great combination of the local brown-grey slatey stone and the whitewashed stucco -stereotypical Cycladic- which father architect has managed to balance and mediate. The brown stratified stone seems to lift the white from the ground as if its levitating, the bridge between the ground and the manmade, the house and the garden, the human and natural, the outside and inside.
[cube house different faces drawing/ isometric drawing]

How much am I prepared to do to get there? Would I be ok to just work through the remnants of it and not visit the house in person -in body- just in mind? And what is stopping me from going? The love that took me there in the first place or the emotional torrent caused by that love that I am trying to ellipse from my work. I just want to make really good films with not too much of myself in them.



 A woman visited a house alone that she had been to once before in company. The house was on an island an hour’s drive from the city to the northern port, another hour on the boat, and a further half hour drive across the island. She went alone which hadn’t necessarily been the plan in the first place; she was meant to go with the same two people she’d made the trip with the first time round, her lover and their friend, owner of the house. The woman went ahead of the others who were to join her in a few days, they could see she needed the headspace and time to think things through. But in the days between the woman’s departure and their arrival, the winds rose, it reached 6 Beaufort, and the boats to the island stopped sailing for the next week.
[making the film]

Catriona Gallagher 01.jpg

Catriona Gallagher is a visual artist based between Northumberland, UK and Athens, Greece

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