How Long is Your Piece of String?

How Long is Your Piece of String?

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St Thomas Way work in progress - lengths of string hanging in studio

Measuring is Connecting

Yesterday, I measured three people with string – from the crown of each of their heads to the tips of their toes. Since it was quick, painless and for an art piece I’m making for #thestthomasway they helpfully complied to my strange string request.

Put in simple terms, though no cms or inches were involved, I was literally getting the measure of them – and if we were in 1290 rather than 2018, this wouldn’t be such an unusual thing to do. Back then it was called ‘Measuring to the Saint’ – the basic principle being that, if you were seeking help or spiritual intervention – for example, if you were troubled, or sick… or even dead (!) – your string would be sent to the nearest cathedral, where it would be wound up and used to make a candle, which the monks would light and then pray to that particular saint for your soul.

String – A Hitchhikers Guide?

I confess, I’ve been measuring quite a few people in string lately (I’d like to use hundreds of lengths of string in the final piece) and in doing so I’ve been contemplating Life, the Universe and Everything. This simple tactile act of connection – from one physical person to another; from one place to another; and from this world to the next – it’s so beautifully profound on many levels.

Questions and musings pop into my head the whole time I’m on this project – How long is my own piece of string? What would a 5’10” candle look like? If I was being measured, which saint would I choose to be measured to? When? What would I ask my saint to do for me? If we all asked/prayed at once, what would happen? Would we all ask similar things? If we lived in 1290, which of the three main classes – religious orders/monks, nobility/knights or agricultural/working (everyone else) – would we be all be in? Has much changed? What has? In which ways would it help us now to approach our modern work and life in similar ways to our fellow souls from medieval times? What on earth would they make of us?

And, as I thread their lengths of string through the artwork I’m making, I like to think the connections that existed in 1290 between single souls and something much bigger – through so humble and simple a process as measuring one another – are still very much alive and possible today.

#art #soul #string

The St Thomas Way opens in Hereford Cathedral on Saturday 7th July 2018, where you’ll be able to see the final artwork.

St Thomas Way work in progress string coiled

How Long is Your Piece of String? was last modified: July 23rd, 2020 by Michelle Rumney

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