13 Roland Gardens

2007
Colour, Stereo, 22mins 30secs



Eileen Coly (1916-2013), daughter of famous Irish medium Eileen J. Garrett (1893-1970) describes Garrett's R101 Airship Séance of 1930 and their time living at 13 Roland Gardens, London, site of Harry Price's National Laboratory of Psychical Research.
13 Roland Gardens, 2007, Video Still Featuring Eileen Coly
Eileen Coly (aged 91), daughter of world renowned Irish medium Eileen J Garrett (1893-1970) describes Garrett's R101 Airship Séance of 1930 and their time living at 13 Roland Gardens, site of Harry Price's National Laboratory of Psychical Research.

On October 7th 1930, at his National Laboratory of Psychical Research (then located at 16 Queensbury Place) Harry Price held a séance with Eileen Garrett. Price hoped to make contact with the deceased Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Instead Flight Lieutenant Irwin of the R101 'came through'. The R101 airship had crashed in flames on October 5th 1930 near Beauvais, France on its maiden overseas flight to India. During the séance Irwin revealed technical and mechanical information about the crash, that Eileen Garrett could not have known. This séance was to become infamous as the R101 Airship Séance.

In February 1931 Harry Price moved his laboratory from 16 Queensbury Place to the basement of 13 Roland Gardens, South Kensington. The first floor of this building was already occupied by Eileen Garrett and her daughter (now Eileen Coly). In 13 Roland Gardens, Eileen Coly describes in animated detail the layout of their first floor flat, and its location relative to London landmarks, museums and institutes of psychical research.

13 Roland Gardens features: Eileen Coly (1916-2013), daughter of Eileen Garrett; Lisette Coly, granddaughter of Eileen Garrett; Dr Stanley Krippner, Psychologist and Academic, and Dr William Roll (1926-2012), Parapsychologist and Poltergeist Investigator.
Installation shot, 13 Roland Gardens, Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast, 2009
13 Roland Gardens, 2007, Video Still Featuring Eileen Coly
13 Roland Gardens, 2007, Video Still Featuring Eileen Coly and Lisette Coly with Photograph of Eileen Garrett
Susan MacWilliam first met the family of Eileen Garrett in October 2006, when she travelled to New York to visit the Parapsychology Foundation's Eileen J Garrett Library. Susan became friends with the charasmatic family of Eileen Garrett, who welcomed her in to their lives and opened doors to other contacts within the fields of parapsychology and psychical research.

Susan returned to New York in the summer of 2007 to develop video works about Eileen Garrett; during this time she lived with Eileen Coly. Eileen Coly and her daughter Lisette Coly afforded Susan intimate access to their world, and as such followed in the footsteps of their mother and grandmother Eileen Garrett, who supported and encouraged many within the fields of parapsychology, literature and the arts.

Susan MacWilliam has developed a significant body of work about Eileen Garrett and her family; 13 Roland Gardens, 2007; Eileen, 2008; Library, 2008; Psychic Edit, 2008, and The Only Way To Travel, 2008, and the stereoscopes Medium's Daughter, 2008 and Artist as Medium, 2008.

The Parapsychology Foundation was founded by Eileen Garrett in 1951, who served as its President until her death in 1970. Following her death, her daughter Eileen Coly (1916-2013) became President. Lisette Coly, granddaughter of Eileen Garrett served as Executive Director from 1978 and is now President of the Parapsychology Foundation.
13 Roland Gardens, 2007, Video Still Featuring Lisette Coly with Photograph of Eileen Coly circa 1930
13 Roland Gardens, 2007, Video Still Featuring Eileen Coly
13 Roland Gardens, 2007, Video Still Featuring Eileen Coly and Lisette Coly with Photograph of Eileen Garrett
13 Roland Gardens, 2007, Video Still Featuring Eileen Garrett Photograph
13 Roland Gardens, 2007, Video Still Featuring Dr Stanley Krippner
13 Roland Gardens, 2007, Video Still Featuring Eileen Coly
13 Roland Gardens, 2007, Video Still Featuring The Times 6 October 1930
13 Roland Gardens, 2007, Video Still Featuring Eileen Coly
13 Roland Gardens, 2007, Video Still Featuring Dr William G Roll
13 Roland Gardens, 2007, Video Still Featuring Eileen Coly

13 Roland Gardens
Essay by Dr Slavka Sverakova (2009)

The ‘documentary’ elements of this work were gathered in New York in 2006 and 2007. 13 Roland Gardens was made for Seeing is Believing, at the Photographers Gallery, London, where it was exhibited alongside photographs from the collection of the psychical researcher Harry Price. Price’s collection is held at Senate House Library, University of London.

In 1930 Price held and documented a séance with Eileen Garrett (1893 -1970). The séance refers to the crash of the R101 airship and is described in 13 Roland Gardens by the medium’s daughter Eileen Coly, and through pages of reports. When Eileen Coly talks about seeing her mother in a trance, hearing a change in her voice, one word stands out: resonance.

It inspired me to think about other cases of resonance, not just in the stories about the séance, the description of the flat at 13 Roland Gardens, and their travel to New York in 1931, but about the way MacWilliam layers the video.

Resonance means the quality to be resonant. This video resonates because the personalities interviewed are resonant with normal life, with glorious memories and with gentle belief in continuity between this life and afterlife.  It starts, however, by another kind of resonance. The mutual understanding and trust between the artist and her ‘guests’ forges a close connection with the subject - an agreement that is worth paying attention to. The psychic defences fall down, and a vibrant life story about a person with inborn special gift is delivered with humble respect for the unknown.  Layering of times comes across in changes of appearances: it is the same time whenever Eileen Coly appears wearing an orange top, but different from the time when she sits opposite her daughter Lisette in a pink chair, with the photograph of her mother on the table, or from her reflections on after life when she wears the white cardigan. Watch for her gestures and timbre of her voice. They are different too. The layering of time, of appearance, of gestures and voice works as resonance with the idea of continuity between now and then in more than one sense. Once it is about memory, when Eileen Coly is not sure of names and places. Then it is about the belief in the possibility of communicating with absent persons. And sometimes, I get the impression that the daughter speaks under some command from her mother. I have in mind the episodes when the excited state of remembering gives way to a voice of authority – “… why shouldn’t there be a continuation…”

The appearance of the two male guests, Dr Stanley Krippner and Dr William Roll offers a resonating thought about the personality of the medium Eileen Garrett, claiming that she could offer evidence and that when she entered a room “…she was the centre…”

It is the creativity of the artist that guarantees that the video is also a story about itself. The artist is there all the time, just behind the lens.
 13 Roland Gardens, 2007, Video Still Featuring Photograph of Eileen Garrett (to the fore) on The Thames, London