Speed Of Light
Speed Of Light
4 stars ****
Arthur’s Seat, Holyrood Park, Edinburgh
IT WAS about half past eleven on a still, mild night when my group reached the summit of Arthur’s Seat, and stood for a few minutes on that slippery knoll of rock, as light skeins of haar blew in from the sea, drifting past a little below us. By that time, the main visual elements of NVA’s great 2012 project Speed Of Light looked like tiny pinpricks far below us; other groups of walkers, with their steady white light-sticks, snaking like human caterpillars along paths and up slopes, and the team of more than a hundred runners in twinkling suits of lights, forming pink-blue star-bursts, crosses and circles on the great eastern slope of Salisbury Crags, a few hundred feet below.
It’s always there, Edinburgh’s mountain, more than 800 feet of volcanic rock swathed, by daylight, in a rich blanket of shifting shades of green. To climb it, though – as I have not done for more than 20 years – is to be reminded of its sheer, brooding scale and bulk, the formidable roughness of its landscape, a sense of mystery and folded natural richness not obvious from below; and to climb it as part of a pilgrim group, in the gathering dark, wielding identical light-staffs, and guided by kindly leaders, is to rethinks a lifetime’s relationship with this most familiar landmark, even before the runners begin to re-sculpt landscape with their sparkling shapes.
So there is sound, sometimes radiating mysteriously from the head of your own staff; there is light, and there is movement. As with all director Angus Farquhar’s land-art work with NVA, though – from Glen Lyon at the millennium, to Arthur’s Seat in 2012 – the concept matters more, in the end, than the muted artistic achievement. And in Speed Of Light, he mainly redirects our attention to the quiet, steady magic of Edinburgh itself, its magnificent skyline etched between sea and hills; while a waning moon rises orange through the sea-haar to the east, and hangs over our tough, rocky descent from the summit, like a blessing.
Until 1 September
EIF p. 30