This year’s opening event for the Festival was, like last year and the year before that a dynamic animated light show, shone onto some of Edinburgh’s finest architecture: this time, St Andrew Sq in the Georgian New Town.
The whole animation lasted about twenty minutes; I watched it through three times, from different vantage oints around the square. Whilst the theme in each place was thesame, there were subtle differences projected on each of the square’s sides (the east side wasn’t involved, letting the trams move unhindered).
The animation was witty, clever and very beautiful. We’re used to this by now – it didn’t seem as spectacular as 2015’s “Harmonium”, but then by now we knew what to expect. It made me proud of the city, and I think it is excellent that the Festival continues giving back such artworks to the city. The work commemorates the 70th anniversary of the Edinburgh International Festival (first held in 1947, just two years after WW2). I heard the show’s designer on a radio interview explaining that “Bloom” referred to the first festival’s aim to celebrate the “blooming of culture and the arts”. “Welcome Back”!
I took pictures on each side, shown here chronologically.
“Speed of Light” was an interesting experience: simultaneously brilliant and disappointing. NVA, the company behind it, have worked a lot with light in the environment (their installation at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh in 2008, “Spirit“, was beautiful, and I heard great things about their work in Skye and Glen Lyon).
Speed of Light is hard to describe: I think installation works best, except that the whole point was that it consisted of volunteer runners, choreographed to create patterns. At night. On Arthur’s Seat. Wearing light suits.
You may see why I was attracted to it: the moment I heard about it, I knew I wanted to see it.
But – brilliant and disappointing: I clearly have conflicting feelings about it.
Brilliant first. At a very basic level, it made me look at the world in a different way – what I believe art should do. It took a familiar landscape – I must have climbed Arthur’s Seat fifty times or more over the years – and made it afresh. The audience, equipped with
light sabres light-emitting walking sticks (or “staffs” – all a bit Gandalfian…), were part of the choreography, part of the creation. The runners made amazing patterns on the (east-facing) slopes of Salisbury Crags, and the audience walked up the path to the east of this, the runners creating patterns against the dark of the landscape.