Between Two Worlds
Glenmore Forest Park, Strathspey, until 18 November 2007
LIGHT ARTIST Malcolm Innes, sculptor and environmental artist Diane MacLean and musician and storyteller Bob Pegg have created a unique and memorable event in collaboration with the Forestry Commission as part of the Year of Highland Culture.
“Between Two Worlds – edar dà shaoghal” is a 3km night time pathway through the forest illuminated by light, image and sound. Transported to the site by bus from the Glenmore campsite the audience follow a path “into the gloom”.
Being in the dark on a forest path with a range of lighting and soundscape brought the environment, its history and mythology beautifully into focus. In daylight these aspects of the landscape like the Sidhe (fairy) folk of local legend would remain hidden to our eyes.
Though there were a few technical glitches on this particular night, this did not seem to diminish the experience overall. As we rely so heavily on what we can see with our eyes, the human experience of night is a mysterious one which naturally heightens the senses.
Wandering into the dark and being led by light and music was truly magical; the inky outline of the hills, the canyon of sky between avenues of ghostly illuminated trees enhanced the experience of the natural and supernatural associations with the forest.
A dancing circular processional of blue light around a single magnificent tree or mysteriously lit chambers beneath tree roots lead the imagination down a path of its own.
Lochan Uaine (the Green Lochan) was the site of projections onto the hillside behind the lochan, which on such a still night danced across the surface reflection of the water. Water features by Aquabatics were also incorporated into the display.
According to legend this is the site where Dòmhnall Mòr, King of the fairies and his kin washed their clothes and turned the loch to green. Projections were also used along the path echoing natural forms and on one footbridge crossing a stream the effect of light and projection was like walking through water.
One of most effective visual uses of lighting was a pathway with the appearance of a flowing carpet of stars, alluding to the geology of the valley where an “ancient river… flowed…beneath a glacier”.
The whole evening was a great combination of the earthly and the otherworldly experienced in an unexpected way. We seldom have the opportunity to see such an environment at night and this experience will certainly make me look again at what I perceive in daylight.
This was a sentiment echoed by several members of the audience on the way back to our starting point. “Between Two Worlds” is a journey which adds layers of meaning to an environment that we in the Highlands so often take for granted.
The original soundtrack by musician and storyteller Bob Pegg added much to the experience with accompanying musicians Alistair MacLeod (clay pot drum), Bill Taylor (harp) and Gaelic singer Chrissie Stewart.
Choice of instruments gave an ancient resonance to the soundscape which also featured natural sounds such as owls and wolves moving through the trees. In the dark sound becomes emotively amplified, especially in unfamiliar surroundings.
Although the tales associated with Glenmore were the inspiration for the visual, sound and light elements of the performance, the storytelling element was not part of the recordings heard in the forest.
Instead a CD has been produced which features both the soundtrack and local tales being told by Bob Pegg. This is an important aspect of the project extending the life of the performance as a permanent record and could certainly be utilised at the nearby visitor’s centre in the future.
The project highlights the way that nature and culture in the Highlands were traditionally inseparable and how each can be used to enhance appreciation and preservation of the other in the present day. It is great to see an organisation such as the Forestry Commission engaging with this process in such an active way.
There is far greater scope for this type of interpretative and creative approach in the Cairngorms National Park and other areas of natural beauty throughout the Highlands beyond 2007.
© Georgina Coburn, 2007