New immersive art event to transform Edinburgh’s Botanic Gardens

A MAJOR new art event is set to transform the Royal Botanic Gardens this July, allowing audiences to be taken on a captivating journey to Caithness and Sutherland’s Flow Country - an awe-inspiring 200,000 hectare expanse of deep peat, dotted with beguiling bog pools, which plays a crucial role in fighting the effects of climate change.

By Liam Rudden
Monday, 22nd April 2019, 1:15 pm
Updated Monday, 22nd April 2019, 3:59 pm
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

The World Premiere of Below The Blanket will take place at the Botanics from 24 July to 25 August as part of the Fringe.

The walk through event comprises a sensory series of visual, sonic and kinetic installations, with new work from visual artist and composer Kathy Hinde, composer Luci Holland, visual artist Heather Lander and sound designer Matthew Olden.

They have all spent time in the heart of the Flow Country, creating work directly inspired by the geology, flora and fauna of this unique, little-known area of the Scottish Highlands.

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By harnessing the unique data gathered by scientists in the Flow Country, the artists will bring the Botanics to life, merging scientific data with visual sonic art.

Kathy Hinde will present soundscapes, ranging from underground sound recordings taken from deep inside the bog, to sonifying the Flow Country’s prominent winds. She will also create a water-powered sculpture for the Garden’s Dubh Lochan, which will create music on sitar strings and bells when activated.

Luci Holland, meanwhile, will create an ambient soundscape made up of remixed and layered natural audio found in the Flow Country.

Fused with rich orchestral and vocal colours, it will entice visitors through a large hedge archway. On entering the archway, musical and rhythmic stingers will be triggered, highlighting the impact of humanity on the delicate ecosystems of the Flow Country.

Matthew Olden’s soundscape, Data Flow, on the narrow path leading up from the Chinese Pavilion, will utilise more than 100 overhead speakers, while Heather Lander will create Do Not Disturb |The Permanence of Fragility, a series of sculptural plinths housing microhabitats made of ceramics, ink, paper and paintings.

Photographs of visual artist Hannah Imlach work will be displayed around Botanics, accompanied by a film made with filmmaker Daniel Warren and composer Thomas Butler.

Below The Blanket will also feature the premiere of a choral work composed by Malcolm Lindsay and sung by the Dunedin Consort.

On 26 July, 2, 16 and 23 August the Consort will perform the work live amongst the Garden’s huge cypress trees.

Cathie Boyd, creative director of Below the Blanket and founder and artistic director of event producer Cryptic, explains, “Below the blanket bog has been the main inspiration for this project, be it stunning Sphagnum moss or the many millions of tons of carbon which are buried deep below.

“We hope this work shares the beauty and vastness of the Flow Country, a wondrous world largely unknown to many, including myself, when I began this project.

“The importance this part of Scotland plays to helping offset the effects of climate change cannot pass unrecognised.

“We need to protect this land, and we need to let nature play its course.

“I am thrilled that our artists have spent time in the Flow Country whilst also working with scientists to gain a deeper understanding of these peatlands.

“Blanket bog breathes - whoever would have thought it?”

Beneath The Blanket, RBGE, East Gate, Inverleith Row, 24 July-25 August, 7pm-9pm, £14, 0871-220 0260