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Message from the Skies 2020

Four stars

The monumental gloom of Nelson Monument on Calton Hill is saturated with ever morphing constellations of light for Ten Thousand Miles of Edge, writer Robin Robertson’s exile’s travelogue for this year’s Message from the Skies compendium of five city-wide site-specific installations. Branded Shorelines, and with numerous public partners supporting Edinburgh’s Hogmanay’s after-dark walkabout, the event is designed to usher in 2020’s Year of Coasts and Waters. Lit up by the Bright Side organisation’s dazzling projections, and pulsed by Alasdair Roberts’ tantric neo-folk soundscape, Robertson’s piece maps out an incantatory meditation on the coasts that shaped him.

The Union Canal in Fountainbridge finds Kathleen Jamie’s Seascape with WEC a poetic love letter to new wave energy converters she saw being tested on Orkney. Bright Side’s projections of Thomas Moulson’s artwork bob into view like a 1970s public information cartoon abstraction. On George Street, Lightkeepers by Charlotte Runcie is brought to life by animator Kate Runcie and projected onto the elegant façade of the Northern Lighthouse Board. Karine Polwart’s narration and Pippa Murphy’s brooding piano underscore offer solace in the dark. 

Sugar for Your Tea is Kayus Bankole’s righteous reclaiming of hidden history, giving voice to those forgotten, as others who made their fortunes from slavery are immortalised in statues and street names. Bankole’s voice is calm but urgent, with Rianne White’s video projected onto the City Chambers by the Double Take company. The former seaman’s mission that is now the Malmaison hotel in Leith is the backdrop for The Sea, Irvine Welsh’s candid memoir about the youthful influence of a sailor ashore. Welsh’s words are set against Norman Harman’s vintage abstractions and projected by Double Take, as Steve Mac’s chill-out room electronic pulse burbles into the ether.

If you navigate the full circuit in one go - and it takes a while - the journey itself becomes a meditation on the ebb and flow of a metropolis in motion, lost, as Robertson puts it, ‘to the robber barons and city planners. The thieves.’ He’s talking about Aberdeen, but, oh, Edinburgh, so much to answer for.

The Herald, January 2nd 2020



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