What art have I seen?

Posted in CF Writing, Sited work by chrisfremantle on October 23, 2009

I travelled up to Cairngorm Mountain for the official opening of the second phase of Arthur Watson’s Reading the Landscape.

There are many parts to this, developed in collaboration with a number of other artists.

The first phase works in the base station (images below), Drawing Dangerously, were installed some time ago.   This is a series of images and texts created out of the mountain climbing culture. The huge screen prints were developed from photographs taken by Andy Rice, one of Watson’s collaborators.  The words surrounding the images are the names of climbs.  As climbers explore the rock face and discover a route, they give it a name, subsequent climbers discovering variations of the climb, in turn use variations of the name.

The image below introduces another dimension, collecting Scots and Gaelic words for snow.  I have a small contribution to the first publication on Reading the Landscape and it focuses on this aspect.

The new works include several viewpoints and the Camera Obscura.

At the western end of the site a structure, designed by Watson and Will Maclean, has been built channelling a mountain stream through a platform and down three buttresses.  Within the structure, poems and texts draw attention to the outlook. This is a development for Maclean from Cuimhneachain nan Gaisgeach (Commemoration of our Land Heroes) on Lewis.

Images of construction of viewpoints on CairnGorm Mountain’s Flickr Photostream

Nearer the base station, at the top of a set of steps from the carpark, is a seat built into the wall.  Sit down and Stanley Robertson‘s voice comes out of two speakers built into the walls starts to tell you folktales.  Robertson (1940-2009), certainly one of the foremost traveller storytellers of the North East of Scotland, and a longtime collaborator with Watson.  This is an outdoor version of works that Watson made for Singing for Dead Singers.

In the mountain garden Fergus Purdie, architect, Lei Cox and Mel Woods, artists, have created a Camera Obscura.

This is a built structure sitting over and along a path.  There is a small bay, something like a side chapel, which you enter through heavy curtains.   Inside the landscape is laid out before you on a table, turning gently.  Periodically you move in giant steps along cardinal lines to the sea.  These latter steps are the art introduced by Cox and Woods, a series of videos taken at regular intervals of distance (12 steps to the sea in each direction) and time (going north is winter).

The rangers are already using this particular feature when the weather is bad and the school kids can’t do anything outside.  Lay a piece of paper on the table, show the pupils all Cox and Woods images, let them choose one, and then they can collectively draw the image superimposed on the paper.  Suddenly landscape drawing is both incredibly literal (the image is projected on the paper) but doesn’t come out looking literal – mark making takes precendence.

Images of construction of Camera Obscura on CairnGorm Mountain Flickr Photostream

It was great, eight years after my first journey’s to Cairngorm Mountain to meet Bob Kinnaird, to go back and see something so good.  I suppose my job at the outset had been to suggest what might be possible, to help Bob see that something really interesting might emerge.  I remember writing the application to Scottish Arts Council with the help of … and then being involved with the selection, which by then was being organised by Susan Christie, to whom I had handed the project when I left SSW.

Studio International on Arthur Watson

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