Royal Botanic Garden
12–30 Aug, 21.30 – 00.00 (tours depart at ten minute intervals)
At once nightmarish and calming, Power Plant runs the risk of being reviewed with too many superlatives. But here goes –
I genuinely feel this is one of the best pieces of installation art I have ever experienced. Accessible to all generations and degrees of artsiness, this collaboration between five artists, produced by Simon Chatterton is beautiful, overwhelming and hypnotic as it takes root in the glasshouses of Edinburgh’s formidable Botanic Gardens. It is as technically delicate and advanced as it is artistically so even those of you more interested in the wires behind the scenes will find interest here, if not seduction.
You meet in the darkness at the North Gate where already your intrigue is captured by the wallowing, booming siren songs of the first installation. Setting off into the hedges and lawns, ingenious projections guide you to the glasshouses where you wander unhampered save for quiet ushers until you reach the final panes, or get escorted away at midnight. In one room a trough of ripest strawberries smacks you in the face with their scent alone and elsewhere bursts of flame erupt form slender chimneys to breathy notes.
Some of the most simple pieces are also the most successful, namely Jony Easterby’s Camera Vermicular (did I mention the titles provide something for the linguists too?) that is essentially a bowl of snails being filmed and projected in quarter-screen repeats to make kaleidoscopic feast for the eyes. Elsewhere gramophones play the sound of astroturf and acacias are electrified.
It is not often that so many senses are targeted so successfully simultaneously in a piece of art. The dark, evening setting stirs ears and noses so the sounds and odours of the plants and exhibits are even more potent. Have you ever smelt a room full of ferns? Or heard the amplified sound of a goose feather plucking a giant stringed instrument? Sitting under the drapes of mosses and lianas watching floating catherine wheels and listening to the singing of a vintage lampshade is like being on a hallucinogenic drug. Try hard, very hard, to make the trip to the gardens of an evening this August – a natural high in the truest sense awaits you.