Scottish author Ian Rankin wrote: ‘Edinburgh is a schizophrenic city. Beneath its ancient cobbles, courtyards and stairwells there is resident darkness.’
In Night Walk for Edinburgh, Janet Cardiff and George Miller take us on an exploration of Edinburgh in its Old Town. The walk has been comissioned by The Fruitmarket Gallery, where the duo last were for their 2008 exhibition, The House of Books Has No Windows.
As we begin, Rankin’s quote is the first thing that comes to mind. This is a walk with a difference, as the audience pick up a mobile phone and a pair of headphones at The Milkman on Cockburn Street. The walk then appears on screen as a film, running through the very walk we are on; at the same time, Cardiff’s haunting smooth voice fills the ears, as she explains what to do, where to go, and what we should be looking at. Although it is not explicit, the idea is that dark things lurk in Edinburgh, just slightly out of reach of the ordinary. Gangs appear threateningly, a murder may have been witnessed, and those on a silent disco take on a grotesque appearance. The shots where the film deviates from reality are very Stanley Kubrick-esque.
The genius of this show lies in the sound engineering. With our headphones in, it is impossible to distinguish between the recorded sounds and the real life ones. The show uses the aural to guide and transform the walker’s spatial awareness; relying on this bizzare fact, it tricks the brain into knots.
Spotting Cardiff’s orange coat doppelgänger is a recurring event. It creates a thread of continuity. Apart from this, the individual events on film are disconnected and disconcerting. The production relies on the headphones to also make the walk a solitary affair. You are forced to contain your thoughts in your own head, even if you are with someone. This allows for the projection of one’s imagination beyond the confines of the screen.
This is a very innovative work. The international experience and wide acclaim of the creators is evident in the production. This is a fantastic way to see a small part of the city through a different lens. As you take your headphones off at the end, you are sure to have gained another perspective of the burgh.