Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh: Cryptic, Below the Blanket

Cryptic, Below the Blanket
Heather Lander | Do Not Disturb II The Permanence of Fragility (detail)

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Until 25th August

Cryptic presents Below the Blanket, a series of artworks installed throughout the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, inspired by the Flow Country. Situated in the far north of Scotland, Flow Country inhabits 200,000 hectares of moorland, valleys, mountains and lochs. It is the world’s largest blanket bog: a living mass of peat bog and peat moss; a natural and vital form of carbon storage. It’s also a habitat for rare wildlife and plants.

Below the Blanket marks the culmination of the Peatlands Partnership five year project Flows to the Future – in association with RBGE – which seeks to secure a sustainable future for the Flow Country. Glasgow-based Cryptic, founded by Cathie Boyd, celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. To date, Cryptic has created 172 acclaimed multi-media performances fusing music, sonic and visual art.

Described by Cryptic as a “walking meditation through art inspired by one of Scotland’s great wild landscapes”, each artwork is a response to the peat bog and its wildlife. Orange arrows guide you through the walk while text boards outline the concept behind each installation.

Deep Listening Soundscapes & Water Balance
Kathy Hinde
Enter an unusual soundscape inspired by hydrophone recordings from beneath the blanket bog. Walk past sculpted speakers in the shape of bogbean plants.  Move on to a kinetic sound sculpture in the lochan. Discordant chimes and percussive strikes create melody here using the balanced flow of water, gong-like discs and metal spouts. Followed by a soundscape inspired by strong winds.

Cryptic, Below the Blanket
Kathy Hinde | Water Balance installation


Flow Country
Malcolm Lindsay
Beneath a giant cedar tree, we gather to listen to a looped recording of a new four-part choral work by Lindsay. Latin and English words name the wildlife and plants that inhabit the Flow Country. Tonight, the wind gently rustles the tree’s leaves as a gurgling baby becomes utterly enthralled by the music. It’s a tender, collective experience as we enjoy the moment.

The Moor Speaks
Karine Polwart & Pippa Murphy
Beloved singer-songwriter Polwart takes on the voice of the Flow Country. Adapted from a Gaelic hymn, she characterises the history and psyche of the bog blanket. You clamber into the embrace of a cobwebbed Lawson Cypress tree to hear Murphy’s composition and Polwart’s incantation.

“I am the moor where the wind sings,
I am old dead things
I am alive”


Data Flow
Matthew Olden
A hornbeam tree holds strings of tiny speakers in its branches. This work is a sonic interpretation of research data into the different ‘breathing’ patterns of the peat bog. Sounds seem to travel along the branches like morse code messages with an ambient backing track.

Fieldwork & Flow Country Sculpture Series
Hannah Imlach
As part of her Flow Country artist’s residency, Imlach constructed a series of sculptures which became unique instruments to record changes within the blanket bog. Watch the video and images from this project under a tree shelter.


Cryptic, Below the Blanket
Hannah Imlach | Fieldwork & Flow Country Sculpture Series


Do Not Disturb II The Permanence of Fragility
Heather Lander
Under a beech tree, cubes contain stacked, painted perspex layers showing imagined cross-sections of the underground process of peat creation. Lander transforms a silent, unseen process into a beautiful evocation of nature.

Cryptic, Below the Blanket
Heather Lander | Do Not Disturb II The Permanence of Fragility installation (detail)


Luci Holland
As you enter the maze in the Queen Mother’s Memorial Garden, you catch a subtle rendering of the percussive soundscape of the changing peat bog. Unfortunately, this is compromised by the sound of traffic beyond the gardens.

Chirp & Drift
Kathy Hinde
A golden paperbark maple tree presents this kinetic sculpture of mothlike paper bellows. Each bellow contains recycled accordion reeds. Each lights up and moves independently of one another, creating chords in a melodic and rhythmical sonic morse code message.

Cryptic, Below the Blanket
Kathy Hinde | Chirp & Drift installation


Skylark Walk
Kathy Hinde
Walk back to the east gate entrance carrying a “sonic umbrella”. Listen to a soundtrack inspired by the skylark’s song and infused with piano notes and Aeolian harp.

There is no better arts venue for Below the Blanket than the RBGE. Although the strongest artworks here came from Hinde, Lander and Lindsay, the project has succeeded in bringing attention to the Flow Country. You get all the information you need from the text, video and visual displays dotted around the walk between the artworks. You’ll also feel that you have acquired an unforgettable, almost sacred, knowledge and understanding of the Flow Country, it’s character, beauty and significance.

[Part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2019]

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
East Gate,
Inverleith Row,
Edinburgh, EH3 5LP
19.00 – 21:00 (last entry)

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