Hinterland by NVA review


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Tonight I was privileged to be in attendance at the opening event in Scotland’s Festival of Architecture.

Hinterland is a site-specific piece to end all site-specific pieces in that the site is essentially the star of the show.

It’s a 50 year old modernist Catholic seminary (St Peter’s) in the Kilmahew Estate in Cardross near Helenburgh – not the most accessible of venues and a 7 hour round trip to gain access to the totally sold out proceedings.

But it was worth every minute of the journey because this is a spectacular ruin despite its youth.

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It’s widely regarded as a modernist building of global significance and yet only had a life span of 13 years before being abandoned in the wake of the falling off of seminarian numbers and possibly the fact that it was an intolerable living place in the winter.

In the following 37 years the elements (and a succession of extremely talented graffiti artists) have both ravaged and enhanced its brutal concrete beauty.

What remains is an almost wholly concrete bunker with a rain filled chapel filling the centre of the space with all four sides open totally exposed to Scotland’s weather.

We were treated to NVA’s conceptual piece that was built around a massive thurible swinging majestically in the rain sodden chapel spewing out incense, whilst a trumpet player and The St Salvators Chapel Choir from the University of St Andrews emoted a beautiful, sacred music inspired, tonal piece by composer Rory Boyle. This was complemented by a spectacular, but nonetheless subtle, interior and exterior lighting show.

The combination of canvas, sound and light was a unique and deeply compelling performance that I’ll never see the likes of again.

NVA are famous for these pieces having previously lit the Old Man of Storr and for their spectacular Speed of Light show on Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh in a recent Edinburgh Festival, plus other locations.

Bravo. Five stars.

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