Finnich Glen, DrymenMay 1998
The Secret Sign was presented at the Devil’s Pulpit in Finnich Glen near Loch Lomond. One of the best kept secrets of lowland Scotland, the stunning natural gorge has fascinated generations with its dramatic geology and colourful history of ritualistic use, from druidic origins to its role as a secret Covenanters meeting place.
The audience were taken on a ‘walk in the dark’ by stewards modeled on Tarkovsky’s classic film Stalker, slowly moving through the dark waters of the gorge and entering an ‘intensified’ landscape, brought alive by a huge environmental installation using light, sound, projection, fire, live birds of prey and explosive effects. The soundtrack for the event was built from the natural elements – the play of water on rocks, the shift of wind in trees and gullies, the calls of different birds and animals. These elements combined with live music to evolve a complex and haunting accompaniment to the visual animation.
The Secret Sign was one of the most challenging projects undertaken by NVA during the nineties and the first public intervention into a natural setting at night. The reality of safely taking a live audience on a gorge walk with wild birds of prey as the main performers offered a very particular set of production and technical challenges. These included dealing with everything from freak spate floods, to trapped vehicles and below zero night-time temperatures. Yet the company managed to produce a triumphant and ground-breaking event, hailed by the Herald newspaper as warranting ‘a matter of national urgency that the sell-out run be extended!’ The impact of the work confirmed a new direction for NVA and led on to other seminal environmental animations such as The Path and The Storr.