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You might think the spectacular cliffs and needle-like volcanic pinnacles that loom like a menacing picture postcard over the northeastern coast of the Isle of Skye in the Scottish Hebrides would have little need of adornment. But adorning unlikely physical spaces--natural and man-made--is what Angus Farquhar does. Farquhar, 44, is the founder of a Glasgow-based environmental-arts organization called NVA nva.org.uk that for nearly 15 years has been bringing Hollywood-scale lighting and acoustic effects to unusual places in Europe--a shipyard, a tramway, a gorge, a glen.
The project on the Isle of Skye--lighting an entire mountain known as the Storr--was Farquhar's most ambitious. Unfolding Landscape took four years of planning and paperwork, cost about $1.8 million and used 22 tons of lights and rigging. The effect, when the weather cooperated and the Scottish mist was just right, drew raves and won Britain's most prestigious lighting-design award. For six weeks last summer, some 6,500 visitors--200 a night--donned boots and waterproofs, picked up headlamps and walking sticks, and made the strenuous two-mile trek to the base of the cliffs, accompanied by snatches of music and Gaelic poetry whispered from the hills.
Not everyone was impressed. A reviewer for The Scotsman, who attempted the climb on a windy night and made it only halfway up, compared the work to wrapping a mountain with a bow. ("Beautiful mountain, could you take the bow off, please?") And even Farquhar admits the piece may have gone a step too far. His more modest projects--an illuminated path through a lovely Scottish glen, a festival of light showcasing Glasgow's architectural treasures--tend to be more successful, exploring hidden layers of meaning in familiar places by literally shedding new light on them. --By Michael Brunton/London