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I started writing this art exhibition review, the weekend after I saw it, when the official advice was to avoid pubs, clubs and concerts, anywhere with more than 500 people or that was confined and busy. (The Highlands had yet to have it’s first confirmed case of coronavirus.) An art exhibition, mid-week and off the beaten track seemed an ideal way to spend the afternoon on my day off – there was in fact, just me and the exhibition invigilator for my whole visit. By the Monday everything had changed and it felt weird writing this article. The exhibition itself had been wrapped up early. But part of why I went in the first place was because it might be a while before I could see another art installation and I was correct about that. This exhibition was definitely worth seeing and though circumstances cut it’s already short run down even further, it’s worth remembering.

For obvious reasons, I have fairly high standards when it comes to sound art installations. I get to see them so rarely and the subsequently high expectations mean that I’m all the more disappointed when the art turns out to be disappointing. For a while, a few years back, the best I could often hope for would be that the installation would be so rubbish that I would be so annoyed that I’d be inspired to make my own sound art in grumpy response.

Sometimes though, I come across a sound installation that is so good it inspires me for the opposite reason. Nicola Gear’s contribution to the Waterscape exhibition is definitely in the latter category. It’s an installation in the two parts. The first one Weather is around sixteen minutes long, broken into five movements (glacial melt, storm, shore, garden and pub) played over speakers in the exhibition space. The second part was installed on little portable MP3 players, with headphones so that you could listen just to it or to both pieces at once. The two pieces run in tandem to each other, you can stop and start the one on the player whenever you like and really play around with how the two of them interact with each other, moving yourself around the room, standing up or sitting down – I was alone in the space so I even tried lying on the floor, pretending I was in one of Marco Dessado’s boats on a loch somewhere – to really get the most out of the experience. If all art is changed by it’s interaction with the viewer, then it was true of this exhibit more than most.

If you get the chance, I highly recommend sitting on the floor between the two boats that make up the main part of Marco Dessado’s part of the exhibition, and listening to the headphones on one ear and the speakers with the other ear. The two parts of Gear’s installation interact in new and different ways on each loop. In the low slanting winter light, with the boats hanging close by at head height, you begin to feel almost underwater. Just lovely.

Waterscape ran at Circus Artspace @ Inverness Creative Academy from March 11th to March 18th – it continues, partially, online.

A three part collage. At the top a hand built boat lit by slanting sunlight, below a portable mp3 player and a speaker, then a small sound desk with a zoom recorder attached.

Waterscape Exhibition