Footage was designed to reflect in the space

Collaborative duo Rachel McBrinn and Alison Piper have created an enchanting site-specific video installation in one of 24 disused vaults on East Market Street, Edinburgh, where the Hidden Door Festival goes out with a bang this Saturday night. Tucked away towards the quiet end of the street, Vault 3 beholds ‘A Lower Volume’, a mesmeric video projection onto a semi-circular end wall, which meets its mirror image in the dark water below to create a circular moving image that illuminates the otherwise pitch-black space.

Rachel McBrinn (23) is a visual artist working predominantly with lens-based media and installation. Her work is concerned with the real and perceived real, often seeking to present an illusory experience of a physical or pictorial space. Rachel will be graduating from Edinburgh College of Art in June 2014.

Alison Piper (26) graduated from The Northern Film School in 2009 and started off working in sound, she is now based in Edinburgh and works in the UK film industry as a freelance assistant director. Since discovering the Hidden Door arts collective in 2011, she has developed a keen interest in the fine art side of filmmaking. This is her second project with the Edinburgh based grassroots collective.

Glass, light and liquid became a unifying theme.

Rachel and Alison used DIY, in camera techniques to create dreamy visuals

AP: The idea for our installation was very much dictated by the space we were given to work in. Rachel submitted the proposal to Hidden Door back in October last year and it was David Martin (Hidden Door founder) who suggested that we collaborate for this project. I have a background in filmmaking, whereas Rachel comes from fine art, so we both have different strengths and approaches, but we’re on the same page creatively.

RM: The initial proposal outlined a format for the space, projecting onto a semi-circular screen and using a mirrored floor to create a cylindrical illusion. Hidden Door was offering up such a unique opportunity to use the vaults in this way, the idea was to create a site specific installation that would really exploit their physical form. When we began discussing ideas for the visuals, we were very open-minded in terms of content but mindful of the limitations of this format, finding movements and compositions that worked well within the reflected semi-circular frame.

Alison filming by the river avon
Alison filming by the river Avon

We filmed the exterior scenes at Muiravonside Country Park, and the interior at my studio in Edinburgh College of Art. We basically had a stock of lights, glass objects, pipes, and liquids, and we filmed versions of these elements until it worked. Alison even made a contraption which stuck on the front of the camera with funnels and clips, so we could pour liquids in a controlled way. The interplay of liquid and light became the real focus of the project, both in the video and in the installation.

AP: After picture lock we turned our attention to sound, and although we recorded a lot of wild tracks during filming, everything we played with the video seemed too heavy. It was at that point that we decided to start from scratch and design our audio with a similar approach that we had to the visual, spending a few weekends wandering the streets of Edinburgh with our mini Zoom H1 and a series of spoons, spatulas, brushes, pins and soft materials that we could use to sonically engage with our surroundings. We love that it’s not immediately obvious what you’re seeing or listening to, and if you’d encountered us out and about working you’d probably think we were a couple of loonies, hanging out the back of M&S on Rose Street recording the sound of an extractor fan. That’s another reason why collaborating has been so great, it’s much easier to put yourself in these situations when there are two of you.

Rachel constructing the screen photo by Kat Gollock
Rachel constructing the screen. Photo by Kat Gollock

An audience member views the installation

RM: The installation for the project was far more technically ambitious than anything either of us has worked on before. The vault is an extraordinary space but every surface is curved and uneven so there really aren’t any reference points, which was extremely challenging given the nature of our installation. Our projector screen was made in four sections, which were slotted together before being fixed to the concave back wall of the vault. The sides of the pool were made individually on site, cut to fall flush with the vault’s uneven floor. It was a pretty eventful install, Alison pulled a favour with a friend in the fire brigade to fill the pool. It took 3600 litres of water, coloured with black pond dye, to fill the space.

Read more about their installation on the Hidden Door blog.

Hidden Door festival runs until 5 April 2014. 12-6pm FREE, 6-10pm ticketed.

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