A few weeks ago I picked up a flyer for an art project called Peace Camp 2012. I had no idea what it was about or why it was happening, all I saw was the weird tents on the front cover and that an installation would be taking place beside Penan, an hours drive from Aberdeen. I didn't really think any more about it until my friend mentioned that she was working on the project and would be coming up to help oversee the main event!
So as the final day of the installation drew closer we packed our bags and set off North. The drive up was pretty pleasant, the further we went the more remote the landscape becomes which always feels like a good sign. Eventually we came to the top of a steep hill which winds down and comes out between 2 houses on the Pennan harbour front. The actual village is a beautiful sight in its own right, the quaint houses, the closeness of the sea, the large volcanic rocks, brilliant for scrambling over and the sense of peace that often comes with coastal towns.
After a short walk along the harbour we went in search of food and friends! We found both in the hotel, the only hotel, situated along the harbour. Hugs were exchanged, introductions were made and food was quickly ordered. Due to licensing laws and a lack of plastic cutlery we weren't allowed to eat our fish & chips out side, I guess you never know when the man will appear but I think they took us for a wild bunch set on causing mayhem (I consider myself and Slav to be pretty laid back guys to be fair). Anyway to their credit it was the best haddock I have personally ever had, just perfect in every way so any grievances were quickly forgiven.
Eventually we met up with the others who had taken a slight detour and ended up arriving later. It was great to see some old friends, one whom I hadn't seen in 3 or 4 years! We all quickly formed a gang and set out to discover what lay beyond the rocky beach, more rocky beaches and some small caves but it also gave us a chance to see the Fort Fiddes site from down below. We couldn't actually see that much but the white orbs stood out none the less.
Eventually we made our way back to the village hall for the speeches from the director of Artichoke, organisers of the 8 peace camps along with a representative from Aberdeenshire Council and Creative Scotland. Finally we set off to find the Peace Camp, Slav became the official driver for the directors and dropped them off at the site car park (a field). Somehow this became a phone signal hot spot and couldn't help but be amused as the directors and the site manager all stood still as a barrage of messages buzzed through. I guess for some the working day never ends but I slowly sauntered along the thin coastal path onto the bronze age site which once housed an impressive fort!
The first thing that struck me was how the sound from the installation only became audible when I came to the first tent, it was almost like walking into a wall. Not over powering but almost ghostly, my senses instantly heightened by this unusual French accent translating the words spoken in another gruff voice. The further I walked into the 40 tent installation the more the audio came into focus. Wherever you went you could heard the sounds, following you wherever you went. After walking around for 10 minutes I decided to find a seat where I could admire the tents and the sunset together. Being able to see the sunset over the sea has to be one of the most amazing and beautiful sights that can be witnessed. All the other shit and negativity from a week of city living began to fade away as the appreciation for the Peace Camp grew inside me and then "Bzzzzzzzz, bzzzzzzzzz". I seemed to have found my own phone signal hot spot! Thinking it might be someone special I quickly checked the message "Thanks for opening my Crunchy Nut and using up the milk".
I don't know why but this simple message of annoyance sent my mood into a total downer. I felt anger build up inside me and the peacefulness of a few minutes before was completely gone! Instead I wanted to shake someone, to shout out loud for the world to hear that I was sorry, I'd meant to buy a new box to replace the one I opened and buy fresh milk but got caught up preparing for the trip North. But it was too late, my phone finally died, any chance of resolving the situation was gone. I was left feeling like a ball of negativity, capturing all the negative vibes being sent out across the World! OK maybe it wasn't that bad but I did feel pretty miffed and my relaxed mindset was ruined. Eventually the rest of our gang arrived and we began to wander round the site, this started to make me feel a little better. We found a little spot where we settled in to catch the last of the sunset and had a good laugh, catching up with old friends in a most unique place. Eventually some went off on their own to immerse them selves in the site, lying in the grass staring at the sky with the edge of a glowing tent just in their line of vision.
I don't know when it happened but were in darkness. The sun had set and left us with 40 glowing tents on an outcrop of land next to the North sea. Even our chatting had stopped as we all took in the sight before us and listened to the lulling sound scapes and poems emanating from the tents. Even small children running around seemed to only add to the atmosphere and I realised that all the negativity from earlier was gone. The peace camp had transcended from some tents in a field to something truly special, a unison and coming together of people and place, sound and light to form something that I haven't experienced with art before.
I had found peace!
Of course eventually we had to make our way back to the car as Monday morning was coming but we would have stayed until sunrise if work wasn't calling! The human effort involved in setting up the sites (7 men to shift 12 tonnes of sand to secure the tents at Fort Fiddes, the site stewards, the sound engineers, the Artichoke staff who have been working on the project for almost a year without lunch breaks, the artists and all the volunteers) its pretty phenomenal. I later found out that only 3 of the 8 sites were able to go ahead on Sunday, wild weather had closed 5 sites, the look of sadness on the site managers face really made me empathise with him and his team but at the same time made me feel even more privileged to have witnessed the Fort Fiddes peace camp. Big love to everyone who made these amazing events happen!
Special thanks to Slav for finally getting some pics to me!