Two years after being invited to work at one of Edinburgh’s most historic landmarks, German artist Michael Pendry says he thinks the latest incarnation of his global ‘art for peace’ project n had never been more relevant or important.
Long delayed by the Covid pandemic, Pendry has finally unveiled its new installation Les Colombes in Saint-Gilles Cathedral against the backdrop of the conflict in Ukraine which has entered its second month.
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Visitors to the cathedral and the nearby National Museum spent weeks making folded white paper doves, which were turned into a flock by Pendry, for a show that combines sculpture with sound and light effects.
First staged in Pendry’s native Munich eight years ago, Les Colombes has since been adapted for religious sites in Jerusalem, Buenos Aires, San Francisco and New York.
It will be visible free of charge during the day at the cathedral, while admission will be charged in the evening for the entire sound and light show, as well as a series of concerts.
Pendry said: “I hope people really embrace the project in Edinburgh. I believe that art can make a change and a difference, by making people think and reflect.
“Peace and freedom are at stake all the time – it’s not something we can ever take for granted.
“The idea behind the project has always been to send messages of peace and hope. Obviously it has been going on much longer than the war in Ukraine, but of course it seems more relevant and important than ever right now.
“It seems like what’s at stake is a lot bigger now, but nevertheless there have been so many other wars in the world over the past decade. It just seems a lot closer to us Europeans right now. .
Pendry was commissioned to work with St Giles Cathedral by Edinburgh’s Burns & Beyond festival, which had to cancel this year’s event due to the pandemic. But organizers were determined to make Pendry’s work visible this year.
Pendry added: “I started discussing setting up the project in Edinburgh two years ago and then had to delay things because of Covid.
“The cathedral is a very beautiful space, perfect for the project. I still have a basic shape in mind for how I like to see the herd, but it’s still created from scratch to fit each location.
“Most of the doves I’ve used were created here in Edinburgh at the National Museum or the Cathedral, but some travel with me in a large flight case wherever I take the project.”
Reverend Calum MacLeod, pastor at St Giles’, said: “Doves are symbols of hope and peace in the Christian tradition and are considered a sign of God’s Holy Spirit.
“I remember that Saint Columba, who brought Christianity to these shores, was known as ‘the dove of the church – Columcille’. There are two stained glass windows depicting him in the cathedral.
“In these days of turmoil and violence in our world, I hope ‘Les Colombes’ gives hope for peace.”
The show takes place at Saint-Gilles Cathedral until April 7.