Stephen Turner – Succession

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Whatever our expectation, nature has its own agenda and proceeds to its own timetable, which I continue to observe and record.  On Saturday April 27th spring was running around three weeks late by accustomed measure. Many woodland species usually occupying separate moments of dominion, looked set for a more competitive battle for ascendancy than might have been expected.

Cowslip maturity stretched from bud to papery faded bloom throughout mown areas around the well heads close to Core 6 +53° 8’ 4.17  -0° 59’ 19.00. Splashes of their warmer yellow amongst lemony primrose and greener grass were notable, but spectacular drifts of wood anemone created their own dominant white sward that day.

Related colour-ways were continued with cascades of hawthorn blossom pushing against the footpath between waymarks 12 and 13 at +53° 8′ 9.58″, -0° 58′ 49.43″, picked up in creamy nettle flowers throughout the wood and concluded my journey with wild cherry blossom flanking the car park.

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Everything has its own moment in the sun, before being overlain and compacted in correlation to deeper geological strata below. I will have missed most of the bluebells by the time I return, though sufficient had already raised their heads beside delicate diminutive dog violet, herb robert and forget me not, to indicate the local chain of succession.

Small samples were procured and dried, but the olfactory wood has still to reveal itself through hot steam distillation or by fire; though last year’s crab apples and haws have given up a distinctive floral water and sweet smoke respectively.  When I return in June, I hope the honeysuckle may support my mission to find new fragrant potions for a fleeting temporal world.


By Stephen Turner

Alison Lloyd – Night Walks



Night Walking Out at Duke’s Wood with head torches.



Walking Out between sunrise and sunset.

No road_PATH

Walking Out between the ‘rights of way’ and the ‘private’.


Between public and private territories?


I have been walking during periods of darkness to experience the site at times of discomfort, anxiety and fear.


I am acknowledging something of the spirit of doubt and uncertainty in my own chosen journey through the process of walking to make work.  What exactly is the difference between being a walker and being a walking artist?  Where is the work?  The work can be here in Duke’s Wood and here in the Blog or somewhere else in an arts space?

By Alison Lloyd

Images courtesy Julian Hughes

Louise K. Wilson – In the ‘chthonic underworld’


Note: The remaining unsealed well at Dukes Wood has now been located. While excavation may not be as simple as first hoped – an attempt to gain (audible/ visible) access will be made shortly. Currently it is a cavity filled with imaginative possibility. In the meantime, I wanted to consider artists’ engagements with holes in the ground – and their acoustic potential.

If you enter “microphones + drilling + holes” or a similar combination into a search engine, it is likely that accounts of a sensational occurrence will be returned. It concerns a group of Russian scientists /geologists who were conducting deep drilling experiments in Siberia in the late 1980s. After breaking through the earth’s crust (at approximately nine miles down), they installed a heat tolerant microphone to monitor movement.  The scientists were shocked to pick up not the expected data but the screaming of millions of souls in torment – or so the story goes. Leaving aside such confabulations, there are of course credible scientific endeavours to listen to the movements of seismic waves. The desire for artists to listen and record down – deep down – into the ground has a relatively recent history however. In September of 1969 Bruce Nauman’s proposed UNTITLED (1969) – in which he succinctly exhorted us to:

“Drill a hole about a mile into the earth and drop a microphone to within a few feet of the bottom. Mount the amplifier and speaker in a very large empty room and adjust the volume to make audible any sounds that may come from the cavity.”

Forty years later, this thought experiment was realised by his fellow compatriot Doug Aitken with Sonic Pavilion (2009). This contentious commissioned work is permanently installed in the high expense open-air art gallery/ botanical garden of Inhotim in Brumadino in the Brazilian rainforest. Following a considerable period of planning and construction, a hole – approximately one mile long and one foot in diameter – was successfully bored.  An array of accelerometers and microphones were lowered down at various depths and the resulting sounds of the rotating earth and of seismic activity were “transposed” into the range of human audibility and amplified by eight speakers. Nauman’s ‘empty room’ was realised in this instance as an austere circular pavilion. The work subsequently received a critical mauling by Seth Kim Cohen in the review pages of Artforum (November 2009) where he denounced the thinking to parade such mediated sounds as ‘folly’. Surely this work problematically continues a naïve notion of sonic essentialism he argued. Philosopher Christoph Cox roundly attacked this critique against sound purporting to deliver a “noumenal essence of the world”. According to Cox, this work – amongst other pieces of sound art – is not attached to essentialism but to a “philosophical naturalism (that) insists human beings are of a piece with the natural world we inhabit”.

An arbitrary and certainly not exhaustive survey of other deep (as in subterranean) listening experiments brings to mind the crisp audible delights of Chris Watson’s sound collage Vatnajökull. Watson excavated into this eponymous glacier in Iceland with hydrophones, to bring back a varied uncanny selection of knocks, creaks, groans and more tender harmonics that were then collaged together. Time was compressed – a “10,000 year climatic journey of ice …and its lingering flow” was condensed into an eighteen-minute work (on Weather Report).  Jem Finer’s Score for a hole in the ground (in Kingswood Forest, near Challock in Kent) is not reliant on overtly technical devices. It takes inspiration from the suikinkutsu, or musical water chimes in Japanese temple gardens in which water from overflowing stone bowls drips down through stones to resonate in concealed dishes. These explorations of duration, of found musicality and of process demand close listening. Let the underworld speak!


By Louise K Wilson

Thanks to Alec Finlay for this expression



Jo Dacombe – Litmus

‘The chameleon leaves are litmus to the chemical changes going on inside them… The leaves of different species contain distinctive pigments: the yellow arotenoids of willow, poplar or hazel; the red anthocyanins of maple or dogwood (the same pigment you encounter on the rosy side of the apple where it faces the sun); or the earthy tannins of oak leaves…This is the natural chemistry that paints the woodland colours.’

Roger Deakin, Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees

I will be running a series of workshops for people local to, and visiting, the woodlands to engage them with some of the themes of the Duke’s Wood Project. I want to find a way to engage people more deeply, get beyond the surface of things and find the many layers of Dukes Wood. Not just the physical layers too, I wonder how the stories of Duke’s Wood, its layers of history, can be made visible; how can the unseen be seen?

I searched the woodlands for evidence of the unseen: measuring the contours of the land to try to spot where the earth had been shifted for drilling and piping underground; pressing my ear up against tree trunks, trying to imagine the sound of the sap rising inside; looking up at breaks in the canopy to see where sunlight might reach through to create warm spots on the earth; glaring at rock samples in the Duke’s Wood Museum and searching the contours of ancient bedrock shifts on geological maps.

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I started testing soil in response to a passage I read in one of the many pamphlets dotted around the museum. It stated that the cleared areas around the oil well sites were abundant with cowslips in the spring, and this was a result of the lime in the concrete that was used to line the drill holes, causing an alkaline seep into the soil. I wondered if this was true and how many other subtle chemical alterations had affected the woodlands over the course of its varied history.

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When I lined up the indicator papers I’d used for soil testing to compare their colours, a range of oranges, greens and yellows, responding to the composition in the soil, I felt they made visible the interconnectedness of the chemicals running through the woods and everything in it, responding to these environmental subtleties and in turn creating the colours of the woodland that Deakin’s beautiful book describes. Testing the soil made me aware of the make up of things, the inner life and the composition of the earth beneath me, chemical reactions that generate and regenerate the woodlands in a constantly evolving and adapting lifecycle.

Having an interest in foraging I am keenly aware of the chemicals of certain plants, with the often precarious balance between the nutritious and the poisonous. Duke’s Wood in the spring was a carpet of Wood Anemones, their pretty allure hiding their toxicity which can itch and burn. It often seems to me that the chemicals hidden behind the appearance of the woodland is part of the element of enchantment that woodlands hold for us, the magical element that can be delightful or deadly, nature’s double-sided face.

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Through the workshops I hope that the participants and I will continue these explorations beyond the surface and discover what makes up Duke’s Wood, not just in the chemicals but in the many other layers that affect this sense of place.


by Joanna Dacombe