Listening In: making, recording, walking in Dukes Wood

Microphones allow privileged auditory access. With the use of contact microphones, audio vibrations can be detected through solid materials and through water (if waterproofed). These offer an experience akin to ‘auscultation’ since the microphones need to be placed in direct contact with a surface and resemble a stethoscope.

Michael Gallagher writes about their use in allowing access to the discrete or seemingly inaudible: “Contact mics are good in situations where you think there is sound happening, but you can’t hear it well for whatever reason. For example, I once went out to record at a wind farm. The wind was so strong that very little else could be heard. I tried using an ordinary mic, but it was just picking up wind noise and a faint swish from the turbine blades. However, when I put my ear to the side of a turbine, I could hear all kinds of other sounds going on inside. I attached contact mics to the side of the turbine and was able to make a much more interesting recording.” *

It is arguably a means that prompts experimentation – results can be surprising and unpredictable. Previously I have used them to listen to the sounds of limpets feeding, ice blocks melting and grasses rustling. During a workshop this Saturday afternoon at Dukes Wood (the closing weekend for the project), participants will have an opportunity to make and use a very simple contact microphone. Using the walk as a line of enquiry we will go hunting for sounds in a wander through and around the woods with Alison Lloyd.  

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Microphone making starts at 2pm on Saturday September 28th.  The walk will depart from outside the Duke’s Wood Oil Museum at around 4pm and will return around 5.30- 6pm, whatever the weather! Please bring sensible footwear, warm clothes, snacks and drinks. (Hot drinks available from the Museum upon return). Please note the walk is open to non-workshop participants.

To book a place and for further information: see https://microphonemaking.eventbrite.co.uk/

 * http://experimentalnetwork.wordpress.com/creative-practice-primer-2/creative-practice-primer-techniques-and-technologies-contact-microphones/

 

By Louise K. Wilson

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Alison Lloyd – I Cannot See the Summit from Here

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I cannot see the summit from here

Here being Dukes Wood, Nottinghamshire.

 

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Binnein Beag

contours of a map

for Aonach Beag

 

at 1234 metres

Bearings taken to preferred ways

 

Kinks in the contours

Kindliness between two walkers

just pick an area

kinks in the lives

 

towards a day

today there was no need to get anywhere

tired was my position

terrified was how I felt

tried to get to the summit

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The cleanest description of my tools for Navigation …

In a transparent plastic holder there is one permanent marker pen with a green lid.  The lid is about a third of the pen’s size.  The green of the lid tells me that the pen’s ink is green.

How close the green ink colour is to the lid I do not know because I haven’t used the pen to make a mark.

The pen with the blue top has been taken out of the transparent plastic holder and is lying next to this container.  There is a pencil.

Next to the plastic container is a piece of unlined paper with one torn edge.  On the paper is some writing in blue ink.  The blue ink from the pen with the blue top.

Lying below the three lines of blue inked text is an instrument that is also made from the same transparent plastic.

Red cord is tied or rather looped through a hole in the plastic instrument.  There is a circular dial that I know I can twist.  Inside the dial is a white and red arrow.  The red arrow points North.  And points down towards me.

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By Alison Lloyd

Aaron Juneau – Liquid Museology

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Roughly at the centre of the site, where Duke’s Wood meets its neighbouring Pudding Poke Wood, stands an old portacabin structure which, for 20 years, has been home to the Duke’s Wood Oil Museum. Lovingly curated by ex-oilmen Kevin Topham and John Lukehurst, the museum holds a remarkably disparate array of memorabilia tracing 5 decades of service to the oil industry and a jumbled history of oil production at Eakring Oil Fields and Duke’s Wood itself. Set uneasily alongside this profusion of photographs, newspaper cuttings, official documents and oil-related objects are occasional images of flora and fauna, birds and animals. These examples of natural inhabitants of the wood appear to have been surreptitiously pinned to the walls by the Wildlife Trust in a failed attempt to redress the balance between heavy industry and natural ecology. In one case a kind of absurd tableau is created where a vitrine encasing two taxidermied badgers shares space with an old oil drum and giant prehistoric-looking drill heads, like the disembodied mouths of huge mechanical moles.

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The ‘Duke’s Wood Oil Museum’ and ‘Wildlife interpretative Centre’, as it is named on two separate signs nailed to the front of the building, is a space of on-going playful friction. It is symptomatic of the seeming opposition that characterises the site and the sometimes-uneasy relationship between the oil industry veterans and the Wildlife Trust, to which the woods now belong. This light-hearted mutual antipathy extends to the displays within the museum, where the battle for space is played out in a condensed and concentrated form. This space, in all it’s schizophrenic charm and disorganised eccentricity, has acted as the base for our artists in residence and has been one of the primary resources for aiding the research and development of their ideas.

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The structure uses an old geological study laboratory that was originally sited in at least three separate locations around the country before reaching its final resting place at Duke’s Wood. More typically used for studying the composition of strata sampled from below the ground, the layers of which represent millions of years of history, the building now houses a collection of images and objects that comprehensively document and archive the relatively recent history of the wood from the point of its most significant human intervention at the beginning of the Second World War. The museum gives a kaleidoscopic view of history, unashamedly anachronistic in its display. It is a chaotic montage of objects and images in which temporality elapses making way for a new kind of radical museology where past, present and future converge.

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In his mythic fiction Offshore Drilling Rig Graham Harman describes his fanciful musings whilst marooned on a rig off the South-East coast of America, ‘a textbook example of a tension-leg platform, in the storied Magnolia field at the edge of the so-called Titan Mini-Basin.’ With fictitious friend and fellow philosopher China Mieville, Harman reflects on how ‘oilmen expelled their souls through tubes toward the core of the earth, siphoning the remains of ancient ferns and reptiles in return.’

I shall quote quite a lengthy section of the work here as Harman’s own philosophic prose should speak for itself:

‘We find ourselves on an offshore oil rig, guests of an industry on which all are dependent, yet which many thinking people view with disdain[…]

Drilling into the earth’s crust far beneath the sea, it retrieves ancient materials from millions of years in the past. It draws them up to the surface of everyday life, where they are used as energy for the most prosaic modern actions. The heating of a banal chain restaurant, like our stupefied movements from home to office, is possible only through combusting the remains of monstrous plants and animals that would destroy us in any personal encounter. Consider the strange carnivorous flowers, giant reptiles, and scurrying mammalian ancestors that were contemporaries of the oil now drawn from this platform.

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Now, imagine that instead of merely siphoning fuel for modern activities, these oil rigs had the power to draw full-blown ancient entities from the ground. Actual past species would be sucked from the earth, and we will assume that they come not only from the Jurassic and neighbouring periods, but even from more recent human history[…]

It should not be imagined that the rig is capable of summoning all past, present, and future things in their own right. Instead, it draws forth images of them.’

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Appropriated to articulate, by means of a mythic approach, his increasingly popular OOO (object oriented ontology), the oil rig analogy for Harman merely serves as a suitable model with which to consider the notion of an ‘occasionalist polytheism’, for, ‘the known ability of oil rigs to siphon entities from distant times and spaces’ functions as a particularly blasphemous secular alternative to an Occasionalist God. Instead of any singular religious deity mediating all interactions in the cosmos, an occasionalist polytheism would suggest an equality, not only between oil rigs but between all objects, to mutually affect and interact with one another. In Harman’s words,

‘For if we abandon the occasionalist God in favour of an oil rig, and then abandon a single all-powerful rig in favour of a vast legion of equipotent divine platforms, why stop there? Why not grant all objects the power to act as oil rigs, each draining phantasmal energy from all of the others? We can literally imagine all rabbits, monkeys, electrons, acids, and freight trains as equipped with pipes and tubing of their own. All real objects of every size now have the power to interact with all other things, at the price of turning them into images. The entire cosmos is in fact a dystopia filled with trillions of miniature deities, each of them a platform in a hurricane-infested gulf.’

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Accepting all obvious deviations and digressions here I would like to adopt a similarly mythic approach to thinking about the Oil Museum, it’s contents, and the remaining nodding donkeys that inhabit the clearings in the surrounding wood where it is sited. Let us imagine for a moment, akin to Harman’s off-shore oil rigs, each one drawing up a multiplicity of images in substitute for their usual crude oil, that the nodding donkeys at Duke’s Wood served the very same purpose and pumped up images from the ground below. Yet, with no independent infrastructure like the oil rigs large platforms, the donkeys send their yield direct to the museum where it is diligently arranged, with an order familiar only to the collections keepers and custodians. Such is the volume of material transmitted to the museum, that the task of organising it quickly becomes insurmountable. And so, in spite of their best efforts the displays take on a wild, cluttered disparity. What is settled for as sense or logical order for our curators would appear completely arbitrary to the untrained eye.

Thus a kind of liquid museology takes shape where the lines between fact and fiction, narrative truth and tale, historical artifact and out of place artifice, blur and merge together in a continuous temporal flow.