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.

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Louise K. Wilson – In the ‘chthonic underworld’

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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

Alison Lloyd – ‘Walking Out’

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Wider ‘contouring’ of Dukes Wood and Dukeries for Ordinary Culture. Beech trees in Dilliner Wood North and Silver Birch at Black Hill Clump within Clumber and Hardwick CP – image – Alison Lloyd

If you look at the Sherwood Forest Mansfield, Worksop & Edwinstowe OS Map 270 you will see that there is no ‘Dukes’ Wood.  There is Pudding Poke Wood, Redgate Wood leading to Crowhill Wood, Nut Wood, Roe Wood, Dillner Wood, Hagley’s Plantation and Mansey Common.  If you follow the right of way footpath between Nut Wood and Roe Wood along this narrow strip of woodland you can look out south to Broadclose Wood, along the Robin Hood Way.  I have begun to ‘contour’ these woodland boundaries between sunset and moonrise.

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My preferred walking terrain is a mountainous area, and if I cannot get out on to the hills in the Lakes, Snowdonia or Scotland I like to stride out across the bleak moorland in the Dark Peak in Derbyshire. I have also taken to walking at night with my head torch and spare batteries in lower lying areas, to re-enact some of my experiences hiking in geographically ‘remote’ places such as Glen Brittle in Skye, and the Cairngorms.  Places that could be viewed as some of the few remaining ‘wilderness’ areas in the UK.

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During these walks I am exploring my understanding of ‘wilderness’ and take with me a book by Paul Shepheard, ‘The Cultivated Wilderness – or what is Landscape’ and a paper written by David Reason, ‘Reflections of Wilderness and Pike Lane Pond’.

Walking in an area bound by fences, walls and hedges and private woods I am constrained from wandering freely, unlike my walking areas of choice.  I could ignore the boundaries and climb over the fences and once more ‘stride out’ across the fields or meander through the private woods. I have chosen to follow the boundaries, which contradicts my particular excitement in finding places where I can easily roam and ‘contour’ off the beaten track to any point on the map.

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We do not so much need to understand the form and nature of our emotional relationship with wilderness, as to recognise that the nature of wilderness is itself formed from our emotional being.

David Reason, Reflections of Wilderness and Pike Land Pond

The wilderness is not a landscape you visit, it is all around you, wherever you are.

Paul Shepheard, The Cultivated Wilderness – or what is Landscape

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I will walk during periods of darkness to experience the site at times of discomfort, if not quite anxiety and fear.

Dukes Wood car park is about 1 kilometre from the nearest village (Eakring).  The car park is regularly used for ‘Car Sex’ so there are times when I am not so sure that I want to be parked up there and walking solo and find myself accused of ‘Dogging’. Walking the area through 24 hours in an informal, disjointed way seems to go well with my desire to walk off the beaten track and to re-claim, a place as a lone woman walking artist.

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I imagine that I am going against the grain, rebelling, redressing the balance of women artist’s striding out across the landscape; the lone figure in the landscape in what could be seen as an aggressive act.

I have been ‘walking out’ to eight ring contours around Alport Moor and Dale west of Derwent Reservoir and south of Bleaklow in the Dark Peak. The terrain is rough moorland and extends to five square kilometres.

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image courtesy of Julian Hughes

Alport Moor is an area known for its Mountain or Arctic Hares. Its plateau-like contours were chosen because I felt it could stand in for the Cairngorm Plateau; a remote place that I could visit over and over again as a lone woman walker. I aim to re-claim this, ‘romantic territory’, which has been mainly associated with male artists who have walked out alone and focused to make their work. I am striding out on my own in way that could be described as an aggressive act of walking, to my own ‘summit’ and the eight remote ‘ring contours’.

In an email exchange with John Hammersley we discussed my reflection on fear, anxiety and awkwardness, and Petrach’s ascent of Ventoux, where there is something of the spirit of doubt and uncertainty in his journey. There is also doubt that he actually walked up the mountain and that his description of his journey was a metaphorical one.

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image by Colette Ayers

I am noticing my fear, anxiety, and awkwardness in relationship to these places where getting lost or feeling lost can happen. I have also noticed a difference between fearing you are lost and fearing you have lost a walking companion – lost or abandoned. The paths to get lost on are the circular paths I am making in the ‘marking’ of the contours in the Dark Peak.  A circular path that reflects the hermeneutic circle is non-linear and often a path for getting oneself lost on.

by Alison Lloyd

Institute for Boundary Interactions – Prospecting for Material Futures

Dukes Wood whilst suggestive of a naturalised English woodland is managed and maintained through a structured programme of non-intervention. There is a strict code of practice when it comes to the wood’s upkeep as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

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[Image credit: Mark Selby]

This status evolved directly from the woodlands’ industrial heritage as the UK’s first onshore oil field. Clearings made to house oil-drilling equipment re-naturalised over time to become new habitats for contrasting and rare or unusual species. In addition, an early example of corporate reclamation introduced a programme of planting non-native trees following industrial vacation of the site. As such the site itself is a composite of man-made and organic processes; an antagonism between the artificial and the natural.

With this in mind as a backdrop to our research, we wanted to begin by exploring the site’s relationship with material production and futurism. During the post-war period of the 50’s and 60’s new industrial processes and material sciences enabled the ability to design and make exciting new products.

Amongst these was plastic, a promising new material whose properties allowed for domestic objects of seemingly limitless new forms, shapes and colours. Lubricated by an abundance of oil, it fuelled western consumerist imagination as a material of the future, and commodities made from plastic were seen as progressive luxury products [2].  Now however, it is the material of the mass produced and the cheap – temporary and disposable, but not degradable, and only occasionally recyclable

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Nano Crystalline Cellulose, Image: Next Nature

There is then, an evident tension in the relationship between the natural and the man made. Our given site, is a place of great natural diversity in delicate ecological balance. However, this status is greatly indebted to the extensive human and technological interventions over the years that result from its role in the production of oil.

Plastic is also a material of tensions. As a material derived from natural substances (commonly oil, but also cellulose, and organic proteins) it represents an antagonism between the artificial and the natural. We might argue that the modern world has been shaped by plastic to the extent that it is difficult to imagine everyday life without it. But at the same time it is impossible to ignore the damage that its production and use has caused to the planet.

It was at this point, as a way of exploring these tensions, we became interested in the possibility of making plastics from materials available on the site. In contrast to the increasingly problematic relationship between society and traditional methods of producing industrial materials, we started looking at new kinds of plastics made in more environmentally sensitive ways.

Beginning with learning more about natural polymers, we encountered a new ‘wonder’ material called nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC).  NCC is made from treated cellulose, one of the primary molecules that makes up the cell walls of plants and trees. At a molecular level NCC has a crystalline structure in contrast to the string-like structure of other polymer-based plastics.  As a result it has many of the material properties of a metal; it is an electrical conductor and has an incredibly high strength to weight ratio (8 times that of stainless steel). It is also transparent and biodegradable; the latter allowing it to be used in natural systems, including the human body, with little adverse effect. Importantly, it isn’t necessary to fell trees in order to make NCC. It’s nano scale structure allows for it to be easily made using fallen twigs, leaves, or even sawdust [1].

These properties make it a material that seems to be able to do it all. Japan-based Pioneer Electronics is applying it to the next generation of flexible electronic displays, while IBM is using it to create components for computers. Even the US army is getting in on the act, using it to make lightweight body armour and ballistic glass. [1].

Celluforce En from Departement Web on Vimeo.

Interesting parallels can be drawn between the plastics of the post-war era and this new material.  The rhetoric surrounding NCC is aspirational and hopeful, it promises new things and new solutions to old problems. As plastic did, NCC seems to set its sights firmly on ‘the future’. This relationship between the future a material (or technology) might promise, and that which it might deliver, is another aspect of our interest in this project.

Over the coming months, we are planning on visiting the Cellulose and Natural Materials Group at the University of Exeter, to interview Professor Stephen Eichorn and get a better understanding of the NCC production process. Alongside this we are going to be investing in laboratory equipment to test fabricating NCC on a small scale using plant matter from the site and other areas.  Our intention is to reveal the process of producing this material and interrogate what it might mean for this place to return to being a material producing community.

References

[1] http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21528786.100-why-wood-pulp-is-worlds-new-wonder-material.html
[2] J.L. Meikle (1997) American Plastic: A Cultural History. Rutgers University Press.

By I.B.I

Into the Woods

‘Our English woods are a complicated and sustaining myth. We yearn for traces of the original tracts of greenwood. We grow to understand that human activity in these islands had denuded the tree cover fairly significantly even during prehistory, but nonetheless we retain a strong imaginative attachment to our woods, especially as places for hiding and as places beyond the codes and authority of the day.’

– Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts, Edgelands

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My first encounter with Dukes Wood was on a cold, dreary Sunday afternoon in the late autumn of 2011. It was one of those days where the air felt wet without the need for rain, as if a layer of the atmosphere had dropped earthwards veiling everything in a thick, heavy mist, giving all a sense of ethereal otherworldliness. The resounding feeling on entering the wood was one of perfect stillness, a kind of untouched serenity that would surely be broken by my presence. As if the slightest human disruption would stir the entire place into a brief, jolted frenzy of commotion. Like clapping ones hands beneath a tree full of nesting starlings. It was exactly what I had hoped for, everything I had expected and anticipated from this tiny pocket of the Nottinghamshire countryside – steeped in obvious, but as yet unexplored, natural and cultural history, brimming with narrative potential, quaintly charming yet strangely eerie – an exemplary English wood.

But what is meant by such a phrase? What does a place have to have in order for it to be conceived as such – as both true woodland, and a truly English woodland at that? For most, an image of woodland is one of relative wildness, if not full-blown wilderness. It evokes thoughts of an idyllic return to nature, an atavistic reawakening of our innate primordial hunter-gatherer instincts, ‘going back to nature – not just to ‘the natural world’, but to their own true nature, as creatures of the wild woods.’(Farley & Symmons Roberts – Edgelands) Of course this view, albeit a common and rather appealing one, is wholly romantic. Perhaps we are so comfortable with, and equally so protective of, our woods because they are instances of wildness that seem approachable, convivial, somehow perversely tame, domesticated even? This is hardly surprising, owing to the fact that the vast majority of our woodland is in fact very closely monitored and scrupulously cultivated, very much influenced if not manipulated by man.

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The view adopted by the modern sensibility of an image of nature as a beatific ideal, precisely formed, well behaved and perfectly presented, ‘Nature as a reified thing in the distance, under the sidewalk, on the other side where the grass is always greener, preferably in the mountains, in the wild.’(Timothy Morton – The Ecological Thought) This is of course a myth. Such a notion derives from this very attachment to a sense of ‘imageness’, a tendency towards a framing or picturing of our surroundings following a tradition of artistic representations of the natural world – the relatively recent phenomenon of landscape, the notion of the picturesque – looking like a picture. It also comes out of man’s sustained intervention in the land, through methods of farming, agriculture and industry, that has come to shape our countryside as we know it today – the rolling hills, the thick hedgerows bristling with life, and the seemingly arbitrarily occurring dense clusters of trees – all products of a sustained, historic interference with our environment. As such, it is wrong to think of our woodland, or indeed any part of nature, in terms of independence. Rather, it is essential to consider the interdependence and interconnectedness of all things, natural and man-made; a truly ecological view, one that includes human beings effect on the environment, both good and bad, in the complex mesh that represents a truly unified, symbiotic outlook.

The very specific natural environment of Dukes Wood is truly a case in point. It symbolises a wonderful cooperation between two things that might on paper be considered ideologically and ethically diametrically opposed – heavy industry, (specifically crude oil production) and wildlife conservation. However, as with most complicated agreements that carry their own set of social and political implications, the narrative of Dukes Wood is long, with many twists and turns. Once a dense and unmanaged woodland, it has long been a site of transformation as well as reconciliation. The oil industry came and went over a period of around 70 years and, at various stages throughout this time, undertook large scale industrial operations leaving in their wake areas of damage where entire sections of the woodland were lost.

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These intermittent patches of openness formed the woods signature clearings and have given rise to a marked diversification in Dukes Wood’s ecological portfolio. Rare grasses and wild orchids that would otherwise never have found their way to the site now flourish and line the bases of decommissioned nodding donkeys that still occupy the clearings, like odd sculptural spectres of a bygone industry. The formation of Dukes Wood as you will find it today is the result of a long and fractious relationship between man and nature, one deferring to the other at various points in its history, like a game of tug-of-war complete with moments of recession and reinvigoration, depletion and rejuvenation. The conclusion is certainly not as simple as “nature prevailed”; as the unique ecology of the wood must surely give a degree of credence to man’s industrial intervention. It is the perfect illustration of co-dependency and interconnectedness, whether knowing and welcome or not.

‘Ecology includes all the ways we imagine how we live together. Ecology is profoundly about coexistence. No man is an island. Human beings need each other as much as they need an environment. Human beings are each others’ environment. Thinking ecologically isn’t simply about nonhuman things. Ecology has to do with you and me.’ 

– (Timothy Morton – The Ecological Thought)

What Dukes Wood signifies is not only this interconnectedness, or interdependency between man and nature but also a coming together of people and place under the auspices of industrial work. It enables a kind of topophilic reading, one that acknowledges the affective ties between people and place, whereby place is given its character and its historical agency through utility, through working in and on the land. Not to be interpreted as a positivist conception of industrial capitalism, but rather as a celebration of the salutary sociological effects of industry and its ability to form strong and prosperous communities with a common aim and a shared reliance on the land. With the exhaustion of natural resources comes the loss of the industries that relied on them and, in turn, the fracturing and denigration of the communities that were built around them. Dukes Wood expresses the feeling of lamentation over the loss of a way of life and making a living, a symptom of so much of the industrial wasteland of Northern England, whilst simultaneously representing the salubrious effects of the evacuation of heavy industry allowing for a sustained period of nurture and convalescence.

Dukes Wood conjures an imaginative interpretation of the land; one that satisfies our search for a conventionally pictorial view – a framing of an idyllic scene – whilst also asking us to imagine those that occupied and lived on the land as ‘insiders’ and carved out permanent marks upon it. It is a place of memory, ‘Even the landscape takes on a different quality if you are one of those who remember. The scenery is then never separate from the history of the place, from the feeling for the lives that have been lived there.’(Raymond Williams – The Country and the City) Dukes Wood is also a landscape of hope and potential and should not remain fixed to this symptom of melancholia often associated with sites of memorialisation. We are encouraged, rather, to envision a bright future of natural conservation whilst commemorating the woods past as a clandestine military industrial operation. A mnemonic attachment to Dukes Wood only acts to strengthen the notion that the land signifies a rare and valuable example of the reconciliation between human progress and the preservation of the natural world. The two need not, and cannot ever again, be thought of separately if real progress is to be made. It is a model, not for hiding, but for the radical expansion and redefining of the ‘codes and authority of the day’ – a ground at once for remembrance and re-imagining. Perhaps art will go some way to helping us do this…

By Aaron Juneau – Dukes Wood Project Co-curator