Wednesday, 10 June 2020


When we were 16 and had finished our final exams at high school we organised a party in the woods nearby. Word spread quickly through the last week at school, and soon our whole school year were making their way across the back fields on Friday night, avoiding the roads as much as possible, to avoid having the drink you'd been collecting through the previous weeks being poured away by police. We followed a series of texted directions and sketchy maps to get to the spot, backpacks with sleeping bags, speaker systems.

As the night went on the different cliques of the school melted into each other. Aux speaker systems dropped out of battery, and fires got bigger, set in metal bins we had found nearby, using our exam textbooks as kindling. It got late, police arrived with a dog unit, and the party scattered, distant phone torches glinting through the trees. 

There was a heat wave through the next weeks, and I started to notice fire engines going up the track to the woods. Later an article was published in the local newspaper about small fires which were springing up in the woods, and our headteacher had given a statement. The fires had gone down into the roots, it hadn't rained for weeks, and the soil was rich in peat, almost like clay but made up of partly decayed vegetation. The fire had incubated and dispersed in this tangle of roots, a network of slow fuses: distributing it around until it would sprout back up to the surface in various places.

The planet is extremely flammable, with oxygen and carbon based plants. Prehistoric wildfires would haunt the locals, from lightning into dry grass, the embers would trace the wind routes that interlaced around the earth. 

Before fire was domesticated, it existed on a scale and with a motion which was unimaginable. They struggled to harness the fires that surrounded them, wanting to compress it down, to a scale that was comprehendible: into a fire pit, fireplace, camp fire. They wanted to see the edges of it, it would make them feel comfortable, to be able to make a drawing of it, take a photograph of it.
To try and figure out the process, they looked from the fires back to their source, via the lightning and upward into the deep grey areas of the clouds, seeing the turbulent swelling of wind knotting in on itself. Inside the clouds, electrons were becoming loose from the cycle of heating and cooling, building electricity, which would discharge back towards the earth.

To mimic this cyclic friction, you can use a small maquette made of sticks, making twisting motions, forming whirlwinds between the sticks in the same way that the clouds would fold in on themselves, moving continuously until a spark breaks loose. These fires were later made portable in ceramic containers.

This domestication of fire catalysed many activities: cooking, ceramic production, protection from animals that preyed on them, prolonging the days and providing a space for story telling in the nights. The most dedicated of the storytellers would use the shadows, cast from the fire, to perform silhouette routines , projected onto the sides of the tents, playing out two dimensional stories, in an early mutation of cinema. In the same way, they would demystify this new technology, bring it closer, making it easier to weave into daily thought and activity. 

The locals of the settlement would come to watch, bringing nuts and seeds gathered from the day, watching the performances and relaying them onto families and friends in gatherings throughout the following days.

As the seeds travel through the digestive system, their ellipsoid shapes giving them a streamlined form to move ahead quicker than other foods, they come under various forces, both chemical and mechanical, gastric acid breaking down the strength of their outer shell, and the churning motion of the intestines attempting to grind out their nutrients. Some seeds would crack at this stage and be fully ingested into the body. Others would travel through unharmed, but hadn't received enough processing from the stomach acid, which was needed to weaken the shell enough for a plant to germinate when you poo.

Some seeds would get the balance perfect, mixing with enough acid to open their shell, letting some of their protein leak into the bloodstream, whilst retaining enough form to continue through the system and be able to grow after.

The culture I experienced when growing up was infused into plastic. A further compression of organic material and decayed vegetation over time, developing into oil, coal and natural gasses, extracted from the earth, processed and moulded. 

This cultural jelly (made up of a mash of songs, movies, images, references, perspectives from my childhood) was given to me incased in polypropylene VHS, polycarbonate CDs and DVDs, their aerodynamic discus form allowing them to be easily passed from hand to hand, stacked in rows aboard the cargo hold of planes, and ricocheted between cities. 

Later this info was strung out into a series of copper ropes, cables insulated in rubberised PVC, along which rhythms of electrical sparks could travel. Sound, moving image and text, broken down into an encoded series of rapid bursts, thrown forward along these new routes, and unpacked at the other side, reforming into it's original sonic or visual structure.

The new magicians of instagram, youtube, snapchat, tiktok, are casting and compressing stories, translating them into these bundles of sequenced impulses, which skim through the cables, surging up communication towers and flexing into electromagnetic waves, volleyed between dishes, glancing at each other from the fringes of the stratosphere, to fall back down and bloom on multiple screens. 

They understand how to interrupt these frequencies perfectly, embossing their words into flame digit sequences, which then disperse within the PVC insulated tunnels. Forming these vehicles to withstand the compression, digestion, translation, re-understandings, refreshing contexts: being applied over social situations, reformed in differing qualities of sonic frequency, from the phone speaker, or a car going past, or a 2 second clipping. They need to withstand the algorithmic crunchings, to be porous enough to leak from various devices, whilst retaining their structure enough to bloom.