pollen analysis investigates the relation between the examined material and the media of this scientific examination, between counting and observing as scientific or artistic methods.
Throughout the project ~ in the fields worked with Dr. James Edward Schofield (Geography & Environment, School of Geosciences, University of Aberdeen). We watched and participated as he and his collegues took peat cores from the Bennachie site (Aberdeenshire). We visited him in his lab, when he was extracting the pollen out of the peat samples, identified and counted them under a light microscope. We are interested in his methods of visualising the pollen data as a diagram, as well as interpreting them, to explain past landscapes – or even the human influence on Bennachie.
When walking into a black tunnel – of nearly the length of the original peat core (4.80m) taken on the Bennachie site, the visitor can listen to a sound piece (17:20 min) which is an interpretation of the pollen counts, gained through the process of the analysis of the soil samples: 300 pollen counts per sample, in 30 samples. Every single counted pollen of a tree, a shrub, heather or herb appears as a sound. Additionally, the scientist’s interpretation of the pollen data is implemented, which – after a two minutes long introduction of the pollen sounds – tells a story of the Bennachie site over the past 7000 years: events, like the elm decline, vanishing trees, the picts appearing, farming activities – but also rain and fires on the bog surface.
The entrance of the tunnel is framed by display cabinets. They contain a collection of drafts, models and experiments, being made by ~ in the fields, whilst playing with the materials they were working with: peat, trees, charcoal, microscopic pollen grains – and numbers.
pollen analysis, 2013
duration: 17:20 min
by ~ in the fields
creative music technician: Adam Staff
voice: Wounded Knee
poem: Hamish Henderson
pollen analyisis was created during the Natural Bennachie Art-Science Collaboration, commissioned by Scottish Sculpture Workshop in partnership with The Bailies of Bennachie, Forestry Commission Scotland, Aberdeenshire Council Ranger Service and the University of Aberdeen.
This project was supported by Creative Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage as part of the Year of Natural Scotland 2013.