An audiovisual exploration of the past, present and futures of three peatlands: Bodmin Moor, Dartmoor and Exmoor. Produced by Rose Ferraby, Tommy Perman and Rob St John between 2021 and 2023. Commissioned by the South West Peatland Partnership.
A collage of voices from peatland landscapes across the South West of England delve into the rich histories and complex natures of peatlands. These voices are drawn from environmental managers, peatland restorationists, landscape archaeologists, poets to form an experimental ‘radio play’ tuning into the peat. Archive recordings of local people from The Dartmoor Trust Archive trace the extraction and use of peat through the 20th Century.
An archive of films exploring peatlands across different scales can be reshaped and curated by visitors to the STACKS website. Many of these were shot across Bodmin Moor, Dartmoor and Exmoor to capture abstracted peatland tones and textures. Other films were created using photographic film, where photographs of peatland landscapes were taken, and their negative film buried in peat and bogs for months on end. Upon excavation, new patterns of decay and decomposition were traced on their surface. These films were then sliced into hundreds of tiny frames and animated. Another set of films projected archive images of peatlands across the South West of England through the water column of moorland streams in the middle of the night.
You can read a blog about the films here.
The soundscape weaving through the voices is composed from environmental recordings made in peatland landscapes. Ambient microphones pick up bird calls, insects and the sound of water and wind. Hydrophones lowered beneath the surface of the earth record the squelch and crackle of sphagnum bogs and humming stridulations of bog pool insects. Contact microphones record the whirring vibrations of fencelines strung taut in the wind and slowly shifting geologies. These sounds have been produced using a number of environmentally-resonant processes to create a soundscape which ebbs and flows between peatland scales, speeds and environments.
You can read a blog about the soundscape here.