Unearthing/ Remediation

Light, Plants and Breath

In the process of creating work and filming the aspects of Unearthing, I was confronted with numerous real and perceived toxins. As the archeologist dug down through the ‘made ground’ – the residue of human endeavour on the plot of land – each layer of time revealed itself though toxins. Asbestos and benzenes from the industrial uses, lead and lye from the kilns and numerous unknown dusts. And then there were the machines, working in the closed building – diggers, jackhammers, compressors, diesel generators – each belching out smoke into the closed walls of the old cinema. I was compelled to record all that was being done while repelled by what invisibly was being undone. I wore masks. I wore gloves. I wore paper suits. Still, as I unpeeled the layers at days end, I worried about what I carried on my skin, in my lungs as I went home to my children.

In the end the toxicology reports showed no asbestos fibres, no radon, the only notable contaminate was benzenes which can be remediated with plastic barrier wrap or solid ground treatment. I chose to counter all I breathed through phytoremediation – through plants. Each plant I have chosen removes the toxins – those present in the old cinema, in the exhaust of the machines and that are released from a building as it decays.

I commissioned Lindsay Duncanson to create a sound intervention that informed and coaxed breath.