Categories
Observation Poetry Psychogeography Signs and Signifiers

Ephemera: City lungs, breathe at twilight

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City lungs

breathe at twilight

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Now playing:  AGF – Breathing in Lines

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Categories
Observation Psychogeography Some Questions of the Drift

Some Questions of the Drift

Weather vane, NSEW, blue sky, light
Kirk Wynd, Kirkcaldy

I ask you: 

– What is the weight of light?

– Clarice Lispector

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Merchant's House, Kirkcaldy
Merchant’s House, Kirkcaldy

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 – What are the colours of time?

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Merchant's House Kirkcaldy II
Merchant’s House Kirkcaldy II

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 – What are the sounds of the stones?

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 – When does the inside become the outside?

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Rosyth Church - East Gable Inner - from West
Rosyth Church – East Gable Inner – from West

Gravestone, decay, erosion
St Cuthbert’s Churchyard, Edinburgh

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 – What is the material of memory?

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– What would the trees think?

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Scot's Pine - Devilla Forest, Fife
Devilla Forest, Fife

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Limekilns, Fife

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– What is the geography of a butterfly?

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Lochore Meadows, Fife

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– What is the shape of flight?

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– When does the local become  – the universal?

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Burntisland from The Binn
Burntisland from The Binn

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≈ ≈

– Where does the sky begin?

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Digbeth Derive
Digbeth, Birmingham

– What is the taste of place?

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Cafe now Open – Digbeth Birmingham

 

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Custard Factory, Digbeth

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– Where are the energy flows?

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Abandoned factory, Digbeth

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– What is the future of the past?

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Watching over Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow
Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow

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– Who watches the watcher?

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George Square, Glasgow
George Square, Glasgow

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 – Who controls this space?

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 – Who determines the boundary?

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Hadrian’s Wall
Berlin Wall
The Berlin Wall
Keep Out
Limekilns, Danger, Keep Out

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Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow
Sauchiehall Street Glasgow

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–  Where is the coldness of the sun?

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– What is the gravity of the moon?

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at Mogwai play Zidane, Broomielaw, Glasgow
at Mogwai play Zidane, Broomielaw, Glasgow
Rosyth Station, Car Park
Rosyth Station, Car Park

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– Where is the boundary of night?

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Under Regent Bridge, Calton Road, Edinburgh (Callum Innes installation).
Under Regent Bridge, Calton Road, Edinburgh (Callum Innes installation).

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Where is the future of  freedom?

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Stirling Jail car park mural. Detail from Freedom Versions v.1
Stirling Jail car park mural. Detail from Freedom Versions v.1

– What is the distance of love?

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Berlin Wall, late 1980s. Looking towards the East
Berlin Wall, late 1980s. Looking towards the East

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≈ ≈ ≈

Opening quote from Clarice Lispector’s The Hour of the Star.

The photos of the Berlin Wall are from an inter-railing trip in the late 1980s. It was a coincidence to rediscover them in an old shoebox on the day that it was announced Lou Reed had died.  I can still vividly recall a lurid, orange BASF cassette being pressed into my hand in the school playground. “Listen to this!”  It was a recording of Rock n Roll Animal. Things changed.

I can still remember a number of the cassettes that travelled in the rucksack on that inter-railing adventure. Berlin was certainly one of them.

Now playing: Lou Reed – Berlin. RIP LR.

Categories
Field Trip Happenstance Observation Psychogeography Signs and Signifiers Symbol

Ephemera – A short visual drift through the Edinburgh New Town

P e d a g o g y

P e d a g o g y

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C o n v e r g e / E n t w i n e

C o n v e r g e / E n t w i n e~

B r o u g h t o n  M a r k e t  w i t h  r a i n b o w

B r o u g h t o n  M a r k e t  w i t h  c o r n e r  r a i n b o w

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T h e  O l d / T h e  N e w

T h e  O l d / T h e  N e w

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B r o u g h t o n  S t r e e t  w i t h  s m u d g e  o f  m o o n

B r o u g h t o n  S t r e e t  w i t h  s m u d g e  o f  m o o n

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U r b a n  F o x

U r b a n  F o x

~

Now Playing: Barbara Monk Feldman – The Northern Shore

Categories
Uncategorized

On Samhain

The moon gazed on my midnight labours, while, with unrelaxed and breathless eagerness, I pursued nature to her hiding-places.

Mary Shelley

at the cusp of light and darkness

through veil of in-world and out-world

they arrive.

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And if in Edinburgh look to the skies:

Witches over Edinburgh
Witches over Edinburgh (1923).

Endpiece from Dramatisations of History: The Masque of Ancient Learning and Its Many Meanings by Patrick Geddes, Edinburgh: Patrick Geddes and Colleagues, (1923).

Now Playing:  Rhys Chatham – A Rite for Samhain (From The Bern Project).

Categories
Field Trip Psychogeography

A Saunter through Summerhall

Buildings loom over us and persist beyond us. They have the perfect memory of materiality

Longevity has no chance without a serious structure

Stewart Brand – How Buildings Learn

We finally got the chance to have a good investigative wander around the Summerhall building.  Just in time before the Edinburgh Art Festival exhibitions close.

Summerhall is the old Dick Vet building (The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies of the University of Edinburgh) which has now been transformed into what must be one of the most unique art and performance spaces in the UK. (Europe/World/Cosmos?).

A previous visit was during the full-on party atmosphere of the Edinburgh Festival.  Archie Shepp was performing in the Dissection Room, blowing his fire music and détourning jazz standards for the animal spirits. Quite a contrast to a September Saturday when you could wander through the building and its environs and rarely encounter another soul. With over 500 rooms, located over three floors, a basement and outbuildings, wandering the footprint of Summerhall is more like exploring a Borgesian labyrinth where encounters and exhibits are chanced upon and randomly discovered. Quite unlike the mapped-out, directional flow of the conventional gallery experience. Even spending most of the day at Summerhall, we still didn’t ‘find’ everything that was here – around thirty discrete exhibitions that are incorporated into the existing fabric of the  building.

And what a building. Whispering from the walls and corridors, you can sense the stories and sounds that are soaked into this space.  Stories not only of the human, but also the animals who have inhabited and passed through here: the corridors, the stables, the animal hospital, the dissection rooms…

Above the Entrance to 7x7th Street

First exhibition stop is the, rather playful, outdoor installation 7×7 by Jean Pierre Muller in collaboration with seven musicians: Robert Wyatt, Archie Shepp, Sean O’Hagan, Mulatu Astatke, Kassin, Nile Rodgers and Terry Riley. Muller and his stellar band of sonic explorers have created 7x7th Street consisting of seven wooden huts linked to a letter, a colour of the rainbow, a day of the week, a chakra, and a specific place. Riffing on these associations, each musician has then created an interactive sound sculpture tapping into their own diverse personal histories to create “new connections of knowledge, meaning and poetry”.

Robert Wyatt’s hut is ‘A’ for the Alhambra, the Red Palace. Monday, the first day of the week, so the day of the Moon.

Robert Wyatt 7×7

Inside Wyatt’s Alhambra, everything is under the influence of Clair de Lune.  Audrey Hepburn strums a guitar and sings Moon River, Louis Hardin, aka Moondog, keeps watch over the lunar rockets and Neil Armstrong prepares for take-off.

Robert Wyatt 7×7 Interior

Archie Shepp’s hut is ‘B’ for the Blues and the B-line to Brooklyn. The colour of orange sits well with Tuesday, the day of Mars.

Archie Shepp 7×7
Archie Shepp 7×7 Interior detail

Perhaps our favourite is Terry Riley’s ‘G’ for Galaxies, the colour violet and seventh day of the week, Sunday, day of the Sun. A hut of the Cosmos, the domain of The Sun King,

Terry Riley 7×7
Terry Riley 7×7 Interior detail

What is noticeable in Terry Riley’s interior panel is a much reduced number of visual elements.  Instead, symbols and motifs are treated to repetition, distortion, diffraction and linked up through connecting space. Much like Riley’s music!

A few pictures from the other huts:

Kassin – 7×7 Interior detail
Nile Rodgers 7×7 Interior detail
Sean O’Hagan 7×7 Interior detail
Mulatu Astatke 7×7
Robert Wyatt 7×7 Exterior

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After the jaunty, neo-pop art of 7x7th Street, a sharper contrast could not be made visiting the Old Stables. Tucked in behind Robert Wyatt’s hut, this is the scene of Robert Kuśmirowski’s installation Pain Thing. There is a palpable change in atmosphere as you enter the building from the street.  The colours of 7×7 Street leach out of the retina and fade to dirty cream and grey. Flecks of what looks like dried blood stain the floor and an oppressive air starts to envelop and smother.  When we arrive in the main room – an asthmatic room – it feels like we are witnessing the aftermath of some post-apocalyptic scene. An animal experimentation zone where something has gone horribly wrong. The paraphernalia and apparatus of the medical research establishment lies around, test tubes, bell jars, pumps and instruments, some scattered on the floor. The torso of a unidentified creature lies on a hospital style trolley, limbs severed, bone sliced through:

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This is not a place we wish to linger.

Inside Summerhall, the building retains its institutional air. Long corridors, unmarked closed doors, stairwells and the cell like structures of the basement. Signage still indicates past functions: The Post-Mortem Room, The Demonstration Room, The Anatomy Lecture Theatre.  It is a great place to simply wander around, listening out for whispered narratives layered into stone, wood and glass. The fabric of the building is also used to good effect. The original laboratory benches are used for display purposes and basement cells exude a sinister ambience. One room hosts what looks like some restraining, torture chair and in another a dark sticky ooze spreads on the floor, apparently the residue from some long decomposed water melons.

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Chance discovered highlights include stumbling into Ian Hamilton Finlay’s Fewer Laws, More Examples which examines Finlay’s response to and fascination with The French Revolution. An ambivalent mash-up of principle and virtue, but also fear and terror. Robin Gillanders’s The Philosopher’s Garden Redux portrays ten photographs taken in the Parc Jean-Jacques Rousseau at Emenonville where Rousseau spent the last years of his life. Each photograph represents one of the ten walks of Rousseau’s last (uncompleted) book Les Reveries du Promeneneur Solitaire (1782).

“These hours of solitude and meditation are the only time of the day when I am completely myself”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

The Richard Demarco Archives host a treasure trove of photographs and posters and are a wonderful tribute to Demarco’s visionary approach to curating art. There are legendary documented events featuring Joseph Beuys, Marina Abramovich and Tadeusz Kantor and Scottish artists such as George Wyllie and Jimmy Boyle. There is also a reminder that Demarco would take his productions over to Fife with photographs of Valery Anisenko’s production of Macbeth at Ravenscraig Castle, Kirkcaldy in 1996. A hand scribbled NB reads:

“MacDuff was the Thane of Fife. His Castle lies 8 miles down the Coast”

which indeed it still does at East Wemyss. Now a ruin, the site is associated with the MacDuff Earls of Fife, the most powerful family in Fife in the Middle Ages.

Venus with Severed Leg is a collection of photographs by William English documenting the early days of Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s ‘ Sex’ shop. The crucible for the birth of The Sex Pistols and Westwood’s influential punk stylings.

Venus-With-Severed-Leg (c) Summerhall

Phenotype Genotype (PhG)  is a collection of documents, artists books, object multiples catalogues and other ephemera from 1900 to the present day.  Displayed on the original  college laboratory benches, it is perhaps a bit strange and even disconcerting to see Debord’s La Société du spectacle and Patti Smith pinbutton badges, displayed like museum exhibits, encased behind glass.

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Also in the same room, painted directly on to the wall is The Periodic Table of Art. Executed with a certain touch of humour and perhaps also playing upon what appears to be a fundamental human need to catalogue, and document almost anything into a ‘meaningful’ taxonomy.

The Periodic Table of Art (Extract)
The Periodic Table of Art (Extract)
Michaelek-After-Muybridge (c) Summerhall

The absolute standout piece, however, is David Michalek’s Figure Studies and Slow Dancing.  An utterly mesmerising, beautiful and thought-provoking  3-screen film installation inspired by the pioneering photography of Eadweard Muybridge.  Michalek works with choreographers, dancers, actors and people from the streets of New York and has filmed them, unclothed, performing various 5 second human ‘actions’ in extreme high-resolution. These 5-second actions are then played back over a period of 7 minutes with every nuance of movement captured on the human body over this elongated time frame. The rich diversity of human form is portrayed across age, gender, ethnic diversity, shape and size.  It also raises the question of whether ‘class’ is written on the unclothed body. This is a work that not only enriches and enthralls but helps you to see the world afresh outside of clock time. The work is further enhanced by the (uncredited) soundtrack which is used to great effect to compliment the images. The unmistakable slow breathing of Morton Feldman’s Piano and String Quartet.

Just before closing, we are trying to find our way out when we turn a corner and find ourselves facing the iconic image of Joseph Beuys. It is as if he is walking towards us, puposefully, the reflecting light creating a halo around him. As we leave, it is good to know that the spirit of Joseph Beuys is patrolling the corridors of Summerhall. We wonder if the vets ever treated a Coyote?

Beuys Halo – Summerhall

Now Playing: Terry Riley – Descending Moonshine Dervishes

Categories
Observation Uncategorized

Observation

Slightly incongruous to be re-reading Werner Herzog’s Of Walking in Ice whilst we all wallow in the sunshine this week.  A bit like walking around with an ice-cube in my pocket as Edinburgh metamorphoses into an outdoor theatre and city life explodes on to the streets.  It’s interesting to think about how a hot snap of unseasonal weather can challenge the notion of city design, public space, and it’s usage.  Groups and individuals start to congregate freely in the most unlikeliest of spaces under ‘normal weather conditions’. The usual wet and windy expanse of the Usher Hall steps are transformed into a natural amphitheatre, for meeting, eating, drinking, thinking and reading. Any available sun-facing surface is colonised by the intrepid light worshiper including window sills and ledges. People appear to embrace drifting and flaneuring in lunch hours, glad to be moving though the city with no particular purpose.   I haven’t really given too much  thought about the relationship between weather and city space but when you see such an instant and radical transformation it is hard to ignore.

Now playing:  Untitled – Birchville Cat Motel . Bruce Russell.

Categories
Field Trip Happenstance Poetry Psychogeography Sounds of Spaces and Places

Levitate the Crags!

One of the most direct ways to immerse yourself in Fife’s liminal energies is to walk the Coastal Path. Out on the edge at the intersection of land and sea is always a receptive  place to be.  However, for the more expedient traveller, or slacker psychogeographer, the short train journey that hugs the coastline from Inverkeithing to Kirkcaldy can be a sensory delight as the train rattles through the villages of Aberdour, Burntisland and Kinghorn.  Position yourself on the right hand side of the train and open up the synapses to the field of vision that floods the senses.

If I have a taste, it’s for scarcely more than earth and stones.
I eat air, rock, earth, iron.

Arthur Rimbaud [1].

Arthur's Seat and the Salisbury Crags from Fife

Gazing out over the Firth of Forth to Arthur’s Seat and the dolerite and columnar basalt of the Salisbury Crags.  Like some striated, cosmic sombrero, angled and poised ready for take-off over the needle teeth of Edinburgh’s gothic spires. The castle nesting atop its volcanic plug.  In the foreground stands the stillborn Edinburgh Riviera a Ballardian monument to pre-credit crunch architectural and financial hubris.

Deep Time / City Time / Hubris Time

There is a solidity of presence to the Salisbury Crags that radiates over the Forth.  Layered custodian of the longue durée, deep time is encoded in these rocks.  Thoughts turn to James Hutton (1726-1797) amateur geologist whose pioneering discoveries, on these very stones, challenged two prevailing ‘scientific’ shibboleths. Firstly, the  notion of the Genesis creation myth which suggested that the earth was only a few thousand years old and secondly, the Neptunist theory that all rocks had precipitated from a single primordial ocean.

“the mind seemed to grow giddy by looking so far into the abyss of time.” [2]

I like the idea of Hutton’s work being rooted in direct observation of the rock layers that he could walk on, see, pick up, touch and feel. Open to the calling of the rocks and stones:

“The result, therefore, of our present enquiry is, that we find no vestige of a beginning,– no prospect of an end” [3].

The Hutton Section

By observing what is now known as the Hutton Section, Hutton arrived at a theory that the Salisbury Crags ‘sill’ was formed when a much younger layer of fluid, hot magma intruded into older layers of sedimentary rock and solidified.  It is now known that this sill is at least 25 million years younger.  Hutton’s theory of ‘deep time’ was presented in his revolutionary Theory of the Earth, (1785), which proposed that Planet Earth was the literal bedrock of all history, long predating the appearance of the human and would endure long after they had gone. The age of the Earth is now believed to be 4.54 billion years old.

“Those of us who grew up in the sixties, when we put men on the Moon, now have to watch as every Republican candidate for this year’s presidential election denies the science behind climate change and evolution. That is a staggering state of affairs and it is very worrying,”

Professor Naomi Oreskes, University of California, San Diego. [4]


The train rattles along the coast between Aberdour and Burntisland. Over the shimmering Forth:

The space of the Crags

floods the imagination

singing their presence

of encoded deep time

and time yet to come.

a need to start from the ground

on which we stand.

more magma needed

Levitate the Crags!

Caravans at Pettycur Bay

As the train approaches Kinghorn on a bright morning, the sun reflects off the rows of caravans , draped like rows of emerald jewels on the hill above Pettycur Bay. Look seaward and it’s possible to see basking seals sunning themselves on the rocks.

Perhaps today? Tide is out.

When taking this journey, I am always alert to the possibility of a sighting of the fish “which they could find no name for”.

Daniel Defoe’s visit to Fife is recounted in Letter XIII of his A Tour Through the Whole Islands of Great Britain, published in 1724. At Kinghorn he observes how the men ‘carry’d on an odd kind of trade, or sport, of shooting of porpoises of which very great numbers are seen almost constantly in the Firth’. Defoe explains how the porpoises are brought on shore and their fat boiled off for oil, which they also do with other fish such as ‘grampusses, finn fish, and several species of the small whale kind’.  However, in one particular year, ‘there came several such fish on shore which they could find no name for’. Defoe records seeing eight or nine of these fish lying on the shore from ‘Kinghorn to the Easter Weems, some of which were twenty-foot long and upward’. [5]

It is intriguing to reflect that a well established sea trading community would be unable to name this mysterious fish? A surprise manifestation in a world already mapped, named and territorialized. Perhaps only nine of these creatures ever existed? Perhaps these were the last nine?

The train pulls into Kinghorn,

there they lie on the shore:

cut, boiled and rendered for oil.

the last ones.

Fifteen minutes from Kinghorn there are two petrochemical installations run by global energy giant ExxonMobil. Our train journey has meant we have seen neither. Sometimes the advantages of walking are abundantly clear.  On foot the psychogeographic receptors are more finely attuned.

©2011 Gazetteer for Scotland

The Fife Ethylene Plant (“FEP”) at Mossmorran, near Cowdenbeath is one of the largest in Europe with an annual output of 830,000 tonnes. Initially, Brent – the largest oil and gas field in the North Sea UK sector – provided the gas feedstock, but with the decline of Brent production, gas from the Norwegian sector is now also used with 50% of feedstock coming from the Stratfjord and Goja-Vega fields. The natural gas is brought ashore at St Fergus, north of Peterhead and then travels to Mossmoran through a 222km underground pipeline. 12 million tonnes litres of water are pumped every day from Glendevon reservoir to generate steam used in the ethylene cracking process. Four miles away on the Firth of Forth, just west of Aberdour, lies the Braefoot Brae marine terminal where the ethylene is shipped to Antwerp and the rest of Europe.

All of these hidden entrails of energies radiate far and wide.

The Mossmorran flare is a well known local phenomenon, which can light up the sky like a surreal, Lynchian, ignited match diffusing its uncanny hue throughout night and day:

The Mossmoran flare

I live at the top end of Lochgelly and the noise keeps me awake most of the night. It sounds like constant thunder or a plane overhead. The roar is ridiculous and the constant light also disturbs my sleep. Through the day I have to keep all the windows shut to cut down on the noise but even with the windows shut you can still hear the constant roar. The flaring and the noise gives me sore heads and I just feel constantly ill with it. It’s ridiculous that we have to put up with this type of noise pollution. If I made that type of noise or a normal industry made that type of a noise I would soon find myself in trouble with complaints against me. How come they are being allowed to get away with this, year in year out. So much for the quality of life for the residents of central Fife”

Margaret. Lochgelly Resident [6]

“FEP is proud of its environmental record in both waste management and emissions”. [7]

ExxonMobil, 2010


Not really knowing where I’m going with all of this, I take a gander at the news headlines on Sunday morning 19th February 2012. I learn two things:

  • It is reported for the first time today that The ExxonMobil oil company has been fined £2.8 million for failing to report 33,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions from the Fife Ethylene Plant at Mossmorran. It is the largest ever fine for an environmental offence in British history.
  • ExxonMobil is an active funder of the Heartland Institute whose mission is to: “discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems”.  Global warming and climate change is a particular bête noir of Heartland and they make vociferous attacks against the environmental movement and scientists who support the evidence based claims for global warming. Their website features a list of ‘experts’ and  like-minded conservative policy think-tanks, many of whom have also received funding from ExxonMobil. [8]

©Iragerich

The burnt out train

lies mute

at Kinghorn station

the birds are silent.

just over there

 on the shore:

cut, boiled and rendered for oil.

Over the Forth

a faint pulse.

the Crags

are speaking.

more magma

needed

Levitate the Crags!

The local is always global

References:

1. Arthur Rimbaud, ‘Festivals of Hunger’, from Last Poems.

2. John Playfair, (1805), “Hutton’s Unconformity” Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh V (III).

3. James Hutton, (1785), The Theory of the Earth, p. 304.

4. Professor Naomi Oreskes, quoted in ‘Attacks paid for by big business are driving science into a dark era’ The Observer, Sunday 19th February 2012.

5. Daniel Defoe, (1724),  A Tour Through the Whole Islands of Great Britain, (New Haven, Yale University Press, 1991 edition).

6. http://lochgelly.org.uk/2010/06/flaring-at-mossmorran/

7. Your Guide to the Fife Etylene Plant, (2010), brochure produced by ExxonMobil Ltd.

8. ‘Attacks paid for by big business are driving science into a dark era’ The Observer, Sunday 19th February 2012.

Now Playing: William Basinski – Disintegration Loops.