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Ground-breaking: Past Lives in Grains and Pixels

Ground-breaking explores cultural imprints left by societal responses to change: in this study, the 10,000 year history of the Lake Chad region.

Soils are an essential source of, and sink for, materials used to sustain basic human existence by providing nutrients for plant growth and receiving material inputs as wastes or fertilizers. Soils subjected to such inputs may retain the imprint of thes e activities. This imprint, commonly microscopic, can show how societies managed their surrounding landscapes. Soils can act as a record of past cultural activities; the examination of such cultural soils forms the major element of Ground-breaking. Data obtained from the soil imaging is used as a source for generative audio and visual exploration: photomicrographs (and related contextual images) are processed and animated, and environmental sound recordings, in conjunction synthesized materials, are subject to real-time granular processing and dynamic filtering.

This project was created with support of the Research Councils UK, for National and Science and Engineering Week 2007. It has been shown at the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, The Shunt Vaults, London Bridge; Event 3 Festival (Mutamorphosis: Challenging the Arts and Sciences) Prague 2007.


By examining a context with a long-term cultural history, a narrative develops. Data from scientific analysis provide functions to the narrative, in that they are indices to both landscape and human conditions. These data may connote actions either anthropogenic or environmental. The narrative emerges from the exploration of data, in which a sequence of actions is deduced from functional descriptions of physical objects, that are in turn offered for evaluation and exploration in sonic and visual forms.









P.Adderley & M.Young: last updated 7.iv.08