During the first lockdown in March 2020, Queen's Hall Digital commissioned Kit Haigh to create a sound and moving image piece for their online exhibition portal. With little opportunity to travel, Traces features photographs of trace fossils found in split sandstone roof tiles found at Green Croft, situated on Hadrian’s Wall. They are the marks made by invertebrates as they foraged in the sand around 300 million years ago – over 30 million years before dinosaurs existed. This was the Carboniferous period, when huge amounts of carbon dioxide were locked away in the swamps that eventually became coal. Framed without context and lit as if discovered underground, the ancient marks layered with more recent weathering resemble aerial photographs, cave paintings or archaeology. The music is created exclusively from the sounds of the stones in the pictures. They were recorded using both conventional and contact mics, then digitally manipulated using sampling and granular synthesis. The resulting sustained sounds are remarkably organ-like, in a rough, sandstoney way. To reflect the trace fossils, the original sounds have been silenced in the mix, leaving only their echoes.
I am interested in the longer history of climate change, the relative impact of humans on the environment and the idea that talk of ‘saving the planet’ is missing the point. Earth does not need saving. Humans in roughly our current form have been here for well under a million years. Our consumption of resources and destruction of habitats will accelerate our own demise and that of numerous other species, but the planet will go on without us, supporting life in general but perhaps not life as we know it.
For me, these lasting marks made by humble worms represent that constant and the brief history of humans. They were around long, long before we existed and their descendants will be around long, long after we are gone. If their organic wriggling has left such permanent traces in the rocks, what traces will we leave?