Louise K Wilson
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In the Chthonic Underworld | 2013

The twentieth century industrial history of Dukes Wood is a fascinating one.  Fact mixes with anecdote in accounts of the story behind the oil drilling that began in 1943 to service the war effort – the voyage of this oil (suited to the Rolls Royce Merlin Engine apparently) and the vital expertise of the Texas/ Oklahoma ‘roughnecks’ who collected it. These narratives echo my interest in industrial archaeology (and what can be seen from the air). The nodding donkeys were apparently painted to merge with the foliage – and while only a few remain, still appear odd intruders. But how far could the woodland absorb the cacophonous sound of the drilling? At ground level, I am curious to find the ‘inaudible’ that can be brought to attention. I wonder about the wells – the sheer number (two hundred at least) that were drilled. Can any enclosed air be sampled from these remaining fissures, to be treated as material (with all its connotations)? The likelihood of extracting this sonic material is of course fanciful but I wonder if an auditory archaeology of sorts could be practiced.

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