Going Underground: molehills and beyond

“Out of the Earth ii” at Halecombe Quarry. Photos Duncan Simey

I’ve been intrigued by molehills for many years. As a student in Oxford I lived next to the University Parks, home to abundant moles and their earthy mounds. I constructed a motorised mole hill (on top of a remote controlled car) and controlled it from afar, startling unsuspecting passers by.

I always notice molehills now and ponder the unseen, underground activity they hint at. Moles are rather fascinating animals. According to wikipedia: “A mole’s diet primarily consists of earthworms and other small invertebrates found in the soil, and a variety of nuts. The mole runs are in reality ‘worm traps’, the mole sensing when a worm falls into the tunnel and quickly running along to kill and eat it. Because their saliva contains a toxin that can paralyze earthworms, moles are able to store their still-living prey for later consumption. They construct special underground “larders” for just this purpose; researchers have discovered such larders with over a thousand earthworms in them. Before eating earthworms, moles pull them between their squeezed paws to force the collected earth and dirt out of the worm’s gut.” I’ve taxidermied a few moles over the years and used them in pieces to be preyed upon by the fairies but haven’t incorporated a mole hill until now. At Halecombe quarry along the conservation area which surrounds and overlooks the working quarry moles are plentiful. The neat mounds of fine soil excavated by the moles’ incredibly strong forearms and paddle like feet echo the huge industrial scale digging and excavation below.

For Step in Stone I am imagining underground colonisation by the fairies. At Halecombe this is hinted at by a single erupted molehill that reveals fairy architecture and moles enslaved by the fairies to expand and extend their usurped domain for their own purposes. At Fairy Cave their lair will exist deeper underground, amongst extinct fossilised sea creatures but also incorporating specimens of thriving extant wildlife. Amongst other materials I’m using a serpulid (wormshell) colony, wasp nest segments, mouse bones, insects and bats.

Installation day at Westdown Quarry

Photo by Duncan Simey

wormshellcolony

Serpulid colony

 

 

Tessa Farmer  7/9/15

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