An Introduction to the Weathering Earth Installation
When exposed to the atmosphere, no rock (whether bedrock or man-made structures of stone) escapes the effects of weathering, the chemical alteration and mechanical breakdown of rock materials during exposure to air, moisture, and organic matter (Skinner and Porter).
Subject and object give a poor approximation of thought…. Rather, thinking takes place in the relationship of territory and the earth (Gilles Delueze and Felix Guattari).
Weathering Earth began 359 to 299 million years ago - the Carboniferous – a time of vast swamp forests. Over millions of years the organic deposits of plant debris formed the extensive coal deposits, which includes the coal mined in Scotland. Coal was formed in the lagoons and swamps of the carboniferous. The stagnant lagoons created the perfect conditions for laying down fine sediments such as clay and silts, which became interlayered with coal.
Fast forward to 1894 until 1981, the Lady Victoria Colliery mined these coal deposits destined for a variety of uses: to bake bricks in neighbouring clay pits, to warm people’s homes. Of major importance, the colliery was a powerhouse of energy for industry and later coal was exported globally. The burning of coal is one of the major emitters of greenhouse gases, contributing to the present-day problem of rising global temperatures. The clay that was interlayer between the coal plays a secondary part in the story of mining. As a ‘lesser element’, clay does not come to the fore in the history of Midlothian industry, yet it was Newbattle bricks that were mined and fired adjacent to the coal pit, that built the Lady Victoria Colliery. The clay alongside coal are truly very much part of the Midlothian culture.
Weathering Earth installation brings together children from several primary schools across Midlothian, who participated in our new Net Zero Challenge workshop, and people from all over Scotland to create clay sculptures to express a relationship with climate change. All the sculptures were made after an engagement activity and while thinking about climate change. The sculptures were then placed outside for several days for the weather to work upon them. In a short space of time, we can see the tangible link between the natural process of weathering and climate change.
The weathered sculptures are now here, brought inside the Memorial Centre. The installation will be added to and will develop in time. Weathering Earth flows across the floor, filling the space with participants' creations located around pieces of coal. Coal, clay and weather link our collective thinking from our past mining legacy to the generation of future perspectives leading to fresh questions about a Net Zero Carbon Future.