Digging Deeper

Thu 06 Jul 2017

This year Abandon Normal Devices’ roving biennial of new cinema, digital culture and art, will be based in the heart of the Peak District. Across four days, the festival will see a host of site-specific installations, world premieres and performances take-over the village of Castleton. From satellites to neutrino observatories, fossilisation to free-fall, this year’s programme will reveal the earth’s layers, from the drone’s eye view to the sunshine-deprived depths of subterranean bunkers, exploring themes of verticality and deep time in a series of prophetic, provocative and uncanny reflections on the earth. Going on a journey from inner to outer spaces, the festival will become a site for the symbolic and subconscious, where artists will become archaeologists of the future unearthing rare sounds, simulated environments and technological ruins.

As Abandon Normal Devices readies itself to enter the subterranean shafts and veins of the peaks for a September opening, we will be running an online journal that will bring together a diverse range of perspectives, interviews and insights, into this year’s programme. Through posts, interviews, micro-essays and visual stories, we will be delving deep into the backstories, elaborations and provocations, of the works and ideas that underpin AND 2017, as well as looking further afield to the worlds of digital, cinema, and arts practice. This week we begin with a quick look at the main location of the festival, Castleton.

The story goes that the small, picturesque village of Castleton, nestled at the foot of three hills in the heart of the Derbyshire Peak District, was once mentioned in the Domesday Book. On the surface, this idyllic homestead appears to hide it’s many layers of local history – of violent roundhead battles, Roman extractions at Odin’s mine, and a place where illegitimate son’s were bequeathed Celtic forts. Few know that Castleton is a place where thieves huddled around and secretly shared cryptolects and rope-making, cave-dwelling troglodytes made their home. All of this and the train station is called, Hope.

Even harder to imagine is what has taken place over the thousands of years that have come to shape this landscape, from the towering peaks that flank Castleton on three sides to the caves that encircle the village, some of which were born from underground rivers that date back to the Ice Age. In more recent history, the industrial lead mines that once defined the communities and the families that lived in the surrounding area –the shadow of which can still be felt– are no longer active. What remains, are a series of show caves, beautiful and majestic inner sanctums carved out in the earth, home to small-scale family-run mining businesses, tours and cultural events.

The festival will draw on this industrial, social and geological history to bring audiences on a journey into the centre of the earth. Underground environments have always provided models for human life, as histories of discovery, catalysts of industrial revolutions, or bunkers of military infrastructure. Today, across the globe, these hidden homes of the earth have been reclaimed as sites of scientific experimentation and new knowledge-building, as safe houses and repositories, neo-archival spaces to stave off extinction. This September, on the peaks, grounds, caves and collapsed caverns of Castleton, artists’ will imaginatively map the invisible and material forces that interlink and coalesce into forms and stories, peculiarities and anomalies. There they will uncover what is not immediately apparent. Stretching back into the farthest histories, the deepest spaces and to the highest points, digging deeper, downwards into the caves will allow us to keep searching, beyond time and beyond the rhythms of human life.

To be continued…