The Earth Moves

‘…a lower level of background noise is just like being in a quieter room. We can hear more sounds.’

(Celeste Labedz, Cryoseismologist, California Institute of Technology)


How did I arrive here, contemplating seismic planetary shifts?

I was mid-way through a project on Brexit, in particular its impact on the borderlands between the North and South of Ireland. I was delivering a printmaking workshop in Sligo having travelled down from Derry. It was the eve of my birthday. The following day the South went into total lock down.

The border now took on other connotations –

garda checks and restrictions on movement;

statistics indicating the prevalence of the virus North and South;

different Covid testing regimes;

lockdown (or not) and different rules and regulations: schools open/schools shut, shops open/shops closed; pubs (wet/dry), hotels, restaurants, hairdressers, galleries, sporting events, all following different guidelines.

But viruses don’t heed borders. Or guidelines.

I had been engrossed by Brexit since the referendum in 2016 yet now it suddenly seemed irrelevant.

I sank into a prolonged period of anxiety and inertia. Unable to focus on meaningful artistic practice, I spent my days tending plants in pots, reading, walking and consuming vast amounts of news. I eventually had to cut down on my news intake as it was fuelling my anxiety.

The world looked on as airports came to a standstill, flights were grounded, cities became ghost towns and the planet stilled. Seismologists recorded a dramatic drop in the planet’s sonic activity. But with this fall in the earth’s hum, I was beginning, intuitively, to detect a different kind of vibration.

I could feel it in my bones…