The Dove Holes And Peak Dale Predator Guild

The Dove Holes And Peak Dale Predator Guild explores memory bound up in rock. It was initially commissioned by Buxton Museum and Art Gallery and remains a work-in-progress. At times a ‘lantern lecture’ and at others a tone poem, it moves between the differing spheres of science and emotion and explores their relative roles in conveying our experience of the world.

Held in the collections of the museum are the remains of a number of indigenous predators from the Peak District which are, in broad taxonomic terms, cats. As of today, one is extinct and the other two are locally extinct but likely to become so globally. They are, respectively, the scimitar-toothed cat (Homotherium crenatidens), the lion and the lynx. The latter is a constant presence within the ‘re-wilding’ conversation in the UK, itself a dialogue in large part predicated on emotion and longing for something lost – or wilfully destroyed.

The Buxton Homotherium remains are unique and unequivocally demonstrate that this iconic sabre-tooth once inhabited our land mass. The species has attracted considerable debate amongst many august researchers over the last two hundred years, exerting an allure embodied in its deliciously terrifying serrated teeth – and perhaps the upshot of a fearful compulsion that lies deeply embedded within our evolutionary hardwiring. 

It is still much studied – and there is a strong suggestion that its demise was precipitated by its inability to compete for finite resources within an environment shared with a growing Neanderthal population. This is a story that has been played more latterly out in the British Isles with the lynx and is now unfurling with ‘The King of the Beasts’ in Africa – in both cases with another Homo species as the force majeure; us.

Buxton Museum’s collection of Homotherium teeth and bones were found by a boy named Hick in 1898 in the course of blasting at Victory Quarry. Such practice remains central to an industry that is vital to the economy of the area, deeply entwined with its culture, yet which deeply scars the local landscape and contributes significantly to global warming.

The piece, a homage to early lantern lectures, was conceived for projection onto the rock at Victory Quarry, now a leisure space that has been returned to ‘nature’. It is nevertheless a somewhat eerie location – a place of ghosts perhaps where, within the limestone rock face, is locked the memory of both recent lives and those of long ago.

On an isotopic level, these ‘memories’ are also borne in the waters that caused the exponential expansion of Buxton as a spa town in the Victorian period – and which flow in symbiosis with the geology that defines the region and its culture now and for always.

The piece features footage from the Tunstead Quarry archive and stop-frame animation and voices from the communities of the one-time quarrying villages Peak Dale and Dove Holes, in between which Victory Quarry is located.

Test ‘lantern lecture’ projection onto rock at Victory Quarry, Dove Holes, Peak District

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