February 2005, on the banks of Lough Neagh : The sounds of the Sun and Jupiter drifting through Paul Moores soundscape - stories, oral history and music pertaining to the lough - and the eels sounds piped up from the depths, the panorama of the inverted landscape viewed from an adjacent hut/camera obscura, lying upside down, in harmony with the inverted world of landscope.
Lough Neagh appears as a blank space, a void in the landscape of Northern Ireland. Contrary to expectations of watery worlds, landlocked and accessible, the Lough isn't a magnet for recreation or contemplation.
The banks are populated, here and there, with marinas. There are hides for bird watchers and hides for bird hunters. Jetties can be found hidden at the bottom of muddy tracks. But the overall atmosphere is one of foreboding. Houses built near the lake face away from it, the waters are plied largely by barges dredging for sand, the opposite bank is faint and distant, if not invisible behind the horizon or clouds. The story goes that people don't like this, this inability to see across. Perhaps this is compounded by the knowledge of the eels teeming below the surface, worming into the subconscious.
So the lough, while accruing stories, songs and tunes, flowing in from the tributaries of history, has an aura of singularity, of a black hole, a point where everything stops, nothing escapes. A space in the landscape where there opens up an inversion, the negative space of land.
Richard Saunders, Martha Fleming, Jon Zwart and the author (as a shadow).
Somewhere outside Cambridge there lie acres of fields, from which, among the trees and grass, spring dishes, arrays of wires and outbuildings. For the archeologist of radio astronomy here exists the spectrum of its history, from miles of wires atop beanpole trellis to state of the art interferometers.
Richard Saunders and Jon Zwart guided myself and Martha Fleming (my "doppleganger" in Cambridge, artist in residence in their Astrophysics dept) through the unfolding landscape of Lords Bridge ; The Nine Acre Array - sheep grazing underneath a lattice of wires which once upon a time discovered the first pulsars, 4C - an avenue of iron rigging, crumbling beauty, unstrung and rusting in retirement, superseded by the dish and interferometer telescopes, perched on wide railway tracks.
There's an amazing beauty in these early telescopes, something reminiscent of galleons and a golden age of exploration in the maze of wires, chains and masts. The miles of wires formed the equivalent of a radio dish, cunning use of phase and restricted physical movement aligning them to all points of the universe.
Moving up the evolutionary chain we moved onto the early interferometers, their bowls pointing straight up, switched off, home to birds and leaves and dust, ending up in the unfinished realm of AMI, the latest offspring of Lords Bridge, built to survey the sky for imprints of galaxies on the microwave background.
(Jons photographs can be found here)
On the shores of Lough Neagh . . .
Once upon a time :
Finn McCool gave chase to the Scottish Giant. Scooping up a (giant size) handful of earth, he flung it at his rival. Being possesed of great strength, the flying sod overshot its mark and landed in the Irish Sea, thus creating the Isle of Man. The hole filled with water and became Lough Neagh.
- or -
There stood a well at the centre of what is now the Lough . . . which overflowed.
- or -
Where the Lough now sits was once a city, at the centre of which was a spring. The spring watched while the people of the city turned to robbing and cheating their neaghbours. In an act not disimilar to Gods destruction of the Tower of Babel, the well overflowed, drowning the city.
The Lough is full of legends, stories, songs; a bowl, a focus, into which they flow. It's also full of eels. In the months of September, October and November, in the nights either side of the new moon, "the dark", they start their journey to the Sargasso Sea.
At the other extreme of scale it's a speck in the void of the universe, a small fish in a big pond.