Scottish visual artist Hannah Imlach’s project in the Flow Country – a vast expanse of blanket bog in the far north east of Scotland – is an example of recent work on the subject. Imlach was artist-in-residence with the Flows to the Future project during 2017-18, commissioned by the Peatland Partnership. During this time she worked alongside RSPB wardens, conservation staff and peatland scientists, addressing both the devastation caused by large-scale monoculture forestry planting in the 1980s and the importance of peatland as an ecologically diverse habitat and carbon store.
Image: Flows Lookout by Icosis Architects
Following her 18-month residency Imlach created a set of sculptural ‘instruments’ inspired by current peatland research and restoration. These works reference scientific flux towers – groupings of meters, dials, solar panels and sensors used to monitor the atmospheric conditions of the bog – and a selection of peatland flora, from the microscopic structures within peat-forming sphagnum mosses to preserved pollen grains, traces of an ancient native woodland. Each work is activated by the conditions of the bog: filling with rainwater, floating in natural pool systems, spinning in high winds and measuring sunlight.
Image: Scientist Myroslava Khomik retrieving data from a Flow Country flux tower
The sculptures were temporarily returned to the Flows and documented in Fieldwork, a short film that explores the process of their assembly and activation amid the peatland habitat. Informed by Imlach’s participation in fieldwork with peatland scientists, the film references their ongoing efforts to monitor and maintain the scientific instruments used to understand and ultimately protect the fragile ecology of the bog.
Images: All images taken by Hannah Imlach during her residency in the Flow Country, 2017-18