The Cornwall Workshop

Field Trip 3: Hydroplutonic Kernow

Described in the eighteenth century as the ‘richest square mile in the old world’, the Gwennap Mining District will be the setting for a field trip led by the Falmouth-based arts organisation Urbanomic, ‘a journey into an historical process that assembled the powers of geology, mechanics, hydraulics, mineralogy and metallurgy, salvation and combustion, steam and capital into a mighty, infernal machine that traumatised the Cornish landscape and kick-started the industrial revolution.’

Visiting lesser-known sites where these components interacted and evolved during the height of the mining trade in Cornwall, the field trip will discover what lies beneath the tourist emblem of the abandoned engine-house. With the guidance of rogue scientists, agrosophists and geophilosophers, it will uncover ‘the complexities of subterranean poetics and aesthetics, and confront the industrial behemoth that made the earth scream.’

“They are situated in a bleak desert, rendered still more doleful by the unhealthy appearance of its inhabitants. At every step one stumbles upon ladders that lead into utter darkness, or funnels that exhale warm copperous vapours. All around these openings the ore is piled up in heaps ready for purchasers. I saw it drawn reeking out of the mine by the help of a machine called a whim put in motion by mules, which in their turn are stimulated by impish children hanging over the poor brutes and flogging them without respite. This dismal scene of whims, suffering mules and hillocks of cinders extends for miles. Huge iron engines creaking and groaning invented by Watt, and tall chimneys smoking and flaming, that seem to belong to old Nicholas’s abode, diversify the prospect.”

William Beckford, reporting on his visit to the Consolidated Mines of Gwennap, March 1787

Read An Introduction to Hydroplutonics (pdf)

URBANOMIC is an arts organisation based in Falmouth. Founded in 2006, their activities include curation of ideas-led events at the project space Urbanomic Studio, and publication of the journal Collapse. The organisation brings together artists and thinkers to stimulate new thinking and new projects that cross the boundaries between philosophy, science and contemporary art.

Read Jo Thomas’s report on the Hydroplutonic Kernow field trip on the Record page.

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