During the Victorian era, Scotland witnessed the first true ‘oil rush’ when James ‘Paraffin’ Young first extracted oil, from shale rock. For more than a century, the shale oil industry employed thousands, and fortunes were made through industrialisation and two world wars. West Lothian was at its epicentre. By the early 60’s however, cheaper methods of oil extraction meant the shale industry was over, leaving 19 defunct Shale bings in West Lothian.
Left largely alone for the last 60 years, the bings have surprisingly become a haven for flora and fauna providing refuge for a wide range of animals and plants that are under increasing pressure from urbanisation.
The diversity of plant species on the bings is now astonishing, and the sites are home to more than 350 plant species. This is more than have been recorded on the Ben Nevis, with some of the bings supporting several plant species and fauna not found elsewhere in the county.
THE LOST WORLD
The lost world is a work in progress, exploring a blended fictional and factual look at how nature regenerates, if being left alone.
The bings appear alien, sometimes like the moon’s surface with huge craters and black rock, at other times like a forgotten world with vibrant colours seeming at odds with the Scottish landscape, or even a post apocalyptic world where nature has regenerated after an age of destruction.
The aim behind The Lost World is to work towards an exhibition collaborating with botanist and other artist to offer an almost victorian voyage of discovery – exhibiting botanic collecting samples – diary entries, stuffed animals, and large scale images from a voyage into an unknown world. Taking inspiration from the likes of Charles Avery, who invented the fictional art world in The Islanders, and photographers like Jeff Wall; Gregory Crewdson; or Thomas Demand, who appear to make realistic photographs but on closer inspection design carefully choreographed images that somehow skewer reality, The Lost World will similarly create a reality that is slightly off kilter enhancing the inherent strangeness of the Bings.