Name: David Paton

Area of interest: Immersion

Twitter: @BuckleandTwist
Facebook: david.paton.39794


David is an artist-researcher and craftsperson with a specialism in Cornish granite. His practice is a synthesis of sculpture and quarrying, performance, film, auto-ethnographic and collaborative field-work, that jointly examine the relationship between place, making, material and body.

What I’m working on:

How can I create a contemporary litho-sonic chamber that addresses the cultural and geological trajectory of Cornish granite, while critically attending to the immersive properties of industrial crafts-based labour practices?

I will be investigating the fundamental nature of Cornish granite through litho-sonic fieldwork, with SWCTN fellow Luke Reed, in Trenoweth Dimension Granite Quarry. Trenoweth is the last traditional working granite quarry in Cornwall, and within its working environs it hosts the complex relations between ancient granite-working techniques, modern industrial labour practices and vibrant more-than-human materialisms.

The aim for the sonic fieldwork is to record a broad range of sounds from the active quarry and to collaboratively evolve the recordings through different digital processes. The objective for the digitally manipulated sound recordings is to both sonically explore the quarry, and incorporate them into a specially designed granite chamber sited in the landscape of the far south west of Cornwall.

Cornwall’s built environment evidences granite structures that date back five and half thousand years, and by engaging archaeoacoustics research and acoustic modelling, my aim is to co-design an ‘anthropolithic’ sonic chamber or quoit. This structure will have the capacity for generating sonic ‘sweet spots’ through both digital and structural sound capabilities, with the intention of inducing altered states of being – towards an empathic relationship with the labour-intensive practices of working with granite. The emphasis of the work also lies in exploring an anticipatory-historical (DeSilvey et al, 2011) speculative narrative formed around the potential for digital redundancy… towards a possible new Stone Age.

Expertise and skills:

As a granite sculptor, quarry worker and researcher in cultural geography, I am fundamentally interested in the relationship between place, material, making and people. Through my SWCTN research, with its focus on granite-based and sonic research methodologies and outputs, I am investigating the role of immersion in relation to crafts-based industrial labour practices, while attending to the interface of magick and technology – a relationship that I consider to be integral to the psycho-geographical context of Cornwall.


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The breath of the geologic... in a bin store

Throughout the ten years I have spent working with Cornish granite, I have split blocks in many places; but perhaps the most unusual is in a bin store at the back of the Watershed building in Bristol, during the second SWCTN gathering in November 2018. Added to this was the excitement of collaborating with Luke Reed – an audio and music technologist and SWCTN fellow – to record the sound of the granite splitting. In the diminishing light of a winter’s evening, a group of us huddled into this little brick and concrete room to witness the poetic flux of the geologic.

Splitting a granite block is performed through the drilling of a row of holes, into which are placed ‘plugs and feathers’. The plugs (forged steel wedges) are hammered in between the feathers (two oppositely tapered wedges). The hammering-in of the wedges gradually increases the pressure until a crack is emplaced, working its way between the holes and down through the crystalline matrix of the granite block, until it falls in two. This fundamental method for dimensionally reducing the granitic mass has been a feature of the industrialised landscape of Cornwall for a few hundred years. For me ‘stitch-splitting’ – as it is known – is a coalescing of magick and heavy industry.

There is this moment, then, where the freshly split faces of granite take their first sharp intake of air, followed by a momentary exhalation of deep time… a lens into the very liveliness of all matter.

Luke did indeed capture that instance where the granite split – the briefest of sonic expressions – filling the bin store with a material tension that began its trajectory three hundred million years ago.