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Part letter-writing project, part nationwide planting project and part sound project is how artistic duo Shanna May Breen and Luke Casserly describe their latest work, 1000 Miniature Meadows.
“It’s very much an intimate experience, it is for the listener on their own,” says Breen, speaking over the phone on Tuesday as she puts the finishing touches to the show, running 5–20 September as part of the upcoming Dublin Fringe Festival.
The project starts with letters full of native wildflower seeds sent to participants’ houses. Then on the day of the show, people are invited to listen to an accompanying sound file, with interviews from experts interwoven with intimate soundscapes which encourages those taking part to scatter their seeds in local parks and green spaces.
The aim, says Breen, is to offer the audience an opportunity to take practical action to help improve biodiversity, by planting their own wildflower meadow.
“It’s almost like a meditation on the outdoors”, she says.
1000 Miniature Meadows
The soundscape is 40 minutes long and includes testimony from some of Ireland’s leading biodiversity experts.
Leif Barry, environmental scientist and biodiversity expert for the Office of Public Works (OPW), is among those interviewed.
In a clip from the soundscape, Barry talks about the dragonfly, as the wind whistles in the background.
“They used to be incredibly large, easily a foot of a wingspan on them and through evolution, they have shrunk down in their size,” he says.
The dragonfly is the oldest insect in the world, around 320 million years old and has been around since the time of dinosaurs. On each continent on earth, the dragonfly is genetically identical, he says.
In another contribution, Noeleen Smyth, a conservation botanist at the National Botanic Gardens encourages the audience to consider the monetary value on the work done by bees and insects.
She [Smyth] estimates that the value of the work done by the earthworm in Ireland is around €17 billion, says the says Luke Casserly, the second half of the artistic duo.
“When you put it in monetary terms it becomes actionable,” he says.
The expert interviews are weaved together using storytelling techniques and sound effects gathered in the field, says Casserly. The aim is to “bring the audience on a journey through sound,” he says
But 1000 Miniature Meadows is a performance, not a radio documentary or podcast, says Breen.
“This is definitely a sound project,” she says. “Although there are a lot of people speaking — there are a lot of different textures to the work.”
“Humans as an Invasive Species”
“[We’re] looking at humans as an invasive species or foreign species, that is really what we are trying to capture,” says Casserly.
Says Casserly: “Hopefully, this approach will draw the audience’s attention to things in nature that they have never noticed before.”
For example one of the sounds included in the soundscape is an earthworm digesting soil. “It is a close-up shot of nature that we are trying to capture through the soundscape,” he says.
Breen says that by focusing the listener’s attention on the sounds of animals, trees, and insects she hopes to place the audience member in the role of the observer.
Once the Fringe Festival starts on 5 September the soundscape will be available for download and the audience member can choose a natural environment, perhaps the garden or local park, in which to have the experience through headphones, says Breen.
“We are creating frames for people to view their environment, whether they do it in their gardens, in a park or in the city-centre,”she says.
Within the soundscape, they provide full instructions on how to plant your wildflower seeds.
“It is so nice to think that the audience member or the listener will plant them and a year later they will walk past and there their little garden will be, says Breen.
“So the soundscape lives on and will have a legacy,” she says.
1000 Miniature Meadowswas commissioned by the Dublin Fringe Festival and the Science Gallery Dublin.
Tickets cost €5 and the proceeds from ticket sales will go towards the planting of 1,000 indigenous trees in 2021.