Forest of London explores themes of human noise and natural sound at the interface between busy city and untouched nature. It imagines a fictional Thames Valley that was never inhabited, a corner of the British Isles that remained undisturbed. Recorded in each of the seven spaces in London that are still designated as ‘ancient woodland,’ the aim was to capture what London sounded like when there was no human activity at all. Unsurprisingly, with the amount of noise pollution during both day and night, this turned out to be hugely challenging. However, in the very early morning, as the very first light of midsummer grew, I found a time when London had almost quietened and the woodland was just wakening.
These recordings were integrated into a sculpture of wood, steel and gold leaf. When audiences touched the metal leaves, noise from ‘human’ London begins to ‘pollute’ the raw sound of nature. Complementing this audio sculpture is a sister piece by photographer Emile Holba, shot during the recording process.