Noelle Gallagher

Noelle’s residency spanned the year, in four week-long segments, approaching the project through the medium of drawing and painting and culminating with collaborating with Colm Hogan to capture a filmic response to the proposed ecological change.

The resulting short film, FOREST/RY, premiered at Earth Rising at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in October 2022.

‘The felling of sitka trees is dramatic, and though seeming to represent a death knell to the landscape, this particular deforestation will be the precursor to new life. The shallow rooted sitka blanket the ground with acidic needles and eclipse the sunlight so the woodland becomes a dead zone. A visit to the nearby ancient oak forest at Derryclare Nature Reserve gives a sense of what it is like to step from the silence and darkness of a commercial plantation into the light-filled green space of ancient woodland. My work observes how complex natural habitats develop, and how sound-rich spaces can replace the torpor of monoculture. It captures the industrialisation of forestry and presents my hope for a more eco-friendly future.

The experience of filming the harvesting of sitka spruce at night was unforgettable – the sounds and images were a chilling reminder of the efficiency of human destruction. The action was mesmerising, trees that took 50 years to reach maturity were felled in a matter of seconds. During a previous night-harvesting session worried residents had called up the local radio station fearing they might have spotted UFOs such is the otherworldly impression of these giant brightly-lit harvesters chopping down trees late into the night.

We made field recordings early one morning in May, tracking the variations in volume and diversity of the dawn chorus at Derryclare as we moved from native woodland to sitka spruce plantations. The birds with the largest eyes begin the chorus and those with smaller eyes join in as the dawn progresses. Those birds with smaller eyes need to wait until the sky is brighter before they can see their predators and safely sing. The sonic output reflects the number and variety of nesting birds at the sites and gives an aural indication of the richness, or absence, of biodiversity at the two types of woodland.’

FOREST/RY was made with the support of the Arts Council of Ireland, Interface and the Irish Museum of Modern Art.

Camera:                              Colm Hogan
Editor:                                 Conall de Cléir
Soundtrack:                       Natalia Beylis & Eimear Reidy
Location Sound:               John Brennan, Niall Clarke
Drone Pilot:                       Alex Wulf
Colourist:                           Martin Nee
Audio Post Production:  Paul Rowland

Duration: 7 minutes, 18 seconds