Inspired by a residency in the former mining town of Lens, Northern France, Fouquieres-Les-Lens coincides with the film La Mort De L’Arbre and the book series Time, Pressure, Decay

 Fouquieres-Les-Lens (2015) was filmed and edited by Sophie Dixon. The sound design was created by UK based musician and composer Andrew Cooper.

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Installation view Fouquieres-Les-Lens (2015) HD film on loop

…the beauty or ugliness of industrialism hardly matters. Its real evil lies far deeper and is quite ineradicable. It is important to remember this, because there is always a temptation to think that industrialism is harmless so long as it is clean and orderly.’

The Road to Wigan Pier, by George Orwell

 

The coal mining industry dominated the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region in northern France until the late 1980’s. The impact of the industry is still evident today, nowhere more so than upon the landscape itself. Piercing the otherwise flat horizon, hillocks of waste from coal mining are scattered across the region. Referred to as spoil heaps, or terrils in French, they can in some instances reach almost 200 metres in height, making them some of the highest in western Europe.

In rare instances a terril may begin to burn years after it has been established. Once started, it must continue to burn for an indeterminate amount of time until it exhausts itself. An example of this lies in Fouquières-lès-Lens, where through ruptured earth an acrid pall of smoke is cast over the town.

Captivated by the ephemerality of the smoking landscape, Sophie Dixon paid many visits to  Fouquières-lès-Lens in an attempt to capture the juncture between the present and its buried, industrialised past.