Eustatic Drift (08:37), 2018
“once we were plankton slouched in the ocean
but now we are code,
surfaced and held in the laminae of rock like open scores”
This narrative voice comes to us from the fossils of Graptolites, our long extinct plankton ancestry. Their speculative voice speaks to us from within deep time as they coil past and future, blending evidence of our interspecies story. In Eustatic Drift we experience the real and imaginary potential of the Graptolites, as a tangible index of a once dominant species, and as a latent oracle.
The film opens with wide images of the remote landscape of Dobs Linn, Scotland, significant for its graptolite-bearing strata. The landscape is richly complex in these singled out moments, held at a distance. History is sunk into the fabric of the rock and at the same time in constant change; change is its constant truth. The landscape is cut with images of the fossils; they remind us of the certainty that everything is vulnerable, of trauma that has lost all meaning, but the Graptolites present a post literative world, in which language and hybridity must evolve.
In a studio environment dancer Katye Coe performs the Graptolite as an open score. She unfolds the rock and imagines how the species may’ve moved. In one instance we read in their script:
“perhaps we were swimming?”
Coe’s performance bears resemblance to the development of a seedling in the dark. She draws upon the depth of our interspecies memory in the absence of scientific knowledge as to how the Graptolite species moved or how deep in the Ocean they lived.
In Eustatic Drift the camera meditates on the surface of images, preoccupied with that which runs beneath “there and not there”. What is immanent to the Graptolite? What is rooted in the dialectic of an embodied experience, that is critical to all species? Eustatic Drift addresses a growing consciousness that our interaction with other species is critical for human survival.
Graptolites were small marine colonial organisms, the fossilised remains of which are commonly found in black shale rocks that once were muddy sea floors; they look like impressions of tiny hacksaw blades on the rock surfaces.
Graptolites first appear in the fossil record about 520 million years ago, part of the explosion of diverse life in the Cambrian Period, and disappeared in the early Carboniferous, 320 million years ago. For about 100 million years, mainly through the Ordovician and Silurian periods, they evolved quickly and were widely distributed throughout the world’s oceans. Their rapid evolutionary change make these fossils particularly valuable for dating of marine sedimentary rock successions worldwide.
Dobs Linn in southern Scotland is an exposure of mudstone, spanning about 25 million years through the late Ordovician and early Silurian. It was deposited in a wide ocean separating ‘Scotland’ from ‘England’ as parts of larger land masses at the time. It is the basis for definition of the Ordovician-Silurian boundary worldwide, with particular species of graptolites being key to identifying this fundamental time boundary.