Soil Voicemails

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This digital poetry piece by Maya Chowdhry commissioned for the ‘Crossed Lines’ project in collaboration with the Science Museum Group project explores trans-species calling: insects leaving ‘voicemail’ messages in the soil for other insects; humans creating computer-generated whistles to telephone dolphins; and the parallel of telephone-tapping to eavesdropping by túngara frogs.

Using animation and poetry, and mixing the sounds of endangered animals, insects and birds, the piece explores the resonance of telephone metaphors such as the exchange, the call-centre and the party-line in order to consider, in the light of the climate emergency, whether such trans-species calling might open up productive, ethical and sustainable ways of engaging with the other species with whom we share our planet.

This piece was developed as part of a collaboration with the Science Museum Group. Commissioned for Crossed Lines during the COVID-19 pandemic, Maya Chowdhry’s digital poem is inspired by part of a Rugby transatlantic telephone transmitted from 1927 which is held in the museum’s collections. Please visit the Science Museum Group for more information about Maya’s poem and the partnership.

Poet, artist and transmedia activist Maya Chowdhry creates immersive and democratic experiences for participants, interrogating issues such as climate change, seed sovereignty and food justice. Her award-winning work includes ‘Butterfly Orchid’ (2017) ‘Tales from the Towpath’, an immersive story for co-authored for Manchester Literature Festival, which was shortlisted for the International New Media Writing Prize (2014), and ‘What’s Eating Reality’, an immersive live dining experience commissioned by Lancaster Arts for the Nuffield Theatre. She is currently working on an inter-disciplinary citizen science project with the National Oceanography Centre.