Taking its title from the Scots word for chimney, Lum was a remote camera which could be lowered into industrial chimneys, and controlled via the internet. It was tested inside a small stack at the John Cotton mill in Edinburgh, Scotland, and it is hoped that the project will eventually develop to involve several larger stacks.
The project was originally inspired by steeplejack Fred Dibnah, famous for felling many stacks in the sixties and seventies using burning pit-props. During a talk at Aberdeen Techfest, he described an alternative method of demolishing tall chimneys, required when the local architecture prevented his usual, more dramatic technique.
From a scaffold erected around the top of the chimney, he would knock out
each individual brick with a sledge-hammer, slowly spiralling downwards to
the base of the stack. By removing the hand-laid bricks one a time, he was,
in a sense, reversing the construction process. This afforded him a unique
view of the space inside and the time to consider the men who built it and
the social changes that led to their obsolescence.
After his talk, I found myself noticing these things all over the place -
I cant believe Id never really been aware of them before. During
a visit to my home town in Dundee, I decided to photograph Cox's Stack, a
massive ornate chimney built at the height of the city's dominance of the
I took my neice, Tara, and was amused when she persistently asked "what chimney?" as we stood at the foot of the 300 ft high masterpiece. Believing her to have an overdeveloped sense of irony for a six-year-old, it took me a while to realise she genuinely had no idea what this huge thing was. Few kids of her generation would. I was reminded of Fred Dibnah and his ambivalence at having to destroy what a previous generation had built and his had forgotten.
So there we were with a digital camera built out of tiny bits by robots, recording the remnants of an equally sophisticated, yet hand-built technology, rendered obsolete by the brazen and often inexplicable forces of progress. I pondered about how bricks had been replaced by pixels as the building blocks of commerce. I wanted to get inside somehow to explore, but that seemed impossible, as the base had been bricked up and concreted over.
However, I think I've found another way in ;-)