Flora Parrott | Darkness Retreat, 2021

For Aoife McKim

Commissioned by Legion Projects [Credits]

Click to enter. Please watch in the dark.

Friedrich Engels | Dialectics of Nature (1883)

Millions of years may elapse, hundreds of thousands of generations be born and die, but inexorably the time will come when the declining warmth of the sun will no longer suffice to melt the ice thrusting itself forward from the poles; when the human race, crowding more and more about the equator, will finally no longer find even there enough heat for life; when gradually even the last trace of organic life will vanish; and the earth, an extinct frozen globe like the moon, will circle in deepest darkness and in an ever narrower orbit about the equally extinct sun, and at last fall into it. Other planets will have preceded it, others will follow it; instead of the bright, warm solar system with its harmonious arrangement of members, only a cold, dead sphere will still pursue its lonely path through universal space. And what will happen to our solar system will happen sooner or later to all the other systems of our island universe; it will happen to all the other innumerable island universes, even to those the light of which will never reach the earth while there is a living human eye to receive it.

And when such a solar system has completed its life history and succumbs to the fate of all that is finite, death, what then? Will the sun’s corpse roll on for all eternity through infinite space, and all the once infinitely diverse, differentiated natural forces pass for ever into one single form of motion, attraction ? “Or” – as Secchi asks – “do forces exist in nature which can re-convert the dead system into its original state of an incandescent nebula and re-awake it to new life? ’ 

No. 23: Darkness

The darknesses of our planet’s subsurface are out of sight and–more often than not–out of mind. Yet they aren’t a place of inertia; they are quietly nurturing metamorphoses, transformations and reimaginings, as old worlds collide, evolve and develop to their own rhythm.

Engle’s wrote in his opening words of Dialectics of Nature of revival, after the last light of the universe dims into extinction.  In Flora Parrott’s Darkness Retreat, a dialogue with her dear friend, recently deceased, unfolds in the vast unfettered darkness, occupying space and time without the confining boundaries imposed by visibility. Through our many long, meandering conversations, walking the beaches, coves and rock-pools between our homes on the Kent coast, she introduced me to stories of strange cave-dwelling fish, evolving in isolation over millennia in their dark subterranean worlds.



‘Subterranean biodiversity in Europe is spectacularly rich, with the Western Balkans being home to about 400 cave species, representing the highest number of species per area worldwide […] the newly discovered European cave loaches do not represent individuals displaced from surface populations, but they follow a unique evolutionary trajectory towards cave life.’ –Jasminca Behrmann-Godel et al.

Recently discovered fish were found in the underground cave dwellings of Danube–Aach, Southern Germany. Though their origins are related to the Barbatula barbatula loaches of the surface waters, they are genetically isolated and have adapted to subterranean life: slowing their metabolism and elongating their bodies, their eyes reducing and their pigmentation lightening, navigating their surroundings through vibrations.

Read more, here.

Watch Stephan Schild's footage diving through the caves below.