Jim and Rob as boys

Natural Selection was a project by Action Hero in collaboration with Rob Stenhouse. Jim and Rob - brothers from Northumberland - walked from Newcastle to Kielder Forest via the house they grew up in (located between Humshaugh and Bellingham, near Simonburn).

Digital observers were invited to trace their journey via an online map and watch/listen to conversations recorded as they walk. When they reached Kielder (where Rob would often camp wild in the forest when living in Northumberland) they set up camp together. Around a campfire Rob showed some of the survival equipment he owns and Jim and Rob talked about what it means to survive - in the woods and in the world, and which is harder. 

They also played a song and make some food and coffee on the fire.

Jim is a performance maker. Rob is currently a farmer working on a dairy farm in Germany. He is also a permaculturalist, a survivalist and a musician. Since he was young Rob has collected camping and survival equipment. Growing up together in a remote house in Northumberland without mains water, gas or electricity, Rob and Jim had an interesting relationship with survival and living at home often felt like camping.

Rob said:

Kit List:

  • Gransfors Bruks Felling Axe
  • Bahco Laplander Leatherman copy
  • Bushcraft Knife
  • Platypus - 1.5 ltr
  • Tinder - South American pine, 85% resin
  • RX04 - Very powerful windproof electric lighter, refillable, easy ignition, durable
  • 2x Disposable Lighter - Backup for RX04
  • Waterproof matches  - Backup for lighters

This is some of what I would take if I wasn't ever coming back. This is a survival kit, not a camping or expedition list, and over time I would expect to find suitable replacements for all of the perishable items from the natural world. Those that I couldn't find I would have to learn to live without.

And Jim said:

What it's about (maybe)

It's my younger brother describing to me the survival/camping equipment he’s gathered over the years. He has had an obsession since we were kids with that kind of stuff. It's maybe about my relationship with my brother, or about his relationship with survival or about his obsessions, or how we’re both obsessive people, or maybe it's about where we grew up, as close to the wilderness as you can get in the UK, in a house without electricity that flooded when it rained and had no heating apart from a fire we fuelled with foraged firewood. It might be about how we’re surviving, my brother and I, both of us somehow ill-equipped for contemporary adult life. It might be about those things or maybe its just about sleeping bags, radiation suits and one-handed axes.

 Extracts from a development from a project made for Up To Nature in 2012