The Soils Project, 5 August – 12 November 2023, brings together 13 practitioners and collectives from Australia, the Netherlands and Indonesia to explore the complex and diverse relationships between environmental change and colonisation.
The exhibition is the latest iteration of an ongoing research-based experimental project developed in collaboration with leading contemporary arts museum the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, Netherlands and Struggles for Sovereignty, a collective based in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. The Soils Project arises from specific and situated practices that each of the participants and artists brings to their understanding of soil, as both metaphor and matter.
The Soils Project has been in development since 2018. An international collaboration between three organisations, and several artists, curators, writers and activists, the project has manifested in various iterations over several years including a three-part public webinar series titled The Soils Project: groundwork, and a two-week workshop, titled The Soils Project: On Country, for participating curators and artists. With a curatorium comprising arts workers from TarraWarra Museum of Art, the Van Abbemuseum, and Struggles for Sovereignty, the project’s approach seeks and facilitates opportunities to listen to diverse voices and perspectives around notions of caring for land, soil and sovereign territories.
Developed from this journey, The Soils Project’s forthcoming exhibition will embrace the deep histories of each participant’s location, examining the multiplicity of landscapes and environments, and the impact of colonisations and global industries on cultural heritage, land management and traditional knowledges.
Newly commissioned works by Australian practitioners include a large-scale photographic installation by Bangerang artist Peta Clancy that responds to historic photographs taken where the Birrarung (Yarra River) and Brungergalk (Watts River) meet, exploring cultural memory over time. Quandamooka artist Megan Cope and Australian artist Keg de Souza will collaborate on a series of earth maps of the site of Coranderrk Aboriginal Station located in Healesville. Harnessing the process of soil chromatography, the work uses soil samples collected from significant places throughout Coranderrk.
Dutch artist Wapke Feenstra will present Boerenzij (The Rural Side), a video work documenting the people and communities of the southern bank of Rotterdam. The project questions rural migration and cultural gentrification, demanding critical awareness of the ways in which rural culture is being swallowed up and urbanised worldwide. In her series Melting Heart, photographer Diewke van der Heuvel captures the melting of Aletsch, the largest glacier in the European Alps. Printed on recycled fabric, the large-scale photographs record the grandeur of the natural environment, and the resulting impact of climate change.
From Indonesia, Lian Gogali, founder of the grassroots community organisation Institut Mosintuwu based in Poso District, Central Sulawesi, will present a collaborative painting titled Ovarium Map. Made by women from across Poso, the painting combines seeds, leaves and soils from each of their villages. The painting is a reminder of the crucial role women play in protecting our land, forest, and water. Artist and researcher Riar Rizaldi will showcase his Earth trilogy of video works, Kasiterit, Tellurian Drama, and Becquerel, which aim to rethink and interrogate the relationship between technology, extractivism and colonialism. Artist Moelyono will present two paintings depicting ludruk, a form of non-hierarchical people’s theatre, which uses satire to address the daily struggles of local communities. The paintings result from a five-year collaboration with a group of ludruk performers in Jombang, East Java.
The Soils Project will continue in 2024, when the Van Abbemuseum will present an exhibition, and in 2025, with a manifestation of the project in Indonesia.
detail from the photographic installation Surfacing 2023
ink-jet pigment print
100 x 150 cm
Courtesy the artist and Dominik Mersch Gallery, Sydney