Soil Cultures

Research Network

Award Information:

“The nation that destroys its soil destroys itself” Franklin D. Roosevelt

Soil is a substance that is essential for our continued survival on the planet. Not only does it provide the medium from which most of our food is produced, but it is also serves a number of less well recognised functions. These include breaking down toxic substances, providing habitats for wildlife, supporting forestry, supplying raw materials and serving as a carbon sink. Healthy soils therefore hold the key to supplying our food and reducing carbon in the atmosphere.

Because soil takes centuries to form it is considered a non-renewable resource. Along with many other non-renewable resources it is rapidly becoming despoiled and degraded and this has serious implications for our continued sustainability. Whilst considerable information is available about the importance of soil it is a subject that doesn’t usually engage those that don’t have a professional interest in it. It appears that the protection of soil is not considered a high priority amongst the general public.

This research network sets out to address this issue by utilising the aesthetic, physical and emotional power of the arts to engage a wide audience in soil-related issues. It will bring together, for the first time in the UK, the leading soil organisations and the most significant artists who produce work on soil. This network will coincide with ‘Soil Culture’, a yearlong series of exhibitions, residencies, and educational events at the Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World (CCANW), based at Haldon Forest, near Exeter.

It is anticipated that by sharing knowledge between the arts and sciences, alongside the Soil Culture programme, a strategy can be developed that will find new ways for raising awareness and promoting soil health. This will be achieved through a series of arts-based workshops and public events linked to the exhibitions at CCANW. Working in collaboration with the Soil Culture programme the research network will publish a ‘toolkit’ that explores the relationship between soil science and the arts, and promotes a cultural response to this vital issue.

Project dates: July 2013- August 2014