Soil Culture

Soil samples, excavated to construct a large-scale microbial fuel cell.

Soil Culture

Artist Marissa Lee Benedict was awarded a Soil Culture residency to work with researchers in the ESI in August 2014. The residency was delivered by the ESI in partnership with the Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World (CCANW).

Marissa is a Chicago-based sculptor, researcher, writer, explorer, teacher and avid amateur of many fields and disciplines. Motivated by a sense of critical wonder, Benedict’s artistic practice is rooted in research and experimentation: she is drawn to systems that allow equal space for planned action and uncontrollable reaction. Working with biological, chemical and physical processes, her projects range from growing algae under fluorescent lights to digging up mud samples and assembling large-scale microbial fuel cells.

During her residency, Marissa worked alongside Dr Gabriel Yvon-Durocher, whose research interests focus on the response of soil carbon sequestration to climate change and land use management. He was, at that time, developing a research project at Lynher Dairies, a 250-acre organic dairy farm, to investigate how agricultural practices can promote carbon sequestration, improve soil carbon storage and maintain viable yields.

Marissa used video and photo to document the research and place a lens on the critical role carbon plays in our atmosphere, our soil and our future climate.

The Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World, based at the University of Exeter, explores new understandings of our place within nature through the arts. Soil Culture, a collaboration with Falmouth University and involving many partnerships across the South West, uses the work of artists to inspire a deeper appreciation of the importance of soil – a resource on which our entire civilisation depends.

You can find out more about Marissa's work with Gabriel on our news pages; also, a book detailing the overall, three-year work of Soil Culture is available, as is a 30-minute film on the same subject.