Field to Palette: Dialogues on Soil and Art in the Anthropocene (edited by Dr. Alexandra R. Toland, Dr. Jay Stratton Nollerand Dr. Gerd Wessolek and published by CRC Press) is an investigation of the cultural meanings, representations, and values of soil in a time of planetary change. The book offers critical reflections on some of the most challenging environmental problems of our time, including land take, groundwater pollution, desertification, and biodiversity loss. At the same time, the book celebrates diverse forms of resilience in the face of such challenges, beginning with its title as a way of honouring locally controlled food production methods championed by „field to plate“ movements worldwide. By focusing on concepts of soil functionality, the book weaves together different disciplinary perspectives in a collection of dialogue texts between artists and scientists, interviews by the editors and invited curators, essays and poems by earth scientists and humanities scholars, soil recipes, maps, and DIY experiments. With contributions from over 100 internationally renowned researchers and practitioners, Field to Palette presents a set of visual methodologies and worldviews that expand our understanding of soil and encourage readers to develop their own interpretations of the ground beneath our feet.
My chapter is titled “Soil Macrocosms: microbes, people, and our cumulative effects” and is a conversation with Alejandro Meitin and Claire Pentecost, with a few connecting questions by Brian Holmes, who knows all three of us.
The interview took place online, traversing three time zones and two languages. The conversation travelled from the microcosm to the macrocosm, through perceptions on time and different cosmovisions, along noticeable parallels in approaches to soil as a place for regeneration and shifting paradigms about how we relate to ourselves, each other, other life forms, as well as the environment and economy. Both Claire (a Chicago-based artist and writer who researches life and food systems, agriculture and bio-engineering) and Alejandro (artist, lawyer, and founder of the art collective Ala Plástica, based in the city of La Plata, Argentina) are literally making soil, one landscape and one exhibition at a time, to re-write the narrative of how people live in the world today.