The Soils Project
An enriching and life-affirming exhibition, The Soils Project explores the meaning of soil as both matter and metaphor.
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 exhibition participants are:
Fellows and Artists
Uncle Dave Wandin (Wurundjeri) and Brooke Wandin (Wurundjeri), Wandoon Estate Aboriginal Corporation; Peta Clancy (Bangerang); Megan Cope (Quandamooka) and Keg de Souza; D Harding (Bidjara, Ghungalu and Garingbal); Badan Kajian Pertanahan (Bunga Siagian & Ismal Muntaha); Beyond Walls (Armando Ello, Jeremy Flohr, Glenda Pattipeilohy, Suzanne Rastovac); Wapke Feenstra; Lian Gogali and the Insitut Mosintuwu; Moelyono; Pluriversity weavers: Seynawiku Izquierdo Torres, Dwasimney Del Carmen Izquierdo Torres, Dwanimako Arroyo Izquierdo, María Eufemia Arroyo Izquierdo (Kwarte Umuke community, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia), Ana Bravo Pérez, Aldo Ramos, Aliki van der Kruijs, LI Yuchen; Riar Rizaldi; Yurni Sadariah (member of PEREMPUAN AMAN of Rangan Adat communities); Diewke van den Heuvel; Rolando Vázquez
Wandoon Estate Aboriginal Corporation, Zena Cumpston (Barkandji), Antariksa, Dr Danny Butt, Dr Helen Hughes, Rolando Vázquez
Zena Cumpston, ‘Plant Kin’
This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body; the Sidney Myer Fund; the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through the Embassy of Kingdom of the Netherlands, Australia; the Mondriaan Fund, the public cultural funding organisation focusing on visual arts and cultural heritage; Dutch Culture; and Fasilitasi Bidang Kebudayaan (FBK) Interaksi Budaya, Ministry of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology of Indonesia.
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.
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TARRAWARRA MUSEUM OF ART: TarraWarra Museum of Art actively engages with art, place and ideas within global, national and First Nations contexts. Established in 2003, the Museum presents a changing exhibition program of twentieth and twenty-first century art, creating dynamic and memorable experiences for all audiences encouraging curiosity and creativity within the wider community. The Museum, located in Healesville, has a collection of over 700 works of Australian twenty and twenty-first century art.
Project team: Victoria Lynn, Anthony Fitzpatrick, Charlotte Carter.
VAN ABBEMUSEUM: The Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven is one of the first public museums for contemporary art to be established in Europe. The museum’s collection of over 3,400 works of art includes key works and archives by Joseph Beuys, Marc Chagall, René Daniëls, Marlene Dumas, Sheela Gowda, Patricia Kaersenhout, Gülsün Karamustafa, Iris Kensmil, Oskar Kokoschka, John Körmeling, El Lissitzky, Paul McCarthy, Pablo Picasso, Martha Rosler, and Lidwien van de Ven. The museum has an experimental approach towards art’s role in society.
Project team: Charles Esche, Teresa Cos Rebollo, Vivian Heyms.
STRUGGLES FOR SOVEREIGNTY:
Struggles for Sovereignty (SFS) is a collective rooted in Yogyakarta Indonesia, focusing on social and ecological justice. SFS collaborates with practitioners and communities across the Indonesian archipelago and other majority world contexts, who are working on the front line of colonial and ecological struggles. Through their programmes they explore the possibilities of cultural practice to act as a tool in developing lasting solidarity infrastructure.
Project team: Eliesta Handitya, Gatari Surya Kusuma, Sanne Oorthuizen, Alec Steadman.
The Soils Project Advisors: Wandoon Estate Aboriginal Corporation; Zena Cumpston (Barkandji researcher, writer and storyteller); Antariksa (independent historian, artist and member of KUNCI Study Forum & Collective); Dr Danny Butt (University of Melbourne); Dr Helen Hughes (Monash University); and Rolando Vázquez (Utrecht University).
Creative contributor: Zena Cumpston, ‘Plant Kin’
Zena Cumpston is a Barkandji woman with ancestral and familial connection to Broken Hill, Menindee and Wilcannia in western New South Wales. Zena is a writer and artist and also sometimes works as a curator, consultant, educator and researcher. She is passionate about plants and the many ways they elucidate the innovation and deep knowledge of her Aboriginal community. In 2023, she co-curated the exhibition ngaratya (together, us group, all in it together) for Bunjil Place Gallery, bringing together six Barkandji/Barkindji artists to share newly commissioned artworks inspired by several group trips to ancestral homelands. She has been an advisor and creative contributor to the Soils project, and has created the illustrated Soils Project publication ‘Plant Kin’ that explores many aspects of indigenous plants and their cultural significance in the lives of First Peoples over millennia. Plant kin presents Zena’s research and writing that is beautifully illuminated by original artworks created especially for this limited-edition publication