GROW artists in residence — Introducing artistic innovation to the GROW Observatory.

Image from the proposal to VERTIGO (please note — it is only the impression of what might happen — not a final look of the artwork)

In GROW, we are delighted to welcome Kasia Molga and Robin Rimbaud (Scanner) to the project as artists in residence.

We decided we would like to work with artists to add a new dimension to the project. Art can change the way we see the world, and help bring curiosity and imagination to a project like GROW. We are excited to see how Kasia and Robin can bring the data and science to life. We hope this can inspire new discoveries in GROW.

Kasia Molga will be producing audio visual devices made with a machine learning algorithm from GROW’s soil data. She will create audio/visual devices in collaboration with sound artist Robin Rimbaud.

The residency is supported by Vertigo, which is part of the European Commission’s support for art, science and technology collaborations through the STARTS programme.

– Foreword by Project Lead, Dr Drew Hemment

I caused some controversy when I began as artist in residence in the GROW Observatory. I proposed a title for an artwork “Ode from the Dirt.” I had turned over a stone and discovered something new to me. The word ‘dirt’ is not popular among growers — this provoked people to query, to wonder, to check.

To scientists in GROW, including project partners, the James Hutton Institute — soil is precious, life affirming and providing. But it can also be seen by some not involved in agriculture and growing as something unclean. Its dirty. It’s the base, it’s below the ground. I feel I am on a learning journey, increasing my understanding and appreciation of soil as a living ecosystem.

Soil is a building base for everything everywhere. It is a living thing — on which we walk, build, grow or play. We depend on it for our food and it also recycles “life” — cleaning discarded things and resurrecting everything from one thing to another. Soil — or the people who tend to it — are not front and centre in many people’s’ thoughts. The residency will be an exploration of the work of Growers, the data they generate, how they use it, their relationship with soil. I will build upon this and together with Scanner we hopefully will be able to communicate our thinking to other growers and to the rest of the world.

I am a designer — or as I call myself — design fusionist — artist, creative technologist and environmentalist in heart. My passion is to reimagine our relationship with so-called nature, while questioning our technologically mediated perception of the environment — and the technology itself.

In an ideal utopian scenario I would love to see us “collaborating with nature” and being subjected to the law of multinatural democracy* (a concept inspired by Bruno Latour’s book “Politics of Nature”). — but this vision is as real as my travel to Mars. And so what I try to do instead is to create narratives through the interactive / immersive objects and experiences, often involving bio data — about entities and processes which constitute “life” of this planet — and expose our — human — crucial dependency on it.

I have been always fascinated with interconnections we — humans — have with other living species or entities which constitute “life” on this planet, and how those connections prompt us to interact. The deep understanding on our impact on the environment is more necessary than ever in the context of now — that is environmental and climate change. In my opinion one way to convey that is to try to look at the environment from the lens of other-than-humans creatures.

I often engage in discussions with other artists and designers in attempt to figure out how to create an apt narrative for this context. One such person is Robin Rimbaud aka Scanner — a talented and prolific sound artist who kindly agreed to get involved in this particular project. We have already collaborated on projects before, one of them is an audio/visual set called “A Portrait of Your Breath” created for the commission of Science Gallery London. This worked dealt with the data of human breath in response to air quality. Here is a link to a sneak preview of this work:

In this residency and the work we will create we aspire to achieve two things -

  • To help to create a meaningful data manifestation for Growers themselves, to generate output for their observation and
  • Based on that we will create an audio/visual art piece which can represent soil and growers work to people who are not too close to the land.

In the meantime, while working towards these goal,s myself and Scanner need to get inspired and in order to get inspired we need to explore data from various points of view — those of scientists, those of growers and those of the audience from outside. We also need to study various data sets — how they interact with each other and what story they can tell. We do not want our piece to be just a pretty thing on the screen or the white wall gallery space, but we really are looking to create something with the function — be it well provided information aside the intriguing visualisation or sonification or giving a “visible” presence to individual growers and their efforts.

We also hope to document our progress, meetings with some of you and post updates from time to time on this platform. For now however — over and out — we are waiting for the first batch of data to have fun with!

Image from the proposal to VERTIGO (please note — it is only the impression of what might happen — not a final look of the artwork)

* “Multinatural Democracy is a concept inspired by Bruno Latour’s book “Politics of Nature”. Latour argues that “Nature is not to be conquered, controlled, or even protected. Rather, our conceptions of natural fact and reality must be re-examined in order or make room for other members of the political-ecological collective.” (from review by Yaron Ezrahi”American Scientist”, 01/01/2005). I look at this concept defined humans / non-humans partnering to make a decision for the greater good — because our (human and also non-human) well being depends on this collaboration. From the human perspective — this collaboration and well being of other non-human species (or Earthlings) — is vital for our own kind to survive and sustain.”

Sign up for next upcoming free online course, #Soil2Sky It starts 19th February: