News aus der Professur

For the exhibition, Plants and People, at the German Hygiene Museum Dresden, from April 2019 to April 2020, Alexandra Toland is exhibiting a series of works focusing on the importance of wild plants in urban and industrial environments. 

The project takes as point of departure the Ecosystem Services (ESS) approach to environmental protection. Ecosystem Services are defined by the UNEP  (2008) as the provisional, regulative, cultural, and supporting services provided by nature for the benefit of (mostly) humans and (sometimes) non-human recipients. The multidisciplinary project focuses on two services in particular: 1) the filtration of atmospheric particulate matter (dust) by plants, and 2) the phyto-remediation of contaminated soil by plants. Both “services” are commonly known as biofiltration. 

Titled, The Unbearable Heaviness of Dust, the project juxtaposes the beauty and function of roadside flora using a synthesis of artistic and scientific methods. It addresses real problems of heavy metal contamination in the atmosphere and topsoil – the literal “heaviness” of something so light it is barely perceptible until it lodges in the lungs of living creatures. At the same time, the project uses poetic interjections to underline the ironies and idiosyncrasies of life in the Anthropocene: wildflowers as moments of resilience in seemingly uninhabitable places, multi-species alliances in questionable economic frameworks, the quest for health in a world of ubiquitous pollution. 

The project consists of a series of digitally modified historical engravings of medicinal plants made with pulverized street dust; dust sensors integrated into botanical sculptures; and 3d printed "health products" using heavy metals extracted from contaminated soils. 

A publication and video are also planned including contributions from project collaborators, from disciplines ranging from soil physics, microbiology, urban ecology, ecotoxicology, environmental ethics, environmental economics, computer aided design, and art history. 

The project is generously supported by the Bauhaus Universität Weimar Kreativ Fonds, the German Hygiene Museum Dresden, and the Museum Schloß Moyland, wher the project was originally exhibited in 2016. 

Collaborators include: Ina Säumel (IRI THESys, Humboldt Universität Berlin), Ulrich Szewzyk (Umweltmikrobiologie, Technische Universität Berlin), Ulf Kypke-Burchardi and Rajko Zschiegner (luftdaten.info), Björn Kluge, Gerd Wessolek & Moritz Warkentin (Bodenschutz, Technische Universität Berlin), Marie-Odile Simonnot, Baptiste Laubie & Jean Louis Morel (University of Lorraine; ECONICK), Uwe Starfinger (Julius Kühn-Institut), Michael Braun (Bauhaus Universität Weimar, Theory and History of Design), Lena Trost (IKKG – Hochschule Koblenz Glass Studio).

Field to Palette: Dialogues on Soil and Art in the Anthropocene 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 honoring 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.

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