The Soil Laboratory is located in the middle of the Soil Matters exhibition space, and it offers the visitors an opportunity to watch designers and artists at work. This is an experimental, collective working space where the ceramic artists featured in the Soil Matters exhibition reflect the impacts of human activity through their work. The understanding of soil and its materials is an integral approach and a tool in the work of ceramic artists whose work this venue will be hosting. In the Soil Laboratory, research, art and personal stories are used to dig deeper in this theme: the collective research process makes it possible for understanding to grow during the process.
Opening hours of the Soil Laboratory during the Soil Matters exhibition
Tuesdays 3–6 p.m. (4 September 2020 – 10 January 2021) and on Design Evenings, 27 October and 24 November, from 4 to 7:30 p.m.
Ceramic artist Catharina Kajander will work on large red-clay vases by hand every Tuesday, 12 noon –5 p.m. and Wednesday in October, 2–5 p.m. and from Thursday to Saturday, 12 noon–3 p.m.
Follow the working process at the Soil Laboratory
At the Soil Laboratory, the exhibition group will work on three interconnected projects. The group has refined soil samples, collected from different parts of the world, into colour pigments that will be used to paint endangered species on vases made of red clay. The vases were made by hand in the Soil Laboratory using red clay from Somero, a small town in Finland. The Un/Making Soil Communities project attempts to clean the soil of Nuutajärvi glass village in a process of phytoremediation, which means cleaning the soil materials with the help of plants. The space furthermore analyses and processes soil samples sent in from around Finland, as well as the samples collected in the proximity of the old glass factories in Nuutajärvi. The concept of the Soil Laboratory was developed by curators Riikka Latva-Somppi and Maarit Mäkelä. It is a part of the Empirica research group at the Department of Design at Aalto University.
Un/making Soil Communities
The phytoremediation process is tested as a part of the Un/making Soil Communities project, and this endeavour can also be followed as a part of the activities of the Soil Laboratory. Soil samples have been collected in the area of the old Nuutajärvi glass village, and their heavy metal concentrations have been measured. After this, plants that have the potential of cleaning the soil have been transplanted into the soil samples. You can follow how the germination and growth of the plants in the Soil Matters exhibition space.
Critically endangered species
The coiling technique is used to work on large vases made from red clay from Somero in Finland. The surfaces of the vases will be decorated with pictures of species that are classified as critically endangered in Finland. These species were selected from the Red List published by the Finnish Environment Institute, which includes an analysis of the viability of species in 2019. The book features a total of 36,604 species of which 489 were classified as critically endangered. The status of some of these species – including algae, mosses, vascular plants, aphyllophorales and lichens – is connected to soil or the use of soil in some way: construction work or excavation of the soil, for example. These endangered species were selected as the theme of the pictures to be painted on the vases as they have a connection to the soil. Cobblestone lichen – Acarospora oligospora – was selected as the first motif. With an internal ball-like structure and (un)rhythmic repetition of the pattern, it is an interesting starting point for the paintings. Living species, such as insects, are in the focus for Catharina Kajander.
Collection of soil samples
The Soil Laboratory also collects and analyses soil samples. The analysed samples will be posted on the map on the wall of the exhibition space. Find the instruction here!
Finnish Association for Rural Culture and Education has assisted in the collection of soil samples.