Humus is generally found in the uppermost layer of the earth – from around ten to thirty centimeters in depth – and is a vulnerable and fragile substance. This part of the soil is a key habitat for various living creatures and is currently in an extremely bad state across the globe. Humus is lost through intensive farming practices such as meat production, which causes erosion of the soil. A further factor is the use of concrete to seal off natural ground. Our experiment focuses on humus as a living and performative substance and plays with an element of surprise. A ton of humus, piled up into a heap, awaits students in a room sealed off with large sections of plastic sheeting, which is staged almost like a scientific laboratory. Microscopes, laboratory glasses, various storage containers, gloves, pipettes, magnifying glasses, tweezers, mortars, and other objects lay ready arranged on tables. Each student then receives their own research kit and some humus. The pile of material is thus made to a reservoir and catalyst for artistic research, allowing aesthetic processes to be both created and observed. I see this creative engagement with humus as a form of individual reflection and thought that generates new forms of knowledge. Familiar approaches are abandoned, and students are able to produce, rediscover, and gather their own material experiences and perceptions. In this way, humus is used as an invitation to experiment, and to try out different artistic approaches to shared global issues.
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