Soil as an Inscribed Body // SAVVY Contemporary @ Berlin, Germany

31.08 - 06.10.2019

From SAVVY event write-up:

"It is from the land that bodies gather meaning, sensations, and imagination" - Mariarosa Dalla Costa

In face of global expropriation of land and the devastation of its reproductive powers, we – agropoets, activists, artists and cultural workers – convene at SAVVY Contemporary to invoke, tremble, flare up, conspire, cook and plan together. Believing in the possibilities of transformative encounters, we posit collaboration and contamination as strategies against the individualising logic of the biological imagination. As Anna Tsing attested, “staying alive – for every species – requires livable collaborations.”

Currently, we are struggling with having to watch from afar how the Amazon rainforest as well as forests in Congo, Angola and the Arctic are burning due to reckless and greedy human actions. The Invocations for Soil Is An Inscribed Body. On Sovereignty and Agropoetics seek to trace the exploitation of the earth’s resources and to give visibility to struggles for sovereignty over land, mind and food, and their poetic manifestations. We cordially invite you to this social gathering of performances, participatory discussions and workshops of the cross-pollination between artistic and agroecological struggles explored throughout the project as a whole.

Food is an essential part of this meeting space. In quests for justice, a sensory rooting of experiences in the present through tasting and ingesting is crucial. Through the act of eating, together with Mama D Ujuaje, founder of Community Centered Knowledge, we trace both our complicitness in global systems and networks of food production, but also microbial life passing through our bodies. Inviting activists and artists to create moments of connection and nourishment, we open up different temporalities of the soil, as collaborator, witness and social space: with Zayaan Khan we ponder on the process such of fermentation, actively slowing down and speeding up time in learning about microbes as crucial members in a more-than-human commons. This is not just a question of food sovereignty, but also spiritual sovereignty in all relationships of cultivation.

Invocations Program here.

// Artist participation in four parts //

A Practice in Light and Death, video and illuminated pantry of ferments as part of in situ exhibition

"Fermentation is like flowers to fruit flies, a blossoming of sweet nectar - but the pollen is sour. They arrive to the fermenting wine with millions perhaps trillions- of bacteria and yeast and fungi at their feet, balancing carefully in the surface tension of the liquid inside the jar. I do this intentionally, working with the fruit flies to encourage a mother of vinegar to form. I know this is a risk because who knows how these bacteria and yeasts will taste, but I humbly accept.

These flies are pushed to meet their death, so enamoured by the smells, an attraction ingrained in their heritage.
Perhaps they arrive at the door of death and fermentation is a veil to The Other side of life. I strain them out and bury the filter paper.

The uterine lining of this mother of vinegar. I hold her up to the light, her red wine blood clot drips from my fingers. She’s thick. Moist. Soaked. acid and sweet.

She’s soft, reminds me of the placenta I’ve never held before. Every month my insides come outside, detaching from my innermost parts and staining. A shedding, releasing, shirking off a responsibility of motherhood. Still somehow so separate from me.

There are so many similarities between us all taxonomically, fermentation brings out the animal in plants, and the yeasts and bacteria in all of us. The potential tool to blur the taxonomic borders between kingdoms, opening passages between the silo’s and singling out of science.

Processing is a passage, a quiet movement through time into the broadness and multitude that time actually is.

Here vinegar goes through a process of sweet, fermenting grapes to make wine - and then through a process of acid - from wine into vinegar.

This blood wine drips, I am made aware of the invisible world that lives on my skin through the reflection on the surface . It’s clear and certain, a red wine vinegar mirror.

These surface tensions - so thin yet held strong - hold a colony, forming a solid film-like oil slick. So thin and delicate that it breaks into tectonic plates if I disturb the liquid too much. It grows a yeast bloom in the spaces my curious fingers disturb the surface, creating the perfect environment for a mother to form, soft jelly pellicles or a streamlined sheet, somewhere between red blood cells and jellyfish.

Our genetic ancestry in formation, a form of complexity so simple in its perfection."

A Practice in Light and Death, illuminated pantry of ferments as part of in situ exhibition

Installation view by Raisa Galofre

Ferments created through video call from Cape Town to Marleen Boschen (curator) and Cornelia Knoll (project team member) in Berlin, creating the ferments to be part of the installation, opened at the Invocations and finally consumed at the final exhibition closing dinner.

A kohlrabi, apple, ginger and fennel lacto-ferment placed in the alcoves of the old crematorium S A V V Y is housed within. These alcoves used to hold the cremation urns-in-waiting. We filled the alcoves with jars of ferments, illuminated to bring light to the practice of taking life from harvest through a natural death process, into a new life form that is more alive and more full of life than it previously has been, now teeming with trillions of microbia.

Invocations I

Towards the exhibition following Soil as an Inscribed Body, Redistribute Toxicity, October 19-December 1, 2019, I was seed collection leader for the projection installation by Jonas Staal in collaboration with Jonas Stuck.

From the S A V V Y seed collection event:

"In the context of our Agropoetics Invocations, on Thursday 12th September artist and seed librarian Zayaan Khan will share her knowledge on seed collection, care and preservation. Zayaan, founder of "Seed Biblioteek" in South Africa, strives to reconnect seeds with story, pondering resilience and sovereignty. In the format of a workshop and an act of toxic redistribution, the team of "Soil is an Inscribed Body" in collaboration with the team of the upcoming show "The Long Term You Cannot Afford", with the subscribed participants, will embark on a trip to a nature reserve that lies right next to the present landfill of Vorketzin, West of Berlin."

From Jonas Staal's website:

"At the center of the installation redistribute toxicity is a triangular red display with bags of seeds collected in the nature reserve surrounding Vorketzin toxic waste site. This landfill emerged from a deal struck between former West and East Germany in 1972, when the West began to pay the East to dump its toxic waste on its land – a process which we see today magnified in the form of the global toxic waste trade.

The seeds enclosed in the bags are inheritors: seeds that descent from plants that were forced to become “indigenous” to toxicity. A generation of proletarian plantae (plant workers) that labored the soils and cared for the toxicity of former West dumped in former East. In this project, the seeds return to the place where the toxic waste was outsourced from in the first place. As such, redistribute toxicity invites for reciprocal care through redistribution and propagation of toxic inheritance. Not to outsource, but to practice co-existence by insourcing our toxicity. Visitors were encouraged to take a bag and to redistribute the seeds in gardens, parks and forests.

The installation further consists of various documents mapping the toxic waste trajectory from West to East Germany since 1973. Archival film footage from 1973 shows the Berlin wall becoming porous: not for humans, but for trucks filled with hazardous waste crossing the barrier effortlessly. A photograph taken in the 1980s in Vorketzin depicts two pits filled with hazardous waste. A geographical map details the relation between SAVVY where the toxic seeds are redistributed and the location of the historical landfill where they were collected. A timeline by Jonas Stuck details key events in this embryonic example of the global toxic waste trade."

Project team: Jonas Staal (artist), Jonas Stuck (researcher), Caroline Ektander (curator, researcher), Antonia Alampi (curator), Zayaan Khan (seed collection leader), Ola Zielinska (architect), Elsa Westreicher (designer), Jasmina Al-Qaisi (production SAVVY), António Mendes (construction)

Invocations II

Performative lecture sharing stories of The Mothers, fermentation as honouring of life and death through creating vinegar mothers from scratch.

It can take years of fermenting almost everything to understand the fundamentals of lacto–fermentation, yeast fermentation, symbiotic fermentation and acetic fermentation. What do all these terms mean? Fermentation is all about creating suitable environmental conditions and working with time, microbiota – fungi, yeasts and bacteria – to create and transform foods from fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, dairy, insects, seaweeds and others. A great lesson in humility and authenticity, our work in fermentation is always all about community, through a multi–species exploration. Artist Zayaan Khan weaves these lessons through a performative lecture of short stories. This will be followed by a fermentation workshop. We will look into “Fermenting SWEET” and "Celebrating SALT" using sweetness and salt to understand fermentation, from wild soda to condiments like ketchup, mustard or chutney, sauerkraut and whole brined vegetables. The workshop will last 3 hours with demonstration and practical tasks. We will enjoy fermented foods together to complete our experience.

Using Format