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Marissa Benedict and Dr Gabriel Yvon-Durocher.

Soil Culture: Young Shoots at The Eden Project

Work arising from a ten-day residency at the Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI) is part of an exhibition currently under way and running until 21 February at The Eden Project.

Marissa Benedict, a Chicago-based sculptor, researcher, writer, explorer and teacher, worked closely with  Dr Gabriel Yvon-Durocher, Senior Lecturer in Natural Environment, in 2014 as part of the Soil Culture programme.  Dr Yvon-Durocher is one of a team identifying which agricultural practices best promote carbon sequestration, improve soil carbon storage and maintain viable yields in the face of future climate change.

During the residency, Marissa was given access to labs and specialist equipment. The materials she collected – as well as her enhanced understanding of how soil breathes and of how communities of plants and microbes inhale and exhale CO2 – all form part of her new work. The touring exhibition of the outcomes of the Soil Culture Residencies highlights aspects of soil and the carbon cycle as experienced and interpreted by 12 artists, nine of whom were selected through an open call process that attracted 655 applications from 39 countries.

Marissa’s work also brought her into contact with Falmouth University’s Research in Art, Nature and the Environment (RANE) group, and with the Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World (CCANW), who jointly delivered the residency. The ESI supported Soil Culture with a grant from the ESI-RANE Creative Exchange Programme, which facilitates collaboration between creative practitioners and ESI researchers with shared interests in the environment and sustainability.

Marissa said: “I was fascinated by the ways in which Dr Yvon-Durocher approaches his work, and the ways in which it overlaps with my artistic processes. In many ways, our work as artists and scientists functions to the same end, but filtered through the unique lenses of our disciplines.”

Young Shoots’ sister exhibition – Deep Roots – will be at Plymouth University from 16 January to 19 March. It features works by six established international artists who have been engaging with soils for many years, and represents the climax of the Soil Culture programme and a celebration of the UN International Year of Soils. An illustrated 120-page book telling the story of this three-year project is available from 15 January, and this video provides a much more detailed account of Soil Culture.

Date: 11 January 2016