Australasian Artists Dish the Dirt in Rome

Published by: Imagine the Land Project | 25-Nov-2019
Australasian duo Imagine the Land Project has completion their newest participatory environmental art installation entitled Tocca la Terra (Touch the Earth), created in collaboration with viewers at The MACRO Museum of Contemporary Art Rome, Italy. @k.a.r.m.a.a.r.t.s @imaginetheland
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Imagine the Land Project collaborators Karma Barnes (Byron Bay, Australia/ NZ) and Ekarasa Doblanovic (Croatia/Italy/NZ) were invited by curator Giorgio de Finis to exhibit Tocca La Terra as part of The MACRO Asilo ("Hospitable Museum") Project.

Tocca la Terra was composed from Italian local soils, hand-gathered by Barnes and Doblanovic from the regional landscapes of Rome and Tuscany. These soils were ground by the artists into fine pigments and transformed into a 15m long art installation, filling one of the MACRO exhibition halls Ambiente #2.

During the exhibition, visitors were invited to create small clay vessels and cover them with soil pigments. Next, they performed a slow, barefoot walk into the artwork along a soil pathway, to place their vessel within the installation. Thus, notions of the body as agent of performative, affective experience lead to immersion in a poetics of materiality, transcendence and shared ontologies of creative community.

As drawn by Barnes and Doblanovic, the large-scale composition grew methodically from one single earth-toned strip to encompass many multi- coloured stripes set within an almost white elliptical centre. Concentric borders of earthy tonalities gave a central focus to breathtaking effect.

From light pink marble dust, manganese purple deposits in soil, yellow ochre to red clay - to the deepest brown topsoil - the presence of pedological time was conveyed through colour, texture and rhythm, hovering between materiality and abstract void. Scores of delicately pinched clay pots arrayed like stars and planets across an infinite universe completed the effect of encountering another world. Yet Tocca la Terra's material simplicity was very much of our real, everyday life -simultaneously considering the scale of the human within the cosmos.

The aesthetics of soil had the power to move one viewer beyond earthly materiality: "I felt a great sensation of connection with Nature, with art's power to transcend the artificial space of the museum, and an immersion in beauty's subtle body."1

After ten days, the labour of many was destroyed to underscore impermanence and the vulnerability of Nature. By highlighting human interconnection with the natural world through tactile, sensory and conceptual experience, Tocca la Terra reminded participants that their relationship to something as simple as soil literally grounds and centres their lives.

Macro Asilo Project opened on 30 September 2018 and ends 31 December 2019, exhibiting the work of over 300 international artists, writers and performers during its 15-month program.

Macro Asilo Project curator Giorgio de Finis, who is also an anthropologist, artist and writer, has explored a less traditional, experimental model for attracting museum-goers to Macro Asilo Project. His curatorial vision has opened up the entire museum, "into a fully-fledged 'living organism' at once friendly and relational," to urge a spirit of interactive cooperation amongst people, skills and disciplines and to encourage participation on the part of the city and the public.

Imagine the Land Project is also an ambassador for The Terzo Paradiso/ Rebirth-Day Project led by renowned Italian artist Michelangelo Pistoletto and his Cittadellarte Fondazione. Additionally, whilst in Rome Imagine the Land Project, as Ambassadors of The Third Paradise, sat on a panel at the MACRO for defining and implementing concrete actions in line with the UN's 2030 Agenda for sustainable development. The panel was open to organizations operating on the basis of their vocation to create responsible, direct action.

Imagine the Land Project is a collaboration between Karma Barnes (Byron Bay, Australia/NZ) & Ekarasa Doblanovic (Croatia/Italy/NZ). ILP cultivates relationships between people, art and nature through the use of participatory arts practices and impermanent land-based installations, producing site-specific works made from soil pigments gathered from local terrains and pre-disturbed sites. For more than 10 years, they have worked with thousands of people of all ages in producing collaborative, ecological artworks through socially and environmentally engaged art programs.

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