Soil Voices; a 24 hour live – stream performance by Miranda Whall

Soil Voices is part of a ground breaking NERC funded, academic discipline hopping project titled Making the invisible visible: Instrumenting and interpreting an upland landscape for climate change resilience.

The Aberystwyth University academic team are myself, Prof Andrew Thomas, Prof Fred Labrosse, Prof Mariecia Fraser and Pete Todd.

My collaborative role, as the artist, is to present new and unimaged perspectives, I will be representing the high resolution soil sensor technology data beyond traditional statistics, so that the data might have a wider meaning and greater impact.

I will be responding to the scientific research project by literally immersing my body into the landscape in order to embody and give voice to the soil. I will be laying in a pre- prepared self – dug 2ft ditch on the plateau managed by Pwllpeiran Upland Research Centre, known as the Ffridd (the upland fringe) at 600m approx.

On the hour, every hour, over 24 hours, I will attempt to vocalise the live and continuous numerical data stream from a newly installed sensor network embedded in the ground around where I lay. I will receive the data emitted from the multiple sensors via a custom built ‘black box’. The data stream will communicate the subtly fluctuating soil moisture and soil temperature readings at regular intervals over a 24 hour period.

Community and stakeholder engagement with scientific data is essential if future decisions on upland land management are to reach a consensus and be successful in helping to provide the local human and non – human communities with what they want and need. This project is about facilitating wider audiences and non-scientists to become part of the conversation about land management and climate change.

Local and global audiences are invited to drop in an out of the 24 hour live- stream, in the hope that by being ‘virtually’ up close and in the mountain with the soil and me for a few seconds or hours might generate a greater awareness and new perspectives – not only of the soil conditions, but of human and non-human entanglement, human and non – human interconnectedness, from a socio-cultural and eco-political perspective.

Inspired by Japanese artist On Kawara’s epic conceptual project Reading One Million Years 1969 – ongoing, this project, also through economical and reductive means, aims to mark the passing of time, in this case both human time and soil time and our coexistence.

“The project integrates land use; grasslands; agriculture; rural livelihoods; computer science; computer programming; soil science; hydrology; art; graphic design; data visualisation and forestry. The project seeks to address the multiple challenges met by the uplands as more and higher intensity rainfall, more frequent droughts and warmer temperatures – which increase the likelihood of vegetation fires, soil erosion, flooding and soil carbon depletion- challenge the uplands, while they are still required to support agricultural livelihoods as well as maintain (and increase) carbon stores, biodiversity and water storage. Because the upland landscape variability presents numerous challenges to gathering, analysing and communicating empirical evidence upon which informed decisions can be made to ensure these goals are met the project will employ new sensor technology at 3 sites to record soil temperature and moisture readings. The high-resolution soil temperature and moisture data from the sensor networks will enable improved modelling of soil greenhouse gas emissions for each site. The data and model outputs will be used to test inter-related hypotheses on how climate and land use affect i) the soil carbon store; ii) soil greenhouse gas emissions; and iii) soil water.”

Prof Mariecia Fraser and Prof Andrew Thomas

Project development so far:

Day 1 – Digging the ditch

Digging a hole in grassland
Miranda standing in a hole smiling
Digging a hole in grassland
Digging a hole in grassland

Day 2 – More digging…

Photos by Miranda Whall

Day 3 – Digging deeper..going in..

Close up of legs in a ditch

Photos by Miranda Whall

Day 4 – Driving the Land Rover, more digging, and moving the earth pile.

Close up of legs in a ditch

Photos by Ashley Calvert

Day 5 – Soil Voices Rehearsal..

Close up of legs in a ditch

Soil Voices Rehearsal Photos by Ashley Calvert

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