The multisensory installation is located in the Greenhouse at the Nordic House in Reykjavík from the 10th to 14th of August. It will be open to the public from 12:00 to 17:00 every day.
The soils of Iceland tell a unique story. While tephra pumice, red volcanic soil, and black sands might be common in Iceland, they are rare in a global sense. Each soil in Iceland tells a particular story–not just of the geology, but also of the complex interactions and negotiations between climate, humans, plants, and animals.
This story is constantly evolving, digesting, incorporating, and remixing, just like the soil itself. The story of the soil of Iceland is a story of ecological collapse. It is a story of the materiality of the soil: its fragility, but also its potential. It is a story of the dramatic changes humans can make to this earth. But it is also a story of caring for the soil: stories of farmers, foresters, scientists, historians, ecologists, and inventors that make and remake with the soil.
In this arts-based research project, we collected samples of some of the unique and important (ecologically, historically, geologically) soil types here in Iceland–from pumice in Þjórsárdalur to rich wetland soils in Hvanneyri. These are laid out onto a soundstage floor, equipped with microphones and speakers. Through this interactive sound installation, viewers are given the unique experience of hearing the soil surface from the perspective of the ground rather than our usual distanced perspective of around 2 meters from the ground. Viewers will be invited to take off their shoes and walk barefoot across a patchwork carpet of different soils. While viewers walk on the soil carpet they hear the sound of the soil textures as they feel it in real time.
Fundamentally, soil, in its materiality, tells a story of itself. However, the question is how we can communicate with that. Sound gives us a unique avenue to interact with the soil and the world of that which we think of as “inert” because sound marks an interaction with the texture of the physical materials. In this way, a sound is the object describing its own agency through its own materiality. Empathy requires understanding of another in multisensory and multimodal interactions. Through artistic engagement, we have the opportunity to tune and renegotiate our perception to make sense of the complex worlds of life beyond the human being.
This project is primarily a work by Theodore Siegmund Teichman, coming from the disciplinary perspective of a sound designer and landscape architect, with collaboration and support from Helena Guttormsdóttir (artist-educator), Egill Sæbjörnsson (artist), Ólafur Arnalds (soil scientist), Alejandro Salazar Villegas (soil microbiologist), Institute for Sustainability Studies, the Intelligent Instruments Lab at the Icelandic University of the Arts, and the Nordic House. Theodore is a Fellow of the Leifur Eiriksson Foundation and has been living in Hvanneyri from August 2021, learning about the multisensory, multidisciplinary, multispecies entanglements of humans and soil in Iceland.
Theodore will be at the exhibition each day to answer questions about the project and create a space for discussion about the worlds of soil. Please come by, sense the earth in a new way, and share your stories of the soil.